President Barack Obama, perhaps you love him, or perhaps you’re not a fan. One thing you cannot deny, is this man is highly charismatic and a truly masterful public speaker. If you are seeking to improve your presention skills and become a better public speaker, we at The Presentation Clinic recommend that as a training tool you study great speakers in order to mimic their behaviour. After all, one of the best ways human beings learn is to observe other people. So what can we learn from observing President Obama? In this article we shall take a look at his body language and see what he can teach us.
Convincing Body Language
President Obama is most definitely charismatic. He uses his personality to his full advantage. If we observe his posture in general, we can see he makes himself as large as possible wherever possible, a sign of confidence, but also a sign of dominance. His hands are usually visible, indicating open body language which is non-threatening subconsciously to his audience. In this image, the President has assumed a particularly convincing stance. We often see these hand gestures with clergymen who are also working on obtaining our trust. Open hands and hands displayed are attempts at indicating trustworthiness. The frequency with which we see the President open his hands indicates that he places importance on building a trust relationship with his audience.
Smiling also disarms your audience and increases the chances of your audience liking you. The President is often seen to smile during his speeches.
Image from https://www.minpost.com
Conviction and Confidence when presenting.
The President is certainly masterful at putting his body and facial expressions behind his message. In this example, he is discussing changes to health policy, a serious topic that requires a serious tone. His facial expression indicates conviction, a no-compromise stance. His hand is being used to reinforce a point in a very strong way. It would be difficult for the average human being to stand up against this very authoritative body language. This is a typical ‘alpha’ leadership display. We can see the President has a need to push the point he is making here in such a way that there is minimal resistance. His facial expression and body language will either cause his audience to submit or his opponents to take an aggressive stance against him. This is a passionate display of body language indicating a strong opinion.
Image from https://www.foxnews.com
Body Language and Congruence: believing in your message.
In this next image, we see President Obama speaking on the Trayvon Martin case. The Travyon Martin case is indeed a highly emotion issue, and what can we observe in President Obama’s body language? The President’s face indicates deep concern and seriousness. If one has to look at this image without understanding the background to this picture, one would imagine the President is experiencing regret and sadness. His body is slightly hunched, he is not currently demonstrating his alpha powerful persona. He appears saddened, humbled and regretful. His ability to demonstrate these emotions to match the content of his speech enable him to display congruence. Congruence is a very important characteristic of a successful presenter or public speaker, you have to be believable. If your facial expressions and body language do not match your message, your audience is not going to buy you. One of the reasons so many Americans resonate so strongly with their President is his ability to be believable.
Picture by Win McNamee/Getty Images https://sacramento.cbslocal.com
Connection to your audience
Being human is important if you want your audience to connect with you. President Obama is loved by a large portion of the American people and he makes it easy for people to connect with him as he is able to be himself in public. The characteristics of a good public speaker are a natural speaking style and the ability to remain human, not removed from your audience. In the following image, we see a good display of humour and human emotion from the President, something he displays often. To be well liked by your audience, even though you may be presenting a formal topic, you still need to connect with them as a person. What presenting really is about is having a conversation with people, using your personality in order to do so.
Image from https://www.theguardian.com
It’s hard to maintain all the time if you are a public figure
We can’t be perfect all of the time. And in this last shot, we have to admit, that the President really does not look very interested in his audience. Yet at the end of the day, we have to give it to him, Obama’s body language is probably one of the best examples of a consistent and charismatic public persona.
Image from https://www.thehindu.com