Speak for Yourself

Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!

Saying ‘thank you’ like Obama

Making a victory speech is  sweet. It’s also a test of character. The killer instinct, brains or hard work that got you the prize have done their work. Now it’s time to be gracious, grateful, and humble.

The emotion in this speech should sit somewhere between pleasure and euphoria.  But a winner needs to think beyond their own success and make this   special for all  the people who care, or  are there, or have taken part in some way. You need to say thanks.

President Obama’s acceptance was a practically perfect example of the genre.  In 23 minutes it had everything you could wish for: he was impressive, statesmanlike, passionate, grateful, inclusive, rousing, humble, warm and humorous.  [Read the transcript and watch it here.]

But the following day he made another,  possibly more impressive speech. This one is only  5 minutes. It’s informal, off the cuff, in the back room, to thank his campaign workers in Chicago.  Here we see him uncut, ‘in the raw’.  Instead of  grandeur we have empathy. Rhetoric gives way to intimacy. The statesman turns fatherly,  the public man speaks privately. What stands out is his humility. He doesn’t talk about himself, or the  campaign or the win – he talks about them, how  proud and impressed he is with them, his confidence in the great things they’ll do. He’s  moved to tears.  Notionally it’s a ‘thank you’ but really this is a brilliant a motivational speech. Who would not want to work for someone like this? Everyone there will recall every word to tell their grandchildren. It’s a powerful demonstration of   a master orator making sense of  occasion and audience, to deliver a speech that’s unforgettable.

What to do when you have to to say thank you 

Regardless of whether you’ve won a  presidential race or a chook raffle, if you’ve competed for something you have to be ready to speak when you win.

Here are some key ingredients to use on  the winners’ podium:

  • Keep it short and simple.
  • Express your gratitude to the person/organization giving you the honour
  • Speak of the significance of the award
  • Praise the competition and other competitors
  • Share the credit – acknowledge those who made it possible for you to achieve the award
  • Say what the award means to you –  refer to the values/goals/aspirations the donor organization represents and how they inspire you.
  • Tell stories – small personal heart-felt anecdotes to show what receiving this gift/award means to your life. These make it real for the audience.
  • Indicate what you will do with the award.
  • Acknowledge the audience who have come to witness the occasion
  • Conclude with a final thank you
  • Remember: be humble.

I’m delighted that this post was in Andrew Diugan’s Six Minutes weekend round up of best public speaking articles. If you haven’t already, check out this fantastic resource. Thanks Andrew! 



One comment on “Saying ‘thank you’ like Obama

  1. Pingback: Public Speaking Tips and Techniques #96

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This entry was posted on 12/11/2012 by in Audience connection, Political speeches, Public speaking, Speeches on video.

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