27 july, 2016
Michelle Obama´s last DNC speech ever brought a tear to everyone´s eye and succeeded in uniting for one night a divided America.
USA First Lady made history on Monday doing what she knows best: inspiring. After a moment of reunion in the office watching the most discussed video online which reached nearly 3 million views on Youtube in two days only, we left aside any kind of political opinion and just focused on Michelle brilliant communication skills. What is her secret sauce to always strike when delivering a speech? Looking at ourselves and almost saying it in unison, we knew the answer: a great and hardly worked storytelling.
America´s “mom-in-chief” never lets us down, crafting each time a theatrical and effective storytelling that includes all must-to-have features experts have defined: personal, authentic, original, appropriate and empathic.
After months of – I would say – threatening Trump propaganda about how to make America great again, about a dystopian vision of the States and about close-minded discourses with, rather than empathy, just hate towards THE OTHER, Michelle Obama brought hope not only to Democrats voters but globally to all those people who were sick and tired of listening to the same xenophobic discourse in loop.
Our goal here is to invite you to get inspired by Michelle´s speech, by her expressive body language, by her gentle and warming smile and by her absolutely accurate words´ choice that melted our hearts and fired up our souls. Watch the video yourself, or read the transcript here, and then continue the reading if you feel like, where we identified 7 features you should all apply to deliver a successful presentation and/or inspirational discourse, or better How to Be Michelle.
1. I, you and we…choose pronouns carefully
When telling a story, the best thing you can do is to make a personal appeal. People like to see the human side of the speaker, plus it makes the speech more authentic. The terms “we” or “us” are extremely powerful and transmit a sense of unity; after the “Yes, We Can” motto, we could assert Obamas certainly believe in the collective fight and force. If you want to lower the informality bar in your discourse, using the pronoun “You” is a good way to give a conversational tone to the speech and speak directly to your audience.
2. Depict an image to tell your story
We talked a lot about the power of images in a discourse. Visual thinking is what makes a presentation memorable, an anecdotal image is what moves the speech closer to narrative and consequently closer to people´s heart and memory. Michelle made one step further: she contrasted the melancholic image of a winter morning with the aggressive picture of armed men and with the delicacy and innocence of two young girls, all this in a personal and touching tone and voilà: she created something the audience will hardly take off their minds.
“I will never forget that winter morning as I watched our girls, just 7 and 10 years old, pile into those black SUVs with all those men with guns.”
Personal, authentic, appropriate and empathic…touché.
3. A motto is all we need
Think, write and rewrite thousands of times, you have to find that short sentence which defines you or what you believe in. Here the opposition of US against THEM (when they go low, we go high) reveals OUR strength against THEIR weakness, OUR determination against THEIR (poor) attempts to let us down, OUR comprehension and superiority against THEIR meanness. People immediately feel part of that battle, of that dream, share your view and want to follow you to accomplish it.
“Our motto is, when they go low, we go high.”
4. Don’t jump to conclusions, prepare the ground
Timing was perfect. 15 minutes are enough to be sure your audience is paying attention all way long and at the same time being able to explain your motives, convince and inspire. Instead of making a bullet point list about why we should vote someone – or why we should buy a certain product if we want to talk commercial – release the unexpected before fulfilling the audience expectations. Everybody knows what you are going to sell them, what they ignore is what they need and how that product can change their life.
5. Repetitions reinforce your message, but don´t exaggerate!
For those of you who attended a discourse analysis class this would sound basic: repeating the same concept/term three times in a discourse is not redundant, it´s powerful. Curiously, we use to relate to three as the perfect number, maybe for its religious connotation we got inculcated by our culture, but in this case I would rather make reference to Abraham Lincoln quote as an example of positive repetition: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”
Michelle defeated the opposition with a beautiful three-fold image, explaining to her kids basically what they should not do and why.
6. Empathy, empathy…and empathy
Have you found the goosebumps part of the speech? I bet you felt it, otherwise I leave you some tips: the triple use (again) of the word story – the story of a great country which still shines its greatness nowadays; the revival of harsh and painful historical memories; the image of a simple family contrasted with the grandeur of the White House.
Michelle absolutely nailed what experts would call a “speech climax”, before citing again Hilary Clinton as part of this narration about greatness.
This empathy-dose is not limited to this touching paragraph only. As to express her love for children, the word “kid” is repeated several times in her speech which reflects, not only her commitment towards educational programs in the last years but in particular her sense of motherhood seen as a privilege, not as a weakness. Needless to say, this move creates a huge and deep connection with all mothers in America who care for their children´s future.
7. Call to Action
To conclude with a blast, you have to incite people, call them to action, inspire them, tell them this is not over, that together WE can make it and convince you will make it. As a presenter and as a leader your goal is to make a difference and lead people to change.
We can all agree on Michelle Obama´s incredible oral skills and we can be sure her speech will be quoted and studied for decades. But honestly, after watching the video, reading the transcript and analyzing it, I am just wondering…Why isn´t she the next Democrats presidential nominee then? If Michelle succeeded in impressing a man like Donald Trump with her words – who asserted her delivery was excellent - she proved to have the grit and charisma to keep staying at the White House, but not as a First Lady.
Written by Laura Zuffi
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