a presentation masterclass from the first lady

Just under a week ago First Lady Michelle Obama held a press conference to introduce proposed revisions to the Nutrition Facts label in the US. These revisions are aimed to help the American people supposedly make healthier choices. Over one third of all Americans are now obese, so it seems to be a very small step in the right direction.

Michelle Obama's short presentation was faultless, and in my opinion, a lot more human than her husband's speeches. Barack Obama is a great speaker, though I feel he can be a little robotic. Michelle's presentation, which you can watch in the Whitehouse video below, is a masterclass in presenting when using an autocue.

She begins by thanking the previous speaker Chenise Bryant for all her hard work. She then casually leans against the lectern and goes on to comment about how genuinely surprised she is to discover Chenice is a Grandma. There is a natural ease to this and it gives us a strong sense that she is relaxed enough to be in the moment. At Edison Red we always recommend that if you stay present and focus outside of yourself, rather than on your talk, you are far more likely to capture something from your environment – you can then spontaneously mention this when you start to speak.

As Michelle continues she seamlessly switches from 'what parents need for their kids' to 'the food we buy for our families'. In an instant she is one of those parents buying food for her own kids – unlikely, but nevertheless I believe she creates an incredibly strong sense of inclusion. She goes on to reinforce this by 'marching into the supermarket', 'picking up a can or box of something' and 'squinting at the label' - all with physical gestures to reinforce those actions. For a brief moment we can see those crammed shelves and the can of beans in her hand.

Using gestures to create an object, a place or even a time is incredibly powerful. It helps us to build rich and vivid pictures within our own imagination. If you already do it then keep doing it - and if you're someone who keeps their hands gripped to the lectern or holding your notes, notice how you're affected when others use their hands to illustrate their stories.

Throughout it all it's easy to forget that she is using an autocue. Yes she uses it, but what she seamlessly does is make sure all those in the briefing room receive her eye contact and feel included. 

Finally she lets us know she’s about to finish. She says: 'Today I'd like to end as I started…' This gives her audience a sense of completion and also a chance to really focus on her remaining comments.

It really is a masterclass in presentation.

Image credit: Flickr


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