The Art of Sorytelling; Lessons Non-Native English Speakers can Learn from Barak Obama
At Spoken English Practice, we believe that non-native English speakers who aspire to go from good to great (intermediate to advanced) needs to practice the art of storytelling. Being an effective storyteller is one of the most essential skills for any leader — whether you are the mayor of a small town, a president of an student organization, or the CEO of a company with tens of thousands of employees.
Great storytellers not only grain the trust and credibility of their audience but also know how to inspire the audience and take them to a whole different level of emotional attachment. A great storyteller can get your blood to pump harder, your mind to whirl, your heart to feel like it could explode with inspiration. Great storytelling is that powerful. Non native English speakers who already have a good knowledge of grammar and have a vocabulary of over 1000 words, should start working on advanced communication skills such as public speaking and story-telling.
Barack Obama is widely considered as one of the most effective and charismatic storyteller of our time. For business leaders, students or aspiring social leaders who are trying to master the art of storytelling, it is hard to find a better example than Barak Obama.
Thanks to YouTube, the whole world has been fortunate enough to experience Obama’s podium magic. A few memorable examples include the inauguration address of 2008 and his 2013 inaugural address. But the one speech that really brought Obama to the spotlight was his iconic “Audacity of Hope” keynote at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. If you have not seen this, it is a must watch.
Now the important question; What makes Obama a superior storyteller? What can non-native English speakers learn from him?
There are 3 characteristics that stand out:
1.) Obama has a very rich and distinct vernacular at his arsenal. His choice of words and the figures of speech he users paints a vivid, unforgettable picture of what he’s talking about (This is extremely hard in politics). A huge contributing factor for this could be his past experience as a writer. Writers typically are more articulate than average people. If you are a good writer, chances are your vernacular is richer than most others.
Lesson: It is extremely important to use the new words you learn in your communications, whether it’s speaking or writing. This is specially true for non native English speakers. If you are afraid to make mistakes when speaking, start with writing. Writing gives you more time to think, and can be done with no social pressure. Remember, what matters is not your vocabulary, but your active vocabulary, and the only way to expand your active vocabulary is to use the new words you learn in English.
2.) Obama has outstanding stage command. He makes eye contact with every part of his audience Obama has near perfect posture when he gets on stage. The right posture is pivotal in depicting the right amount of confidence. A speaker who is not standing up gives the impression of tentativeness. Obama stands tall, and absolutely exudes self-confidence through his posture.
Lesson: Confidence comes only from preparation. If you have an important interview or presentation in English, practice beforehand with a native English speaker. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will sound.
3.) Barack Obama has a very clear speaking voice. Even beginners of English can understand each word he says clearly. He never mumbles, and his voice never sounds shaky or nervous. Importantly, his voice remains the same throughout his speech.
Lesson: Put emphasis on speaking slowly and clearly. Different languages are spoken at different speeds. Most non-native speakers end up speaking English the same speed as their native language. Again, the best way to fix this is to have real conversations with native English speakers, so that you get an instinctive feel for the speed at which you should speak.
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