By May 24, 2018

Presentation Style analysis – Barack Obama

The style in which Barack Obama gave his parting speech as the President of the U.S.A. in 2017 was way different than the one he gave as Senator, as the keynote address before DNC in 2004 – the one that is supposed to have made him noticed as a promising Presidential candidate. And yet each speech had its own impact on the audiences present. How were these speeches different as far as nonverbals go, and why did they leave an impact? Here is our analysis:

Suit color: The color of the suit makes up our first observation since the impact any leader starts to create on his audience begins the minute he is visible. In 2004, we see Senator Obama in a black suit, one that signifies power and authority. As President addressing the nation, his favourite had remained the deep navy blue color, one that inspires people to want to trust the leader, and navy blue is the suit he wears during his last speech.

(Note that as President, whenever Obama visited international grounds where he wanted to make a powerful impact, he would be seen in the black suit.)

Walking style: How one walks up to the dias is another manner of leaving a good first impression. As a candidate who wants to impress, in 2004, Senator Obama walks directly up to the stage, waving briefly around, greets his introducer with a warm hug and approaches the dias. As President, people would expect him to give them some attention which is what we see him doing. Obama takes good time to reach the dias, pausing time and again to wave to his audience. The pace of walking is much slower, you could say it borders on the side of hesitant. It is almost as if he is signalling that he would rather not begin his last speech.

Greeting the audience: For leaders who have a good audience to speak before, there are numerous nonverbals which play a role. We see the Senator paying respect to the audience by bowing down in front of them. In contrast, the President waves around to the audience, and more importantly, looks a few individuals directly into the eye while waving at them. This direct eye to eye contact helps leave a lasting first impression on the crowd.


Senator Obama in 2004

President Obama in 2017

Beginning the speech: Once behind the dias, Senator Obama did give the audience enough time to cheer him up before beginning his speech. As President, once he is at the dias, Obama does not pause for cheering before he begins. Again a sign of a leader not feeling the need of deliberate cheer from the audience.

Till here, we have covered nonverbals before the speech even begins, and there are so many! Join us for our workshop Body Language for Professionals  

where we will be splitting down the speeches frame by frame and analysing with you on how each nonverbal can play a significant role in your speech or even a business presentation.

One question that might be playing out here is, don’t these nonverbals come very naturally, in the moment, depending on the emotion one is feeling. They do! But even then, when stakes are high, or when the content of what you are going to deliver is very crucial, it makes great leadership sense to plan in advance what should be the overall tone and style of your delivery, so that your audience receives it well. And that is where we want to work with you!

For all inquiries, call us on 022 67208017.

Posted in: Personalities

About the Author:

Khyati Bhatt has trained for mastery in Nonverbal Communication with retired FBI special agent Joe Navarro. She founded Simply Body Talk in 2013 to help individuals and corporates fine tune their nonverbal behavior and nonverbal communication. Khyati believes in taking a scientific approach to body language. Her experience as a wealth manager, currency trader, and family entrepreneur has helped sharpen her nonverbal instincts. She is a fervent reader and has explored the work of many psychologists and anthropologists in her field of work.

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