Last time around both the Democrat and Republican Conventions gave us memorable performances. The soaring oratory of Barack Obama and the bizarre but compelling utterances of Sarah Palin. This time the formulaic delivery of Mitt Romney was only slightly countered by the ‘plucky-loving-wife’ piece and a bright but nasty contribution from Paul Ryan. (And of course Clint!)
Luckily for Obama, who no longer soars and is an incumbent who has become less presidential after four years in office, he had two superb ‘seconders’. The first of these was Michelle whose presence on stage was such that many are already sizing her up as a future president. Her speech was well crafted and hit all the right buttons, frequently – my “Barack” and our “poor upbringing”, the importance of “our girls” and of course lots of “love”.
It could have been mawkish but wasn’t because it was not the words that counted. It was her performance. More than any other major public figure she is the embodiment of great communication through body language, gesture, tone of voice, eye contact and facial expression. Check out her speech, and the smile, on You Tube with the sound turned down. You will get the message!
But even Michelle was somewhat overshadowed by Bill Clinton, and Obama certainly was. Among recent world leaders Clinton remains in a league of his own. He is known for his legendary charm, with the ability to ‘work a room’ like no other, making everyone he meets feel that they are special, and that he is only interested in them.
Somehow he has the gift of taking this personal touch on to the platform, holding an intimate conversation with an audience of many thousands. His body language is not expansive but each gesture reinforces a key point. He combines this easy style, brilliantly, with words ‘I can understand, in my sort of language’.
As Obama said to the New Hampshire crowds, ” President Clinton made the case in the way only he can. Somebody emailed me after his speech- they said, you need to appoint him secretary of explaining stuff. I like that.”