Speaking like Modi

The new prime minister could offer lessons on how to connect to an audience.

Written by Charulata Ravi Kumar | Updated: May 23, 2014 9:26:09 am
Connecting with your audience and their needs and aspirations is key to all great presentations. Connecting with your audience and their needs and aspirations is key to all great presentations.

Like a billion others, I too waited with bated breath for Narendra Modi’s first post-election speeches in Vadodara and Ahmedabad. Apart from the many opinions that the media, the opposition, India Inc and the aam aadmi will proffer over weeks to come, I couldn’t help but be mesmerised by Modi’s oratorical skills. The speech was in impeccable Hindi, yet the nation and the world got his message. Loud, sharp and clear. Here are some unmissable presentation tips from Modi’s speech. So try these next time you face an audience and want to make a similar impact.

One, spontaneity must be orchestrated. While Sonia Gandhi often fumbled with speech sheets, every speech of Modi’s appeared to come straight from the heart of his fiery determination. Your speech must be rehearsed and purposeful but come through as a spontaneous flow of thoughts and intent. For this, a lot of homework is required.

Two, connect with the right mood and words. Modi has spent a lot of time understanding India’s angst and the frustrations of the Indian youth. And while others spent their energies slandering the opposition, he was focused on two key thoughts — good governance and development. Note that these two words were consistently repeated in both Hindi and English. So all who want it were able to understand his intent and retain those two words. Why? Because he wants to be evaluated on just these two parameters, with no reference to the past.

Three, present long-term commitments, not short-term gimmicks. The AAP failure could

be ascribed, among other things, to speeches promising short-term benefits and then failing. Overnight turnarounds of damage done over decades is a foolish dream. Presenting a more solid vision, especially if you have demonstrated success in the past, is more credible. The means to achieve it should be the supporting strategy and must not become the vision itself.

Four, have a clear idea of the next action you want from your audience. Modi wants India to give him time, 10 years to be precise. His reference to 40 years of the past leading to India’s sorry state of affairs is a way of getting people to see 10 years (two terms) as a reasonable timeframe for his government to show change. He wants the nation’s patience and support for 10 years and not seek a change of government in the next term.

Five, lead the presentation but let the team be involved. Nothing is more annoying than having a six-member team with five as sitting dummies. While Modi was delivering his speech, his leaders (like Nitin Gadkari, Amit Shah and Ravi Shankar Prasad) were lending strong support and solidarity and came across as an integrated team (addressing a concern people had about the BJP).

Six, choose the right time. Modi cleverly chose the 9 pm prime-time slot to deliver his speech, ensuring that all of India would be able to hear him. Understanding the right time for your audience is crucial. We had a client who was always happy on Friday afternoons and perhaps never figured out why he loved our presentations on Fridays so much and approved them faster!

Seven, align your body to your mind and heart. Body language is often an important reason for a pathetically failed or dramatically successful presentation. Study Modi’s gestures and actions as he speaks to people. He moves from side to side seemingly making eye contact with everyone. Then, every time he mentioned the word “vikas” two fingers would rise to point ahead into the future. And every time he uttered “hum sab”, his fist clenched with all fingers tightly held to portray strength in unity. The words “acchhe din” were accompanied by a smile echoed by “aayenge” from the crowd. He used his large frame to his advantage, standing erect at all times and making himself seem larger than life, his open-arm gestures indicative of a large-hearted inclusiveness.

Eight, know the power of voice modulation. A refreshing change from the plastic, monotonous speeches of many Indian politicians, Modi heightened the drama through his loud proclamations, smoothed by his gentle pauses and synchronised with his hand gestures to evoke passion, power and drive. All that communicated his commitment to the people, unlike Priyanka Gandhi’s feeble attempts to evoke empathy and sympathy for her family, and the Congress’s or Arvind Kejriwal’s banter, which was less about their visions and more about others’ faults.

Nine, know your gamechanging three points. “Hamara Desh” for others became “Mera Bharat” for Modi. The Nehru-Gandhi legacy was changed to “woh platform par chai bechne wallah bachcha aaj aapke saamne khada hai”. He changed the game from the unity of India to the development of India. He shifted the battlefield and the “sava sau karode” army shifted with him.

Connecting with your audience and their needs and aspirations is the key to all great presentations. But for this, you must also have a strong connect with your inner self. Only then will your belief and commitment show through. Great presentations are a synchronised play of art and science, but just the beginning on the road to becoming a leader of tomorrow. In any case, why subject your audience to boring speeches when you can delight them enough to desire an encore?

The writer is innovations advisor, director at Coffee Kettle and coaches on leadership skills in corporations and colleges.

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