We Second That Emotion

Axios has declared Michelle Obama won last week’s Democratic convention based on social media interaction.

No doubt the former first lady is a gifted speaker and a highly admired public figure. But she also used a few tricks to improve her performance that any virtual speaker can adopt.

  • Ditch tradition. While several other Democratic National Convention speakers stuck to the format of old by speaking from a podium or in front of a display of flags, Obama got up close and personal. Virtual speeches aren’t the same as being on the stage, so don’t feel like you need to treat them the same way.
  • Lighting matters. Last week’s convention offered many examples of bad lighting that cast shadows or created other effects that distracted from what the speaker was saying. Obama’s lighting was in front of her face, making her appear natural and keeping the focus on her message. More lighting tips for virtual appearances are in this GPG guide.
  • Send a visual message. One of the biggest hits of Obama’s speech was not what she said, but what she wore. Her VOTE necklace became a viral sensation and underscored the entire point of her speech in one word. You can also speak volumes in what objects you place within the frame of your shot.
  • Practice really does make perfect. Many of the convention speakers clearly were reading every word from a teleprompter. You could see it in their eyes scanning the words and hear it in their flat delivery. Practice can help you internalize what you have to say and ironically make you look LESS rehearsed and more natural. Obama appeared to speaking at us, not reading to us.
  • Let it out. A political convention speech is usually full of red meat tossed to a cheering crowd that builds excitement. The Democratic convention organizers tried to replicate this with video of people clapping. But with no live audience, all the emotion really must come from you. So bring your joy, your fears and your passion and put them on display.

More on GPG’s guide to pulling off successful virtual events is here.