Where to start? What to say? How about “Wow!” Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, you have to give Bill Clinton props for his oratory skills. And last night, he brought the house down. In a speech just short of one hour – which felt like 20 minutes – the former President showed us all what to do when you find yourself stepping behind a podium. Here are just a sampling of reactions I have heard from friends, family and clients today: spellbound, enthralled, riveting, uplifting, energizing, and a tough act to follow.
I could spend the rest of the day parsing the speech and his delivery, but since I teach people how to prioritize for maximum productivity, I’ll walk my own talk and just offer a few examples of his public speaking genius.
Energy. He didn’t just deliver a speech, which many robotic speakers at both conventions have done (read the words on the prompter out loud and sit down.) Bill Clinton used his voice, his body, his smile and his unwavering conviction to connect with his audience.
Weaving a theme. There were several, but the most memorable one was, “We’re all in this together.” He found a way to repeat those words several times and then to prove it with his examples.
The perfect pauses. He waits for his words to sink in. He doesn’t rush through to the next sentence or step on his own jokes by speeding ahead. And since he was going long, he had to start speaking over the crowd several times just to keep the momentum going.
Extemporaneous riffing. I have heard from two authorities that Clinton went way off the prepared remarks. And yet it seemed as if it were all part of the final draft. He is so good at this. One memorable moment was when he was talking about the fact that both Romney and Obama project the same amount of Medicare savings, but Romney still publicly criticized Obama for them. Clinton said, “It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did!”
Plain spoken English. Bill Clinton is a master at word choice. First, he uses casual, approachable Mid-Western vernacular. And he spells out his argument in such a clear manner that even my labrador retrievers could understand him. OK, so maybe saying “I’m fixing to do that,” is pushing the envelope a bit, but still, no one tunes out because it’s above their heads or beneath their intellect.
Great Openers: Simple, clear, with the key message right up front. “We are here to nominate a President. And I’ve got someone in mind.” That was vintage Clinton.
Closers with passion and a call to action: “Look, I love our country so much. And I know we’re comin’ back. For more than 200 years, through every crisis, we’ve always come back. People have predicted our demise ever since George Washington was criticized for being a bad surveyor with wooden teeth. And so far, every single person who’s bet against America has lost money. We come through every fire a little stronger and a little better. And we do it because in the end we decide to champion the cause for which our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor: the cause of forming a more perfect union. My fellow Americans, if that is what you want; if that is what you believe, you must vote and you must re-elect President Barack Obama.”
Those hands. Oy, those hands. OK, I’ll stop now.