Obama’s special speaking sauce exposed

 In Learning from Luminaries, Politicians, Quick Start

Why is Barack Obama such a captivating speaker? It’s because of many things, including:Mnnchen Flipchart yes we can

Owning and ‘extending’ time; lyrical, melodic voice usage, deft figure of speech usage (eg. anaphora*) , fluid carriage and movement of his body and the use of fresh, compelling metaphors.

If you’re an executive, here are two techniques, from Obama’s ‘special speaking sauce’, that you can adapt to your speaking.

1. ‘Measuring cup’ speaking  (versus ‘Waterhose’ speaking)

‘Measuring cup’ speaking refers to speaking your thoughts in measures. Think about it this way.

1. You have a thought to share.

2. You put that thought into a virtual measuring cup.

3. You speak that thought (tip the measure out of the cup).

4. Pause (put the ’empty cup’ down – while maintaining a silent pause gap).

5. Refill cup with a new thought – and then repeat the sequence.

It’s important when using this technique, to have varying measures (to avoid the monotone effect) and to have energy in your voice.

The below illustrations counterpoint ‘Measuring cup’ speaking with ‘Waterhose’ speaking (where there are no pauses and the audience is ‘drenched’).



Obama excels at using ‘measuring cup’ speaking, and it is the foundation of his mellifluous voice and rhythmic cadence.

2. Use of Anaphora* and Epistrophe

Anaphora is the repetition of words or a phrase at the beginning of a clause or a sentence. For example, ‘A time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant’.

Obama seamlessly weaves Anaphora and it’s twin Epistrophe (Where you repeat a word or phrase at the end, rather than at the beginning of a word or clause) into his speaking.

Below you can watch Obama using measuring cup speaking, as well as Anaphora and Epistrophe, in his acceptance speech in 2008 in Grant Park, Chicago after winning the US presidency.

Note at the start of the speech, his use of Anaphora “who still doubts . . . , who still wonders . . . , who still questions . . .” and the use of Epistrophe ‘yes we can’ beginning at the 14:30 minute mark in the speech.

Your CALL to action/HOW to apply for this post: In the next seven days in safe presentations, trial using ‘measuring cup’ speaking or Anaphora or Epistrophe. Reflect on the impact of doing so.

p.s. Click on this link for one of my prior posts on Obama http://kellyspeech.com.au/obamas-preternatural-calmness/

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