This post originally appeared on September 5, 2012.
Michelle Obama gave a knockout presentation. Her speech last night at the convention wowed the crowds and she was the epitome of confidence. It began with her entrance on stage. She smiled warmly as she waved to the crowd and waited for the applause to die down. Her voice was passionate and she radiated an energy that communicated she was happy to be here. She has mastered public speaking.
Throughout her presentation, Mrs.Obama connected with the audience. She sustained eye contact throughout her speech and it was not evident that there was a teleprompter. Too often, public speakers look nervous because of wavering eye contact or lose credibility because they look like they're reading. Strong eye contact combined with her warm smile endeared Mrs. Obama to the audience. They experienced her words as heartfelt as she described the modern day heroes she encountered in her travels.
She also leveraged the power of story and was at her best when she talked about her early life with the president and her personal concerns about giving her girls a normal life in the White House. Her shared experience of growing up with similar values like her husband's and working their way out of poverty was the classic rags to riches story that every person can relate to. It's the classic American Dream.
The speech was skillfully crafted to build from the struggles of her parents and in-laws to the current challenges and policies facing the nation. It was a subtle way of addressing issues without being dogmatic. As a parent, Mrs. Obama painted a picture of a strong family who is grappling with the same challenges that all families face.
She spoke sincerely and her challenge was non-confrontational "…we must work like never before…and we must once again come together and stand together for the man we can trust to keep moving this great country forward…my husband, our President, President Barack Obama."
Mrs. Obama understood that the purpose of the presentation was not to be a politician but to show the personal side of the president and gain the public's confidence in his leadership. She maintained that balance of confident public speaking with a personal passion and warmth.
The lessons for public speakers? Prepare and practice so that your presentation looks seamless. Connect with your eyes and let your warmth come through. Speak from the heart and tell your story. The rest is just technique. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUpN6klYP9o