Barack Obama’s Speech Lessons
The three keys to persuasive speech can work for you – just like they do for Obama.

April 8, 2014

You can find the secrets to Barack Obama’s success as a speaker in Aristotle. That’s right: the old philosopher literally wrote the book on personal and political persuasion. And as a speech and rhetoric maven, I can tell you that what worked for the Greeks back then will work for you now. To win over huge crowds, Obama uses what Aristotle called the three “appeals”: character, logic and emotion.

1. To project your character to strangers, tell your story
Obama’s biography – as he delivered it in his famous speech during the 2004 Democratic National Convention – gave him emotional connecting points with his audience. People heard about his scuffling childhood and ultimate success, and drew flattering conclusions about his character. It was the feel-good moment that launched him on his current trajectory.

2. Once you establish that you’re somebody to believe in, the next step in persuading someone to join your cause is logic
Aristotle said that an effective logical argument begins with the audience members’ own beliefs and expectations and then bridges to where the speaker wants them to go. Do they want change? Then use the word “change” a few thousand times a day, before describing the change you envision.

3. After the people in the audience like and trust you and you’ve connected their beliefs to yours, stoke their emotions to make them desire what you’re selling
Namely, you. At the end of a job interview, say, “One more thing: I just want you to know how excited I am about this job.” That emotional appeal will also work on a date, once you’ve convinced her of your character and established the logic of the two of you as a belief-sharing pair.

– Jay Heinrichs