Part V – Obama’s Inaugural Spice: PACING

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

This is the last in a Series of 5 posts
on Rhetorical Tips and Techniques
that President Obama could have used
to make his Second Inaugural Address
more memorable.

          roller coasterwinePacing is a speech writing tip that President Obama could have used to make sure his worldwide audience would savor the verbal champagne he poured from the podium  long after it was consumed on Inauguration Day . Instead it fell flat.

      Click here for a final restructuring of President Obama’s Inaugural Address– in this last of a 5 part series on speech writing tips- to see how the President could have accelerated  the pace of the speech and exhilarated his audience on a roller coaster ride.

      Study that restructured Inaugural speech to see how President Obama could have commanded greater attention and retention of his message in much the same way a symphony orchestra builds to a crescendo. Notice how the use of repetitive phases and short sentences speed the speech to its climactic ending.  Compare  that product of this 5-part series to Obama’s  Original Script.

           Unfortunately, President Obama virtually slow-walked to the finish line in his Second Inaugural. Over the last five minutes The President averaged only 118 words-per-minute with a high of 143 (vs. 106 words-per-minute with a high of 116 over the first five minutes.)

          Compare that flat performance to his  2007 speech to the NCAAP or  his 2008 victory speech following the Virginia Primary or his 2008 Election Night speech.

         In 2007, over the last five minutes of his NAACP speech, Barack Obama averaged 146 words-per-minute with a high of 174 (vs. 104 words-per-minute with a high of 116 over the first five minutes.)

In 2008, over the last five minutes of his Virginia Primary Victory speech, Barack Obama averaged 134 words-per-minute with a high of 161 (vs. 110 words-per-minute with a high of 126 over the first five minutes.)

         And on November 4, 2008 in Grant Park, over the last five minutes of his Election Night Victory speech President-Elect Barack Obama averaged 137 words-per-minute with a high of 155  (vs. 105 words per minute with a high of 117 over the first five minutes), albeit  slowed by 63 seconds of applause in that first five minutes vs. 22 seconds of applause in the last five minutes.


         bike4Pacing is also dependent on your point of view.  It’s is too tempting to write more for your lips than their ears.  It’s too tempting to push a first time bicycle rider instead of guiding him or her to  gradually start pedaling by themselves.  Beware of pushing too fast for your audience to follow.  See Part I in this series on the Explainer-in Chief.

Your Audience Wants a Verbal Hook

       To combat your tendency to teach and preach from the podium, consider taking a look at what you consider the final draft of your speech. Scan down 10 or 12 paragraphs and ask yourself if you could start your speech, there at the 10th or 12 paragraph. Chances are you will open with a stronger attention getter. Then you can use those other nine paragraphs later in your speech to flesh out the context of your remarks.

      Audiences always want to hear your content first, then the context.  The teacher in you prefers the context first approach and that’s why what you assume will be a well-received speech instead falls flat. The audience always wants a verbal hook to hang onto.

      You’ll find plenty verbal hooks in the Restructured Inaugural, include the use of a memorable opening as discussed in Part II ; metaphors and transitional phrases in Part III and a call to action and repetitive phrases in Part IV.

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