George Washington gave the first presidential farewell speech in 1796 and the trend has been in vogue ever since. It is considered the most famous speech in American History. In fact, Barack Obama’s farewell speech was heard by the whole world. Mainly because he was the first Black president that America had the good fortune to have. And secondly, because he gives damn good speeches. We can take more than one leaf from Barack when it comes to communication.
Peggy Noonan, a great speech writer once wrote, “When big serious thoughtful things must be said, then big, serious, thoughtful speeches must be given. And that is exactly what Barack Obama, the 44th US President gave us on 10th Jan 2017. Obama gave us a big, thoughtful speech about serious things.
Words have the power to move us. They have the power to inspire us. Words unite and divide. And if not used wisely, words can bring chaos. Barack Obama however, chose to unite us with words. He was a great president, a good leader, a charming man, and an amazing husband and father. Half of his success can be attributed to his wonderful choice of words.
To communicate and get the message across is not an easy task. Certificates can prove that you are competent in a subject. You will land yourself a great job too. But without effective communication skills, you will stumble. Communication becomes crucial if you hold a managerial position.
Project Management Professional (PMP) is an internationally recognized professional designation offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). And aspiring Project managers are required to have this certification to bag a good opportunity. A certificate alone won’t make you a Project hero. As a Project manager, you will have to lead and manage a team. And to manage a team, you will have to communicate effectively.
5 Communication Tips that you can take from Barack Obama’s Presidential Farewell Speech
Facial expressions are an amazing tool to establish a connection with your audience. Nobody likes a grumpy manager. Smile. But be aware that a fake smile can easily put of your audience. A genuine smile can get your work done for you. Obama walks out with a brisk gait and an easy, wide smile. Despite the fact that he is responsible for a country, the man walks with a genuine smile on his face.
Research shows that your audience will form an impression about you within seconds before you even utter a word. Make those precious seconds count!
Yes, you read it right. Humour can help you break the ice and helps you establish a connection with your audience. At the beginning of the speech, as Obama walked up to the mike, the crowd rose to welcome their president. After a long sustained applause by fervent supporters in the audience, Obama had to get everyone settled. “We’re on live TV here, I’ve got to move,” he said with a smile. But the applause continued several seconds after that. So he added, “You can tell that I’m a lame duck, because nobody is following instructions,” and the audience laughed before finally taking their seats.
Great speeches are full of aspirational language, but they also have moments of personalization. Obama began the speech with a look back:
“I first came to Chicago when I was in my early twenties, and I was still trying to figure out who I was; still searching for a purpose to my life. And it was a neighborhood not far from here where I began working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel mills. It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss.
Some of the loudest cheers (and the moment that brought Obama to tears) occurred near the end of the speech. Obama thanked his wife with these heartfelt words that lit up Twitter and Facebook:
“Michelle LaVaughn Robinson of the South Side… for the past 25 years you have not only been my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend. You took on a role you didn’t ask for. And you made it your own with grace and with grit and with style, and good humor. You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody. And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model.”
The Rhetorical Devices
From the speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 that brought Obama to national prominence, to his final speech to the nation, Obama has mastered classic rhetorical devices that project power and confidence in communication.
Obama uses strong, open gestures to emphasize his words. Using two hands above the waist. Here’s an example from just one paragraph:
“We can and should argue about the best approach to solve the problem [both hands above waist, palms faced upward] But to simply deny the problem [cutting motion with hands] it betrays the essential spirit of this country [hand to chest, fist clenched].
Strong words will fall flat if not accompanied by powerful, purposeful gestures.
The words, the structure, the delivery, the gestures, and the personalization all came together in Obama’s final speech to the nation.
A technique that Barack Obama used in his speech is Anaphora. Anaphora is the repetition of the same word or words at the start of successive sentences or clauses. And Obama is a true master if this technique. Here are a few examples from his farewell speech.
“If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life. If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clip board, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.”
“To all of you out there…Every organizer who moved to an unfamiliar town, every kind family who welcomed them in, every volunteer who knocked on doors, every young person who cast a ballot for the first time, every American who lived and breathed the hard work of change — you are the best supporters and organizers anybody could ever hope for, and I will forever be grateful. Because you did change the world.”
If that isn’t a speech that can uplift a crowd, I don’t know what is!
Rule of Three
Another technique that Obama uses is the Rule of Three. Rule of Three, called ‘tricolons’ in ancient Greek rhetoric can be seen when Obama says, “… grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.” Three is one of the most powerful numbers in communication. We think in threes, we group numbers in threes, we speak in threes
Here are more examples from Obama’s speech:
“We remain the wealthiest, the most powerful, the most respected nation on earth [This is an example of ‘ascending tricolon’ which means the numbers of words increase in each part. It’s very powerful]
“In just eight years we’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil, we’ve doubled our renewable energy, we’ve lead the world to an agreement that has the promise to save this planet.”
“You believe in a fair, just, and inclusive America.”
“Yes, we can.”
One can surely rely on these techniques because Obama has proved that it works. Although you don’t have to be as eloquent as the President of the United States, you will benefit from being an effective communicator. There has been a lot of hype around PMP. There is a great surge in the market to be a PMP certified professional. learning the PMBOK elements is just a part of being a good Project manager. Hard skills can be learned. Soft skills, on the other hand, do not come so easily. They have to be practiced and perfectioned over time. Communication is a very important aspect of the soft skill.
Here are the top 10 communication skill that a Project Manager should have.
Practice active listening. Active listening involves paying close attention to what the other person is saying, asking clarifying questions, and rephrasing what the person says to ensure understanding.
Your body language, eye contact, hand gestures, and tone all colour the message you are trying to convey. A relaxed, open stance (arms open, legs relaxed), and a friendly tone will make you appear approachable and will encourage others to speak openly with you. Eye contact is also important; Look the person in the eye to demonstrate that you are focused on the person and the conversation. Don’t stare, though!
Clarity and Concision
If you ramble on, your listener will either tune you out or will be unsure of exactly what you want. Think about what you want to say before you say it; this will help you to avoid talking excessively and/or confusing your audience.
Through a friendly tone, a personal question, or simply a smile, you will encourage your co-workers to engage in open and honest communication with you. This is important in both face-to-face and written communication. When you can, personalize your emails to co-workers and/or employees – a quick “I hope you all had a good weekend” at the start of an email can personalize a message and make the recipient feel more appreciated.)
Confidence ensures your co-workers that you believe in and will follow through with what you are saying. Exuding confidence can be as simple as making eye contact or using a firm but friendly tone (avoid making statements sound like questions). Of course, be careful not to sound arrogant or aggressive. Be sure you are always listening to and empathizing with the other person.)
Using phrases as simple as “I understand where you are coming from” demonstrate that you have been listening to the other person and respect their opinions.
Be open to listening to and understanding the other person’s point of view, rather than simply getting your message across. By being willing to enter into a dialogue, even with people with whom you disagree, you will be able to have more honest, productive conversations.
Simple actions like using a person’s name, making eye contact, and actively listening when a person speaks will make the person feel appreciated. On the phone, avoid distractions and stay focused on the conversation. Convey respect through email by taking the time to edit your message.
Managers and supervisors should continuously look for ways to provide employees with constructive feedback, be it through email, phone calls, or weekly status updates. Similarly, you should be able to accept and even encourage, feedback from others. Listen to the feedback you are given, ask clarifying questions if you are unsure of the issue, and make efforts to implement the feedback
Picking the Right Medium
Serious conversations (layoffs, changes in salary, etc.) are almost always best done in person. You should also think about the person with whom you wish to speak – if they are very busy people (such as your boss, perhaps), you might want to convey your message through email.
So there you go, those are a few of the communication tips that you can incorporate into your everyday speech. Do keep tuned to AcadGild for more informative blogs. Meanwhile, check out our course on PMP and enroll today to become a Project Hero!