Tag Archives: Obama

Obama “pitched it perfectly…”

The shooting in Tucson last weekend lead to very different responses from the two people who have the highest profile in the US when it comes to public utterances


 As the Sunday Times put it “Obama had at last recovered the voice that won him so many admirers in his 2008 campaign”. He was under heavy pressure and  despite this, perhaps because of it, he earned unanimous praise and may well have transformed his election prospects. He was as the MoS said ” in preacher mode but pitched it perfectly, emotionally and politically.”


For Sarah Palin her politics are all emotion. Seemingly any words will do, however appalling, as long as they push the emotional jugular, love or hate.  What is scary is just how many get carried along by her. 

In the typical business pitch the words are written and rewritten to meet the political/commercial brief, with emotion taking a back seat. A touch of Palin might not be such a bad idea. The ideal,  an Obama.  Get the words right and then invest time in practising to deliver them with the right emotional impact for your audience.

The TV debate. (4) Lessons from Obama?

It has just been reported that both Cameron and Brown are hiring consultants who helped Obama to help them as they face  the TV debates, potentially more vital as the gap narrows. Help!

 Their ‘joint’ decisions influenced presumably by the fact that America has done more of it for longer and by the power of ‘brand’ Obama.  But are they both right?


Taking Obama first. His truly great performances have been as orator, calling for very different skills to those of the live debate. No one is challenging, the audience is ‘out there’ ready to be captivated by virtuoso performance, two teleprompters his best friends.

Incidentally, Cameron’s own best so far performance was his famous, leadership winning, ‘no notes’ speech at Blackpool. But the debate calls for something different and although Obama won his against McCain, the competition was not up to much.  Since then his more intimate television interviews have not impressed.

America and Britain being divided by a common language is another reason to treat with caution the Obama victory-claiming consultants. And we still do not know the format for the debates as all sides seek to negotiate the least risky formula.


Given these caveats what should our three reality show contestants be seeking from their learned consultants? Basically, how to be both relaxed and confident enough to be themselves, allowing us the viewers to feel we have met them.

This may well be easier for Nick Clegg. He needs to inject an element of surprise but he  comes across naturally and more conversationally than his rivals.

 For David Cameron it has become more difficult as his constant exposure has left the impression of  someone whose only communication mode is one of  ‘finger wagging’ over-emphasis, where charm and the art of conversation come second.

Gordon Brown has survived the bullying barrage and if anything the polls suggest he has benefitted, perhaps because of a glimpse of the real person, however many warts.  As ever when he is bad, he is very very bad, but when he is good then the others should look out.

Perhaps he would do better with Piers Morgan as his consultant.

“It’s all down to confidence. Obama has it”.

These words headlined an article by William Rees-Mogg in the MoS and there are plenty like it.  As the world economy falls apart, confidence, or rather lack of it, dominates the media, and our lives, at an intensity not seen since the thirties.  As a result we repond, perhaps disproportionately, to those who appear to have it.

Right now Gordon Brown has it more than Cameron.  His appointment of Mandelson who exudes an eery sense of confidence, could prove to be a masterstroke.  Perhaps one reason Kenneth Clarke is in the frame for the Tory front bench is an ebullient self-confidence less evident in his colleagues.

Barack “yes you can” Obama  has it!  Oratory up there with the Gettysburg address, body language to rival Roosevelt, whose  “jaunty figure communicated boundless confidence to his countrymen” and the charisma of Kennedy.

 The relevance to the business pitch?  Confidence has never been so important.  No one has a crystal ball, no proposal comes with cast iron guarantee, no procurement process can eliminate error. Now,  more than ever, it is the teams who inspire the intangible of confidence that get the vote.

How do you build this?  You accept that the more you rehearse, the more confident you will be. That the strong opening gives you and your audience confidence.  That it’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it.  And, that listening can be more powerful than talking.

Yet another lesson from Obama, ( Andrew Sullivan, S Times)  “What he gets, what he seems to intuit, is how to make others feel as if they are being heard”

Its what all clients want!   (More on confidence in Best Practice Guides and posts Sept 15, Oct 8,15,19)

“Please tell us a story, pleeeease….”

 Anyone  with young children will have heard these words.  Rapt attention and eager anticipation, your reward when you give in.  The great comics are all about story-telling. Think back to the seventies when every mum’s favourite, Max Bygaves, started every performance with his catch phrase ” I wanna tell you a story”. Think now, Billy Connelly or Ricky Gervais.

Away from comedy, think Barack Obama. His acceptance speech was mesmerising, its impact undeniable. And yet, how much of what he actually said do we now remember?  I tested a few friends. Their limited responses included ‘yes we can,’ ‘change’, these united states of america’ and ‘a puppy dog for the children’.

However, what they all recalled, with ease, was his story.

“This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But the one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Alabama.  Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old. She was born just a generation past slavery: a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky….”

Storytelling is the most neglected area of pitch stagecraft yet good stories, or personal anecdotes, will stick in the mind long after the charts. They provoke thought whilst engaging and entertaining the audience.

“Please tell us a story, please…..”

Lessons from Obama..

 In a couple of days we get the result of the greatest, most expensive pitch, political or otherwise, of all time. So far $2.4billion and still counting.  When Barack Obama wins, as he surely will, it will be down to many things from  dislike of Bush, to the economy, to it being time for a change ……

It will above all be down to superb pitching!  “He has been an extraordinary candidate, running a brilliantly conceived and flawlessly executed campaign” (Sunday Times).  The lessons include:

1. Energy management. Anyone who has pitched knows the importance of keeping the momentum going, managing energy every day, and not just in a panic as pitch date looms.  Obama maintained the energy level, including his battle against Clinton, for some 20 months!  McCain and his team by comparison “lacks the same energy and sense of purpose”.

2. Consistent emotional ‘brand’ communication.  Throughout the campaign it has been his attitude, his style, his story, rather than the specifics, that have engaged so many. “Some presidents become icons after they get elected, like Kennedy.  Barack Obama has managed to become a cultural icon in the course of the campaign…”

3. A perfect pitch process. Successful pitches don’t just happen.  Detail, ruthless efficiency, leaving nothing to chance, ticking every box, all matter.  Obama scores here as well. ” The most seasoned political observers have been struck by the meticulous professionalism of his campaign”.

Who knows, perhaps Obama took time out to read the Best Practice Guides on this site..