Bill Clinton answered the call at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina and made a strong case for Barack Obama. He just didn't give a speech, but helped him get re-elected, thus, solidifying his reputation as the Explainer-in-Chief.
Is there anyone better at doing this today? I don't think so, especially when the stakes are sky high. Bill Clinton is in a league by himself, and there is no close second.
If you want to become a good persuasive speaker, the speech you want to study is Bill Clinton's speech where he is there to nominate Barack Obama as the next president for four more years. Typically this speech usually is no more than ten to fifteen minutes. Bill Clinton's speech was supposed to be approximately twenty minutes long but did anyone think Bill Clinton could get everything off his chest in just twenty minutes. He spoke for close to fifty minutes. It was a masterpiece in everything you want in a persuasive speech with one minor exception: Being concise. But who cares when Bill Clinton is on a roll as he was that night.
The stakes were very high since no one from the Democratic party had made a solid case for Barack Obama. The election hung in the balance as the Republicans made a strong case why Barack Obama should not be re-elected and the polls were not moving in Obama's favor as the election could have gone either way. It was against this backdrop that Bill Clinton was asked to not only nominate but make a case for Obama. The speech was the turning moment of the election. To use a golf analogy, Clinton had to make a birdie on a long closing par five hole to win. As it turned out, he made an eagle.
The basics of this speech were very simple. It had a solid opening, well argued middle and a strong closing.
Bill Clinton makes it very clear what is his purpose for being there and all those who are in the audience. He says, "We are here to nominate a president. And I got one in mind."
He makes a compelling case on why Barack Obama should be re-elected as the president of the United States. He responds to Republican attack talking points item by item and explains to the audience and the vast television audience on Obama's accomplishments and why he deserves four more years.
Bill Clinton has a very strong closing with a direct call to action on why people should vote for Barack Obama. He gives five reasons popular with Democrats such as shared responsibilities instead of winner-take-all approach, flexible voting procedures, easing immigration laws, peace, and prosperity, and lastly, work hard to create a perfect union. If people want all these traditional American values, then they should vote for Barack Obama.
One of the things that makes Bill Clinton such a great speaker is that he is known as a great listener. They go together. I bet if you will find a speaker who connects well when he is speaking is probably a very good listener too.
He has developed his listening skills since he was young to get attention and be liked. Even after going through an embarrassing scandal when he was the President of the United States, he has some of the highest favorable ratings in the country. One of the reasons for his high approval is if the person has the gift to connect to people in such a way so they are willing to forgive his past indiscretions. Though Bill Clinton is gifted, there are lot of things he does in this speech that we can learn.
I will go over each one of them so we can learn from the high-stakes master communicator.
Bill Clinton has one big advantage that most of us don't: ethos. He was the President of the United States. He may be one of the most famous persons in the world. It does not hurt that he is one of the world's best communicator and makes tens of millions each year giving speeches all over the world.
He commands respect and attention. When Bill Clinton is speaking, everyone is listening. No one looks bored. He is in such command that he shows no need to stay on the script. He is attuned to the audience and knows what he has to do to keep their attention.
He has complete control over his content and what the audience wants. He goes in and out of the script. He is giving a high-stakes speech that is viewed by millions such that even a simple mistake would be magnified by the media and the Republican party. He is willing to take the risk and does a great job.
To be a great persuasive speaker you have to be clear and Bill Clinton does this well by explaining the argument for and against re-electing Obama.
4:15 -- Explains the Democratic philosophy of working together rather than you are on your own is a better approach.
15:20 -- Republican argument against Obama, according to Clinton:
"We left him a total mess. He hadn't cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in."
17: 40 -- Clinton's argument for electing Obama goes something like this:
"He inherited a deeply damaged economy; he put a floor under the crash; he began the long hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses and lots of new wealth for innovators."
He is arguing the job score between Obama and the Republicans in the last twenty-nine months.
Obama -- 4.5 million private sector jobs.
Republicans -- Zero
When he brings up the auto industry, here is his scorecard:
Obama -- 250,000
Romney -- Zero
He goes on to explain Medicare. And look at how well he explains the debt problem from 40:42 -- 41:52. Look at the conversation he is having with the audience while explaining.
It is partisan but quite effective.
He is very comfortable up there thus makes the audience very comfortable. They sit through a very long speech that is between 10 to 15 minutes. With Bill Clinton speaking, they could have stayed there for hours. Bill Clinton is very comfortable. He is not in a rush. At times he does look rushed when he is on-script. When he goes off-script, he is more in his element talking to the audience. He wants to perform while making sure that there is some strong logic in what he is saying.
Bill Clinton is giving a partisan speech, but he does something that establishes his credibility as a respected statesman by giving credit, where it is due, to the other party and some of its leaders including George H. W, Bush and George W. Bush. Once he does that he is free to unload on the Republicans. And he does not let up. It was all over for them after he was done.
Here is what Ana Navarro, political analyst, had to say in this CNN article titled, "Bill Clinton Brings it in for Obama":
"I am a Republican, but I love a good political speech regardless of who gives it. Clinton was at the top of his game. He started with a bipartisan preamble, even giving credit to Presidents Bush 41 and 43. Then he went on to teach a master lesson on a partisan attack."
In any persuasive speech, it is important to point out the contrast and Bill Clinton does this effectively. Below are some examples.
“I want to nominate a man who’s cool on the outside – but who burns for America on the inside.”
“If you want a winner-take- all, you’re-on-your-own society, you should support the Republican ticket. But if you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibility, we’re-all-in-this-together society, you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.”
6: 36 -- Hatred of the president from the far right.
He could not do that. He cites Eisenhower, Reagan, George H. W. Bush. Grateful to George W. Bush, showing that he works well with Republicans.
14:15 -- "Their number one priority was not to put America back to work; It was to put the president out of work."
Bill Clinton has this amazing way of attacking people without coming across mean. Look at how he is smiling while cutting Paul Ryan's method. If you want to attack, this is how to do it if you can pull it off like Bill Clinton.
“Now, when Congressman Ryan looked into that TV camera and attacked President Obama’s Medicare savings as, quote, ‘the biggest, coldest power play,’ I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry."
“You got to give one thing: It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.”
Bill Clinton can also be called Charmer-in-Chief. He is so charismatic that it has gotten him out of trouble, both personal and political.
2: 20 -- "And by the way after last night, I want a man who had the good sense to marry Michelle Obama." Watch Michelle Obama's reaction. You can see why women want to be around Bill and men want to be like him.
11:48 -- "Heck, he even appointed Hillary." He is talking about Obama's ability to work with people that did not support him during the primary.
17: 15 -- "As another president once said, There they go again." He is referring to Ronald Reagan.
32: 37 -- "I didn't know whether to laugh or cry."
38:35 -- "Finally I can say, that is true. I couldn't have said it better myself."
To be a persuasive speaker, you need solid facts. Bill Clinton was loaded with facts in this speech. He gives the job score for both parties around 5:15 mark.
The private sector jobs created 66 million jobs,
When the country had a Republican president, it created 24 million jobs.
When the country had a Democratic president, it created 42 million jobs.
14: 40 -- "We are going to keep the president on the job."
18:58 -- "I get it, I know it, I've been there."
20: 55 -- "I just want you to know that I believe it. With all my heart, I believe it."
Goes on to explain why he believes it.
28: 05 -- "On these issues, I know we are better off ---
36:00 -- "We can't let it happen."
What makes this speech so effective is that he is not speaking but having a conversation. Look at the way he uses his language.
8: 30 -- "Here is what I want to say to you. And here is what I want people at home to think about."
20: 02 -- "Listen to me now."
23:00 -- "I'll tell you something else."
He goes on to explain how Obama helped save the auto industry.
26:52 -- "Here is what it does."
He talks about Obama's student loan program.
27: 15 -- "What does this mean?"
28: 30 -- "Well, are they right?"
He is talking about Obama Care.
28: 40 -- "Let's take a look at what has happened so far."
He goes on to give the benefits derived from Obama Care.
29: 56 -- "Listen to this."
30:27 -- "Let me ask you something."
31: 50 -- "You all got to listen carefully to this. This is really important."
33: 15 -- Clinton is energized, and he has the audience in a frenzy at this point, so he says to them the following: "Wait a minute. Now you are having a god time, but this is getting serious. I want you to listen. It is important."
34:20 -- "Think about that."
34: 40 -- "Folks this is serious because it gets worse. And you won't be laughing when I finish telling you this."
35: 40 -- "Honestly, just think about it."
36: 28 -- "It's a really doozy."
36: 51 -- "Here is what happened."
37: 35 -- "Did I make myself clear."
37:50 -- "This is personal to me."
Bill Clinton's speech is a masterpiece. Everything he does in this speech makes him connect better with the audience. If there is one speech I would watch before giving a persuasive speech, I will watch this speech since it will help me focus on how to connect with the audience by being in command, control, be clear and convincing in communication, especially when the stakes are high.