New Release – ‘Say it Like Obama’ breaks down speaking style of Presidential nominee
Last week I had the opportunity to read Say It Like Obama, a book written by Shel Leanne that is now available for purchase. Her book delves into Barack Obama’s oratorical style which has helped him capture his party’s nomination for President of the United States.
Leanne’s book is for public speaking what Oren Harari’s The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell is for leadership. The book succeeds as an aid for those who find themselves speaking in front of audiences with any frequency. It also has a secondary benefit by providing a glimpse into the political philosophy its subject through his own words.
There are plenty of lessons to be learned from this book even if one doesn’t agree with Obama’s thoughts and beliefs, but the material has the potential to wear on those who differ with him on certain issues. Say It Like Obama‘s opening chapter begins with the full text of Obama’s 2004 Democratic Convention Keynote Address and ends with the full text of his 2008 acceptance speech.
I’ll start with what I like about the book. For those who speak in public but have had little training, Say It does a good job of explaining rhetorical techniques employed by Obama that help him get his points across.
There are simple concepts like alliteration and asking rhetorical questions that are easy enough to grasp. But then there are others like polysyndeton, epistrophe, and mesdiplosis that you’ve probably have never heard of, but once explained are evidnent in Obama’s speeches and adaptable for principals, pastors, or part-time bloggers.
My favorite section was Chapter 6, Driving Points Home. Here the author examines how her subject uses repetition, the power of three (triadic extension), as well as slogans and refrains to make his message more clear. Yes we can is used as an example of repetition, and you can picture Obama delivering these lines and even hear the crowd chant with him while going through this part of the book. I also like the advice of giving “just enough” detail, using the right amount of information to paint a picture or convey a message.
One of the things that I would have liked to see more of was other speakers who have employed similar techniques as Obama. Understanding that the book wasn’t written for today, down the road these words will appear much more fresh – especially for those who’ve heard the senator speak often in the last 18 months.
While mixing passages of Kennedy, Lincoln and (some) King to the discussion, a few more examples from these great speakers may have kept the author from having to make two points with one Obama speech.
My other issues was that some of the passages were just too long. The book was at it’s best when it went down to the paragraph and sentence level. Some Obama excerpts covered three or four pages. I’d imagine his political opponents could only take so much even in the name of becoming a better speaker.
For me, Say It Like Obama: The Power of Speaking with Purpose and Vision, now goes right beside the Powell leadership book on my bookshelf. When crafting a speech, I’ll be able to pull specific techniques that will help me deliver my ideas more clearly. Dr. Leanne succeeds in thoughtfully mixing public speaking and politics to produce a useful guide for all.