May 20, 2011

The President’s Speech (Part 2)

In August 2008 Marc Hogan was bet £1 that he couldn’t become a stand up comic in less than 12 months and perform a one man comedy show at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in August 2009 for 21 nights. He won the bet!

Last week I highlighted 5 of President Obama’s favourite speaking techniques, but because 10 sounds doubly better than 5, here are 5 more.

6) The use of “We” and “Us”

Barack in various speeches rarely uses the word “I”. All throughout his campaign he used the word “we” or “Let us”. It creates empathy with the listeners and a feeling of togetherness. And it explains why “Yes we can” is so effective.

“Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.

I promise you, we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can’t solve every problem.”

Obama also likes to use specific American places to add a strong personal touch and create even more of a feeling of inclusion.

“Our campaign…began in the back yard of Des Moines, and the living rooms of Concorde and the front porches all Charleston”. [Another tricolon]

7) Allusion

Notice how Obama uses allusion to compare America’s current economic situation to the 1930 depression.

Martin Luther King, Jr. also used this technique when he alluded to the Gettysburg Address in starting his “I Have a Dream” speech by saying “Five score years ago…”; listeners were immediately reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s “Four score and seven years ago”, which opened the Gettysburg Address. King’s allusion effectively called up parallels in two historic moments.

Obama used a similar technique in his victory speech, King’s famous phrase about how “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” (Obama said that we will put our hands “on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.”)

When Obama warned that the road will be long, and that “we may not get there in one year or even one term, but America . . . I promise you – we as a people will get there,” the word “promise” surely alluded to, perhaps  unconsciously, King’s last speech, in Memphis: “And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you.”

8 ) The Refrain & Inflection

Obama’s “Yes we can” refrain is also a technique that is often heard in pop songs, but in speeches it has the effect of generating response potential! By the final use, he follows it with a raise in volume and the use of a downward voice inflection which generates applause.

9) The Puzzle Introduction

“And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years, the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation’s next first lady Michelle Obama.”

This is the favoured technique of presenters when introducing guest stars. It can also be used when introducing someone to the stage and because you reveal the name at the end, it automatically generates applause.

The trick is not to make the clues so hard that everyone is still trying to figure out who you are talking about when you introduce them. The second or third clue should begin to give it away!

10) The Play On Words

This is a favourite of so many great speakers by changing the meaning of the word

“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” John F Kennedy

“We have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States, of America.” Barack Obama

In his book On the Orator, Cicero argued that real eloquence can only be acquired if the speaker has attained the highest level of knowledge, “otherwise what he says is just an empty and ridiculous swirl of verbiage”. Or as we would call it, Empty Rhetoric.

Whether you’re president of the United States, a manager or a salesperson, it’s always good to remember that no matter how eloquent you are, “deeds not words” are what finally count.

Click here to watch Marc’s showreel. If you would like to find out more about Marc, visit www.marchoganlive.com or to book him for a speaking event please contact your favourite speaker bureau.

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  • Filed under: Blog Posts — marchogan @ 12:25 pm
May 11, 2011

The President’s Speech (Part 1)

In August 2008 Marc Hogan was bet £1 that he couldn’t become a stand up comic in less than 12 months and perform a one man comedy show at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in August 2009 for 21 nights. He won the bet!

It’s been one hell of a week for the Commander in Chief of the world’s most powerful / possibly poorest country.

After 3 years he released his long form birth certificate and then just 3 days later refused to release the long form video of his “Through The Keyhole TV special – who lives in a compound like this?”

However, no matter what you think of the president, one uncontroversial fact remains: The ex-lawyer from Des Moines’s skill as an orator propelled him into the Whitehouse.

A statistical analysis by Elvin T Lim of presidential oratory from George Washington to George W. Bush concludes that 100 years ago, speeches were pitched at college reading level. Now, they are pitched at 8th graders (between 13 and 14 years old).

Obama’s speeches by contrast are rich in allusion and emotion. Here I highlight 5 of his 10 favourite techniques.

1) The Tricolon

Cicero was the preeminent politician of the late Roman republic, and was one of the greatest (if not the greatest) orator of his time.

Now one of the best-known of Cicero’s techniques is his use of the series of three to emphasize points: the tricolon.

The most well-known example of this is Caesar’s “I came, I saw, I conquered” or in the words of Bill Murray in Ghostbusters We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!”

Obama uses tricola frequently:

“I stand here today humbled by the task before us (1), grateful for the trust you have bestowed (2), mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors (3).”

Or

“Tonight we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation, not because of the heights of our skyscrapers (1), or the power of our military (2),  or the size of our economy (3),  …”

Or

“…that the old hatreds shall someday pass (1); that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve (2); that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself (3.)”

2) Paralipsis

Paralipsis, or “mentioning by not mentioning”, is the technique of drawing attention to a subject by not discussing it. For example, in the previous quote he discounts the height of American skyscrapers and the power of the military but in doing so reminds us off their importance!

Another example would be:

“The music, the service at the feast,

The noble gifts for the great and small,

The rich adornment of Theseus’s palace . . .

All these things I do not mention now.”

Chaucer, “The Knight’s Tale” from The Canterbury Tales [Tricolon is also used here]

It is often used as an ironic way of raising an issue without seeming to.

Obama on Hilary Clinton:

“She made an unfortunate remark about Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson…I haven’t remarked on it. And she offended some folks who thought she diminished the role about King and the civil rights movement.”

3) Antonomasia

Antonomasia is a substitution of any epithet or phrase for a proper name.

Obama used the phrase, “a young preacher from Georgia” when accepting the Democratic nomination in August 2008. He didn’t need to name Martin Luther King; we all knew who he meant.  It sets up an intimacy between speaker and audience; a flattering idea that we all know what we’re talking about without need for further exposition.

Other examples would be “Old Blue Eyes” for Frank Sinatra, “The Dark Knight” for Batman or “The Iron Lady” for Margaret Thatcher – a fact that used so well in her famous quote:

“You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning!”

4) Anaphora

Anaphora is the repetition of a phrase at the start of sentence:

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools… It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor… It’s the answer, that led those who have been told for so long…”

This technique is literally as old as the Bible.  In the King James Bible, every verse in the first book of Genesis after “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” starts with “And”.

And the earth was without form… And the Spirit of God moved… And God said let there be light…”

Many political figures often begin their sentences with “And”.  They use is as a substitute for “um” or “you know” while they think of what to say. “And” gives continuity and flow to his speech.

5) Ephora

Ephora is similar to anaphora but the repetition occurs at the end of the sentence

“And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress… the times we were told we can’t, and the people who pressed on with the vast American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach out for the ballot.  Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose.  Yes we can.

Part 2 coming soon….

Click here to watch Marc’s showreel. If you would like to find out more about Marc, visit www.marchoganlive.com or to book him for a speaking event please contact your favourite speaker bureau.

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  • Filed under: Blog Posts — marchogan @ 12:16 pm
May 10, 2011

A Bit Of Fun

In August 2008 Marc Hogan was bet £1 that he couldn’t become a stand up comic in less than 12 months and perform a one man comedy show at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in August 2009 for 21 nights. He won the bet!

 

Click here to watch Marc’s showreel. If you would like to find out more about Marc, visit www.marchoganlive.com or to book him for a speaking event please contact your favourite speaker bureau.

Follow Marc_Hogan on Twitter