Friday, September 25, 2009

The Sounds of Obama

The other morning, I was listening to National Public Radio (NPR) and they played excerpts from three different speeches that President Obama had made the day before. Three speeches on the same day and the what struck me was that each speech SOUNDED completely different. When he spoke at the Middle East press conference, his voice was strong, direct, no nonsense and, according to the NPR radio announcer, scolding. When he spoke at the Bill Clinton dinner, his pace was lilting, slower filled with carefully placed and lengthy pauses. You could hear him smiling. Then in the snippet played from a United Nations address, we heard pure old fashion oratory style - the slight sing song, the measured tone, the predictable rhythm. One man, one day, many voices.

Why does he do that? The sound and tone of your voice contributes 38% to the effectiveness of your communication. We wouldn't wear a swim suit to a banquet or a ball gown to a beach party. Every audience, every subject, every situation should warrant a slight adjustment to a speakers tone or style in order for communication to be the most effective. I marvelled at the skill Obama demonstrated on that one day. I hope we all take a lesson from his playbook and continually add to and adjust our vocal repertoire.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Emmy Speeches: Winners and Losers

I watched the entire broadcast of the Emmy awards last night for the pure entertainment value. As I went to bed however, I asked myself to reflect on the show from my professional viewpoint. Which speech really stood out? Which presenter or winner was the most memorable and why? At first my mind went blank. Of course Neil Patrick Harris as the host was memorable. But after him, the only person that popped into my head right away was Ricky Gervais. After a little more mental escavation, my mind brought up Jessica Lange. Why these two? I'm actually writing a book on this very topic. Ricky Gervais was memorable to me because he was so clearly playing up and playing into his type. Some people might say he was "being himself." Not knowing Mr. Gervais, I can't assume that. What I can assume, is that he has become an expert at presenting aspects of himself that are consistent with his inate type (a comic/curmudgeon).

When people are able to identify and use their inate type(s) to their advantage, they automatically make the listener (or watcher in this case) say... "yeah, I get you." That doesn't mean that the listener will always like you... but they'll get you and they will most likely remember you. Same with Jessica Lange. To me, Jessica Lange, even as she's aged, embodies the Leading Lady/Ingenue type. Honest, commanding, straightforward, yet still innocent and sweet. Last night she did not feel the need to cover up that innocence and sweetness with any over dramatic "meaningful" acceptance speech. (unlike Glenn Close) That is why I believe her speech was affecting and memorable for all the right reasons.

On the other side, were the memorable for the wrong reasons. The afore mentioned Ms. Close. In all honesty, I can not comment on her speech because her first few lines made me realize that it was time for me to leave the room to take care of something. Surprisingly enough, when I came back, seemingly several minutes later, she was still talking. In my book, I have typed Ms. Close as a leading lady/villain. Villian's are, pardon the pun, a necessary evil. I think all Villains need to embrace that part of their nature at all times. I believe Ms. Close presented herself as a leading lady period and left her Villainous qualities at the door (until the very end of her speech). That makes me, as a listener, feel that she's not being totally sincere. My second "loser" speech of the night was Patricia Arquette for so many reasons. Ms. Arquette was clearly uncomfortable be it because of her clothes or because she hates public speaking. Whatever the case, I say use it! If you're uncomfortable come right out and say it or maybe turn down the offer. I'd love to hear which speeches you remembered and why.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pause Perfect

Listening to Michelle Obama speak about health care, I couldn't help notice how well she used the power of the pause. Pausing makes everything you say, so much more powerful, important and understandable. So take a lesson from the first lady. Well there are a lot of lessons that can be taken from the first lady but as far as her presentation skills, this lesson is invaluable. News/michelle-obama-us-health-care-is-unacceptable/40905123001

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Temper Temper!!

Okay.... so was Serena Williams right or was she wrong to verbally abuse a tennis line umpire during the semi-finals of the U.S. Open. I don't believe anyone is ever "right" to turn to verbal abuse. Do I understand her frustration? Totally. During a match of that nature, with a score as it was an a fault so minimal... was the umpire "right"? As I watched what transpired, I felt a little sick. An Asian official and an African American celebrity. I feared what the media would turn this into. It's sad to me that the expression of extreme emotion between two ethnic minorities brings up that fear in me. When John McEnroe had his outbursts, I had no such fears. But that's another issue.

In my opinion, Serena's outburst was irresponsible and unprofessional. No, it may not have been fair but let's face it, life has never been fair. But people and especially celebrities can not continue to rationalize their "acting out" because they feel the "cause" justifies the "effect". And don't get me wrong... I don't think that Serena should have just let it go. Experiencing intense emotion in a situation like that is natural. However, there are effective and appropriate ways to communicate anger. Serena finally released a statement that comes close to taking responsibility for her actions. I still think she owes her fans and the lineswoman a true apology. I think it's important for her to clarify that passion for a game should not be confused with license to "go off on someone." It's clear that more work needs to be done around teaching individuals how to communicate and express extreme emotions.