What to learn from Bill, Hillary and John

As Project Managers me have to do quite a number of presentations, whether its to present our status to a steering group or whether if we would like to share our knowledge with others there are many occasions where we have to stand in front of a crowd and have to get a message across.

Yesterday i have downloaded on iTunes 3 great speeches from the Democratic National Convention, the Main event of the Democratic party in the US where Barak Obama has been nominated as the president candidate. To be precise, i will not talk about the political message that have been brought across nor anything else that is important to do a great speech without supportive Power Point slides, which is profession on its own, no, i thought about the strength and habits that make those speakers successful in their role.

I watched a couple of speeches yesterday (caught by a virus and tied to the bed) and would like to share the key observations by looking at Bill Clinton.

1) Personal Brand – All speakers seen have developed a personal brand over time. Whether it has been defined years ago when they have been running their own campaign or has been developed to support a specific campaign, the awareness of that specific character / person doesn’t change. And i talking about the visible and notable character, not what’s going on behind the scenes. Look at Bill for example, he hasn’t changed its hair style for decades (even if he is now growing just grey hair), 99% of all occasions he is wearing a nice suit, usually in black, and a nice not to fashioned tie. One of the key messages we are getting as individuals that we need to market ourself and build a brand ourselves. This is the first lessons to learn.

personal brand

2) Gesture – use your hands, eyes, body motion etc. to support the point you are trying to get across. If you are behind the stand, holding on to it to just stabilise your self, your voice is the only mechanism, but your body language has a good potential to support you in what you are saying. Look at bill speaking, when ever he wants to make a point or support it, he does some gesture.

use your hands

3) Engage with the audience – Look at the audience, and not just the audience in front of you, there might be more in the room, so let your eyes flow, look at virtual points in the room, rather than focus on individuals, but move your head, move your eyes, and look at certain points in the room. Sometimes you might not see a thing as the light might be to bright, but the perception of the crowd will be that you are engaging with them. And if somebody is shouting at you, like “You will do it Bill!” and you might think of taking this as an opportunity to reply, use it. You are not there on your own, its about the people looking at and listening to you. Another advantage if you are looking at the people in the room (smaller audience) you see their bodylanguage and would be able to ‘read’ whether they are engaged with you as well or whether they are bored.

engage with the audience

4) Apply breaks and pauses – Apply pauses while you speak, let the crowed think of what you just said, do not just rush through your presentation without a point and a comma. Apply breaks.

5) Speak loud and clear – Speak loud and clear so that a non native would be able to understand you. Those speeches i have watched yesterday have been crystal clear to me and even as a non native i could get most of it (beside some vocabulary), and that was because they have been well articulated and not mumbled or with slang.

6) Melody in your voice – Do not speak on the same ‘note’ all the time. Listen to French for example, they have a melody in their voice, apply the same when you do a presentation, its far more interesting and awake keeping when you listen to an interesting voice (of course topic and other things are important) that is constantly changing its pitch.

7) Use messages that stick – Yesterday i realised in every single speech at least one message that stuck. Bill Clinton used the following:

People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.

and the crowd went crazy and of course he made a long break after that. Hillary Clinton used the following:

And on that path to freedom, Harriett Tubman had one piece of advice. If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If they’re shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.

and then she made the message.

Before we can keep on going we have to start walking, therefore we have to make BO the president of the united states

and the crowd went crazy. It was unbelievable to see how strong messages like this engaged the crowd and they couldn’t stop yelling. Those message and quotes have been mentioned thousands of times in the internet after the speech took place, because it stuck.

8) Drink water with no rush and drink – Use your breaks to drink. Two advantages come with that. First, you dont get a dry throat and will be able to speak further, second, you use that break to break (see point number 4)

9) Keep calm – All the speakers have been calm throughout their speech, of course, they are all professionals, how ever, even those guys are excited, of course, they train a lot (none of them looked at their paper in front of them because they lost a point) but still the excitement might win. Stay calm.

These were my perceptions yesterday and after that, they all got the reward from the audience and the press for a great and inspiring presentation. The key message i would like to get across is, that there are so many great options out there to learn to perceive and to apply and try.

get the reward

Have fun trying and please add your own perceptions and oppinions.

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Torsten J. Koerting

Torsten J. Koerting is a project management-, paragliding- and Outdoor Enthusiast, Consultant, Author of several books and engaged as a speaker at many conferences. As Managing Partner at projectyzer he is specialised in supporting companies and organisations in reinventing their strategy as well as turning projects around that are in trouble. He worked in Europe, US and Australia for more than 20 years for global Blue Chips. He does hold the German and Australian Citizenship and lives with his wife and two kids between Europe and Australia. He is also a certified Bank Clerk, Executive Bachelor and Project Management Professional (PMI) and used to be Board Member of the PMI Queensland Chapter (Australia).

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