Hillary Takes the Stage

My clients sometimes ask me, “Angela, is it really possible to become a powerful and elegant public speaker? Aren’t those outcomes mutually exclusive? Don’t those qualities collide?”

Well, it is a privilege to inaugurate my new web site and blog by writing about Hillary Clinton’s speech tonight at the Democratic National Convention. Her incredible performance was a great example of just how power and elegance work together to ignite an audience and inspire action.

I have been a strident Hillary supporter for a long time, committed to helping her succeed in becoming the first woman president of the United States. This is partly a personal mission for me, having grown up in Washington, D.C. amidst the excitement and pageantry of politics—and where from a very early age I wondered out loud, “Why has there never been a woman president?” So I watched her speak tonight with two minds—one belonged to the perplexed little girl who still wonders why, and one to the professional speech coach looking for an example of a great speaker.

Hillary did everything right tonight. She began with a beautifully written speech and then delivered it with nothing less than presidential poise and power. She did what I coach my clients to do—she used her body and voice to create power and elegance. She stood erect with both feet planted under her hips so that her posture projected strength and vigor. She used a variety of gestures that were well-coordinated with her message—symmetrical and asymmetrical, high and low, sharp and smooth. All this gave us the impression of a woman who was completely relaxed and comfortable on this grand stage speaking in front of thousands.

I have seen Hillary speak many times before and sometimes her face has looked less enthusiastic, but tonight she sparkled. She smiled, she nodded, and best of all she used the facial technique that her husband uses so well—raised eyebrows! When she raised those eyebrows and smiled with all her teeth, she looked warm, friendly, and fully alive!

But best of all I loved hearing her forceful voice—the Hillary Clinton signature. She paused with greater intention and used more inflection. She even used higher pitch levels, which she rarely does. The combination of these vocal skills coupled with her strong physical presence reached right into our hearts and minds. I liked that.

The pundits kept saying “she hit it out of the park.” I will leave the sports metaphors to them. To me she delivered a set of twins—power and elegance, as only a woman of her stature can.