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2012 State of the Union Address – What You Can Learn from President Obama to Improve Your Presentation



Despite my aversion to political speeches, I watched President Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address… on YouTube… at this link…


This is the “enhanced” version of the speech posted on the White House YouTube channel.  The “enhanced” version includes the text of the speech as well as presentation slides which came in and out of the speech occasionally.

Based on President Obama’s speech, here are some of the things he did well that the rest of us can learn from.


Get Right to It

There was no blah, blah, blah opening.  After the obligatory welcome message, he started right away with a story.  The first real words of his speech were, “Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base…”

No comments about the weather.  No chit chat that public speakers often resort to.  He gets right to his speech!  We should all get right to it!


Don’t Schedule a Screen and Slides for Future Speeches (Unless You Get Help First)

I didn’t like most of the slides, particularly those with the blue background with statistics.   The slides were hard to read and contain waaaay too many details to be of value.  I found that they detracted from listening to what the President was saying.

One Notable Exception – The Bull Slide

At 7:54, there was a great slide with the Wall Street Bull in it!  That one gets a Kelly thumbs up!  Check it out!


Connect with Emotions 

Through out the speech, President Obama connected with emotional topics.  He hates bad things and loves good things.  Since most of us do too, he was forging a connection.  He created visions of the way things could be and projected positive imagery on the future.

We’ve got to connect emotionally with our audiences if we hope to persuade them or get them on our side.  President Obama does that well in his speech.


Use Pauses

From 2:00 – 2:38 in the speech, President did a marvelous job of pausing between sentences and ideas.

Pausing gives our audiences a chance to let the words sink in .  Pausing gives the audience a chance to connect with the emotions of our words and determine how they feel about what we’ve said.  Add strategic pauses to your presentations to help them connect with your message.


Give Specific Examples

President Obama used specific examples within his speech.  For example at 17:05, President Obama mentioned Jackie Bray, a single mom from North Carolina.  In telling her story, he mentioned, Seimens, he mentioned Charlotte, North Carolina and Central Piedmont Community College specifically.

Adding specifics add to the credibility to his story.  Adding specifics to your story (without betraying the trust of a client of course) can enhance your stories and add to your credibility as well.


Phraseology and Repetition

There was only one cool phrase I noticed, but President Obama only used it once.  The phrase I liked?  “Deficit of Trust.”  He mentioned it when talking about financial institutions.

While he didn’t repeat the same exact words through out, at several times, he said something to the effect of put it on my desk and I’ll sign it.  He was referring to legislature that he wanted congress to get through.

Repeating a concept or a specific phrase can help reinforce your message too.


Speak with Passion

President Obama’s vocal delivery was passionate through out.

Speaking with passion makes a presentation easier to listen too and demonstrates to your audience that you’re not just spouting words but that you believe what you’re saying.


Add Humor 

President Obama finally lightens up a bit 38:18 seconds into the speech.  When watching the whole thing you see how the levity adds a better connection with President Obama.  Even those who oppose him politically have to chuckle at that comment.

Humor can be a great connector for you as well.  Look for ways to add appropriate humor to your presentations and see how loosening things up helps connect you to your audience too.


Use These Approaches 

You don’t have to be as eloquent a public speaker as President Obama to use these techniques.  How do you think the President got to be a great speaker?  He used these techniques and saw that they worked!  Use them and see them work for your self!



For help with your business presentations, contact Kelly Vandever by email Kelly . Vandever @ SpeakingPractically . com, by phone 770-597-1108, by Twitter @KellyVandever or visit the website https://speakingpractically.com.