PRINT PAGEThe Business of Persuasion (Part 2)

Written by Roy Black

This is a continuation of my thesis that business books on persuasion, selling and marketing are the almost perfect guidebooks for trial lawyers. This is not to mean one must slavishly follow every principle set forth in these books. They have great ideas which must be adjusted for our use. We are not presenting in a boardroom or a salesroom but rather in a courtroom with fairly strict rules that must be followed. The final argument is not exactly the same as a business presentation or a political speech but they come from a common source. So, take the main ideas and modify for courtroom use. Use these books like a Chinese restaurant menu select one from column A another from column B.  Below I continue with outlines of my favorites:

Say It Like Obama: The Power of Speaking with Purpose and Vision by Shel Leanne

What does it take to inspire? Don’t we all aspire to this? For Obama it all started with his speech at the Democratic Convention in 2004. It catapulted him into the national spotlight, a seat in the Senate and ultimately the White House. All in all a pretty good result. It is his gift for oratory, combining style and substance, that turned a little known state senator from Illinois into a star. Even his most vocal critics admit he is one of the finest orators of the modern political era. This is not a political book but rather a “how does he do it” book. Let’s face it — a rational student of public speaking wouldn’t buy a “Say It Like Bush” book, but would instantly grab a “Say It Like Bill Clinton” one.

Ironically Obama was so good at public speaking that his opponents used it against him. They kept warning the public not to be mesmerized by his speeches. That he was too articulate. Oh, if only people said the same about us!

This is a “user friendly” instructional manual on the art and craft of public speaking. It examines the many techniques that Obama employs to drive his agenda. The book deconstructs Obama’s speeches, including the 2,800 word keynote speech that electrified the audience both in the Democratic National Convention hall and on television. Leanne also analyzes Obama’s high-profile speech in Berlin, his acceptance speech, the inauguration speech and others. Barack Obama’s well-practiced techniques made him a highly effective speaker before audiences numbering 30 to 200,000 and “fired up” millions of enthusiastic supporters with his inspiring vision, rousing rhetoric, and charismatic presence.

The book focuses on body language, mannerisms, alliteration, repetition, pacing, and most importantly, how to tie the speech into one’s own life. A popular Obama technique is using his own struggles and then comparing such to that of the struggling American.

He uses repetition, attention to key themes, and how to make them memorable. Learn the rule of threes; understand the power of rhetorical and non-rhetorical questions; exploit the use and non-use of “and” in a sentence. Particularly useful are the chapters on Breaking Down Barriers (3), Driving Points Home (6), and Persuading (7). The Obama keys are: Make a strong first impression; Use body language and voice; Establish common ground; Gain trust and confidence; Win hearts and minds; Drive your points home; Convey your vision through imagery and words that resonate; Build to a crescendo; and Leave a lasting impression.

The book does not only print the speeches, but also has text notes indicating specific hand gestures, body language, delivery, pausing, among other techniques he used throughout the speeches. For example here are some notes while discussing the keynote address: “Let me express my deepest gratitude for the privilege of addressing this convention. [he reaches out to the audience with open hands, conveying his gratitude] “that we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock at the door” [Obama knocks a balled fist on an imaginary door] “we have a solemn obligation” [he rests his palm over his heart]. The notes point out tone, emphasis, mannerisms, volume and even details like “U-ni-ted-States-of-A-mer-i-ca” [scrawling his fingers as if writing it in cursive].  This type of emphasis drives his points home. All concrete details and personalization of his speeches. He paints pictures in the minds of the audience.

He uses vivid language, symbolic words and personalized ideas. He paints pictures in the minds of his audience. He repeats key themes. He talks about hope making the listener visualize it. He seeks out common ground in the audience. Do they have a common history? Common values? Common experiences? Common goals? He focuses on the areas of commonality in order to build a bridge to them. He keeps it personal – I, you, and we. It puts him closer to his audience.

And Obama always has a powerful ending. None of this tailing off into an almost embarrassed silence we see so many do and lose the power of their message. Powerful endings like his keynote in 2004: “Tonight! If you feel the same energy that I do, if you feel the same urgency that I do, if you feel the same passion that I do, if you feel the same hopefulness that I do – if we do what we must do, then….”

I recommend reading them while watching and listening to them on YouTube.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

C H A P T E R 1: THE SPEECH THAT STARTED IT ALL
C H A P T E R 2: EARNING TRUST AND CONFIDENCE
C H A P T E R 3: BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS
C H A P T E R 4: WINNING HEARTS AND MINDS
C H A P T E R 5: CONVEYING VISION
C H A P T E R 6: DRIVING POINTS HOME
C H A P T E R 7: PERSUADING
C H A P T E R 8: FACING AND OVER COMING CONTROVERSY
C H A P T E R 9: MOTIVATING OTHERS TO ACTION AND LEAVING STRONG LAST IMPRESSIONS
C H A P T E R 1 0: THE SPEECH THAT MADE HISTORY . . . AGAIN

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1 Comment to The Business of Persuasion (Part 2)

  1. February 4, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    I have learned more from your website and your blog than I could have learned from the “professionals” I hired for my case. Keep this in mind from the client side, as you teach and philosophize about your profession and your life — keep working, thinking, writing and fighting for your clients, it is good for your soul. Keep mediocrity away from you. Keep thinking and being bigger than the lil people sucking up to you. Thanks for the work that you do.

    I drive a garbage truck all day long and think about this all the time. Thanks for listening.

    Marc Cooper

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