Communication lessons from U.S. President Obama’s Inaugural Address

Inaugural address  was a great opportunity for U.S. President Obama to communicate with his countrymen and restore their faith a difficult time. He seized this opportunity brilliantly with an elevating speech.

It was one of the best speeches I have heard in a long time. It left me with some very important lessons on communication and writing and hence this post.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston at Syntax Training blog has done a brilliant analysis of the speech and here are a few excerpts from the post:

  • Number of words: 2414 (according to Microsoft Word)
  • Number of words per sentence: 21.4 (Microsoft) or 21.9 (my calculator)
  • Number of times “I” appears: 3
  • Number of times “we” appears:  62
  • Number of times “my” appears: 2
  • Number of times “our” appears: 66
  • The President’s speech includes not one “however,” “moreover,” or “in addition.”
    Sentences with passive verbs: 10 percent (Examples: “The capital was abandoned”; “It must be earned.”)

Here are some of the important lessons on communication that I could extract out of the speech:

  1. Communication is all about packing a lot of meaning into a few words. Speech and sentences were not long, but very meaningful. Same applies to writing as well. Brevity is the key in all business communication. Some write for the sake of writing and some write for communicating. You get the point.
  2. President Obama painted pictures with usage of words and right expression. People were hooked when he spoke because he added feelings into each and every spoken word. This is very important public speaking lesson too.
  3. From a management standpoint, his speech was a progressive and inclusive one. Note that he used “We” and “Our” more than “I” and You”.  He used words like “unity of purpose”. People only relate to words when they are inclusive. He also used positive words like “hope”, “ambitions”, “confidence”, “reaffirm”,  “greatness”, “prosperity”, “freedom” etc.  Bringing out issues and pointing towards them is important but communication has to be solutions driven.  People easily relate with whatever is progressive and hopeful.
  4. He did not use any junk into his speech. He was speaking with utmost clarity (of thought and words) which created the impact.

All in all, a great speech. Did you follow his inaugural address? Any thoughts you would like to share?