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 QUESTION:

I notice that President Obama seems to punctuate or "push" words at the ends of his phrases when he delivers a speech. Can you please comment on this in terms of audience perceptions (I.e. How this comes across to listeners)? And, what can be done about this for people who want to prevent or eliminate that habit?

ANSWER:

The word you have used, "push," reflects how audience members "hear" and process this. To many, it comes across as "pushy" -- and can be perceived as lecturing or even scolding. The irony is that such a speech pattern is really more a reflection of how one reads for delivery. While the individual's effort might be to sound authoritative or in control, it tends to come across, instead, as "authoritarian" -- indicating perhaps the person's uncertainty over being perceived as being in charge.The simple "fix" is to do as follows:

  • Set up the typescript in our Eye-Cuetm format for delivery and have a copy at the lectern.
  • Practice reading the typescript in full phrases without "punctuating" any words.
  • As you do this, make opposing circles with both hands extended in front of you and to your sides. (This engages the brain to "flow" the words.)
  • Each time you catch yourself pushing any words, stop immediately, pause, then go back to the last thought you expressed "correctly" and resume from there. 
  • Once you can do that successfully, mark the typescript for vocal infllection (long and short pauses, slowing down or speeding up, louder or softer, and so on).
  • Repeat the process -- this time with the teleprompter, still making the finger circles.
  • Practice keeping your place on the manuscript as you refer to the teleprompter. (The prompter is there to enable you to appear to be looking at the audience members.)
  • Now, go through the process one more time without making finger circles -- allowing your hands to gesture naturally.
  • The effort on "flow" is now in place and the addition of the marked-up inflections will contribute to smooth and effective delivery.

Since the pushing habit has undoubtedly been ingrained, it will take every bit of this kind of rehearsal, and perhaps a few more rehearsals, to overcome it.

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