How President Obama Uses Presentation Structure – 4 Clear Steps

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Structure Your Presentations Like President Obama

President Barack Obama, as America’s Commander in Chief and Leader of the Free World, gives a lot of speeches. According to my White House sources, President Obama has given more than 3,600 speeches since his first presidential inauguration in 2009. With so many speaking opportunities, does President Obama use any specific speechcraft? Yes, he does. President Obama builds his words, topics, and messages on a framework, a presentation structure.

Recently President Obama spoke to an audience of over 4,500 in Kenya. The President thrilled and inspired the stadium-size audience with humor, local greetings, and personal stories. How did the President deliver a heartfelt speech that won him global praise? He employed a presentation structure of four simple steps.

President Obama’s Four Step Speech Structure

Introduction: Greetings & Warm-up
Past: Stories of Obama, his Grandfather and Father
Future: Envisioning Kenya’s Future
Closing: Success Stories – Call to Action

President Obama’s Hierarchy of Structure

President Obama’s speech uses different levels of structure to support his main points. A clear example of this is when the President talks about Kenya’s future. He builds a base with three main ideas that serve as pillars to shore up the topic.

Pillar 1: Democratic Governance
Pillar 2: Development for All
Pillar 3: National Identity

Structure Creates Efficient Presentations

A presentation framework will let you prepare your speeches more quickly. The structure will guide you as you decide where to place your information within your speech. Employing even a simple structure will make your delivery more logical and your message easier to follow.

The presentation structure that President Obama used in Kenya could be used for many topics and circumstances. It provides a natural progression, ends on a high note, and leaves the audience with a clear understanding of its role in creating a new future. Apply this structure to your message.

Your Four Steps to Structure Success

Introduction: Greet and engage your audience
Past: Tell stories of your past situation and challenges
Future: Give your audience a vision of a successful future
Closing: Deliver a direct call to action

Presentation structure is essential to clear delivery of information. If you listen to the President’s speech, you’ll probably notice a secondary structure of, “What is/was” vs. “What could be.” It’s a back and forth play between the challenges of the past and the successes of the future. This presentation structure works well to create positive responses to the call to action for a future of “What could be.”

If the structure of “What is/was” vs. “What could be” sounds familiar, it should be. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used it in his “I have a Dream” speech. Nancy Duarte, author of Resonate and Slideology, mapped Dr. King’s speech with the presentation structure of back and forth tension between the past and the future.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech analyzed by Nancy Duarte from Duarte on Vimeo.

When you create your presentations, choose a structure first and then build on it, adding your own stories and insights. You might not speak on the world stage, but using presentation structure will help your presentations to flow more smoothly.

If two Nobel Peace Prize winners use presentation structure, you might want to give it a try. Not every structure will work in every situation. However, the basic Four Step structure that President Obama used in Kenya will work for most situations. The critical tip to making a rigid presentation structure more fluid is to fill the framework with personal stories to which your audience can relate.

Visit for a deeper breakdown of President Obama’s structure as well as other elements of the President’s speech in Kenya. Podium Wisdom, a rich resource for information on speaking and presentation skills.




Published On: 10th Sep 2015

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