Series on Persuasive Speakers: Use of pronouns

Often, the mistake that a public speaker makes is that he makes the speech about him (without realizing it). Perhaps we can take a few lessons from Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in 2012 about how to deliver memorable speeches and become a highly regarded and respected speaker.

What becomes telling is when you starting take note of the different types of pronouns President Obama uses and how often he uses them in his entire speech. In his 21 minutes victory speech, these were the tally of the usage of the different pronouns.

I – 33 times

You/you’re/your – 56 times

We/Us/Our – 110 times

The usage of the different pronouns is key in creating resonance within the speech. A common ratio that public speakers can use to measure their speech effectiveness is the “I/You (We) Ratio” (or I-U Ratio). Great speeches generally have a lower I-U ratio because the focus is not on “I” as an individual but about “You” as an audience and why you should listen and what should you listen out for. During the course of any speech or presentation, the audience is always asking “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) and “So what?” so it is imperative to always ensure your speech is audience-centric and also, to create value and stake for the audience to listen in to what you have to say.

Considering this was a Presidential Victory speech, it is no surprise that the speech was centered on President Obama himself for some moments as the electorate needed to hear what is President Obama is committed to as the leader of the nation hence the considerable usage of ‘I’ for 33 times.

Yet, it is more important to note how many more times he used the pronouns ‘You/You’re/Your’ and ‘We/Us/Our’ in his speech. The former pronoun classes (56 times) has the effect of creating affinity and personal connection because of how it sounds as if President Obama is talking to you and no one else but yourself.

The latter pronoun classes (110 times) ensures that this speech rallies and involves everyone, including President Obama himself, on the same line and towards a common endeavor. This is all the more important, considering that there was a significant crowd who voted for Romney’s camp as well but now, President Obama has the task of involving and not sidelining them.