Public Speaking Example: Bill Clinton 2012 DNC Speech

by Bob Walsh

No matter where you stand politically – if you just look at the speechgiving element of Bill Clintons 2012 DNC speech, it’s a brilliant public speaking example.

One reason why this speech is so engaging because Clinton is an extremely charismatic speaker. (And contrary to popular believe, everybody can learn to become more charismatic).

Another reason is because he masterfully plays what I call the “persuasion piano” – using rhetoric devices psychological figures to guide your thoughts in the direction he wants them to go. (And uses a lot of “us vs them” rhetoric – after all, it’s the spiel of politics).

They want to cut taxes for high-income Americans even more than President Bush did. They want to get rid of those pesky financial regulations designed to prevent another crash and prohibit federal bailouts. They want to actually increase defense spending over a decade $2 trillion more than the Pentagon has requested, without saying what they’ll spend it on. And they want to make enormous cuts in the rest of budget, especially programs that help the middle class and poor children.

Keep in mind he’s addressing the democratic fanbase with this speech. And he’s hitting all of their hot buttons in less than a minute. And when you create a vivid picture of a common foe, it unites your audience and gives you intense emotional momentum.

And sometimes it’s the little things that can have a huge effect.

Look at this part of the speech where he compares Democratic & Republican performance when it came to creating new jobs. Just watch it for 10 seconds – this is an incredibly powerful public speaking persuasion method. It’s very simple – it’s almost the way kids talk in the schoolyard with each other. It creates a very vivid, internal understanding of the point he wants to make. He uses his intonation, his gestures, his facial expressions and his words to make a very succinct point. Think of Bruce Lee hitting you right in the solar plexus with his fist.

Rhetoricians will thrive on this. For one, there is a figure of speech they classified as syncrisis. What’s a syncrisis? It’s a rhetorical device that emphasizes the comparison of opposites.

Another rhetoric devices he used is called reductio ad absurdum.

“In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president’s re-election was actually pretty simple, pretty snappy. It went something like this: We left him a total mess, he hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in,” Clinton said.

He used “the enemies” own logic, exaggerated it and made it look absurd.

There is so much you can learn from this speech – but no matter how many rhetorical devices and persuasive phrases you have at your disposal – you need to have the confidence to deliver a speech engagingly in front of an audience! Because without  confidence, all your words will collapse like a house of cards when hit by a brick once the eyes of your audience look at you.

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