Thursday, March 26, 2009

Address the Individual

This week on Slate, John Dickerson comments on Obama's second press conference:

Obama returned to the theme of togetherness to buy time. We will "travel that road as one people," he said in his opening remarks. "We are all in this together." Lovely sentiment, but the times seem to call for a stronger pitch. Why should people join together when bailouts are rewarding people who didn't act in the common interest?...

Obama may be popular enough to make the case. But to bring about collective action in this environment, Obama may have to return to a lesson he wrote about in Dreams From My Father: the power of self-interest in helping to create community.

Good point. Truly connecting to an audience means addressing individuals - not the collective group. In Obama's case, he could have spoken to each individual, without losing his call for people to join together to get our nation back on track. Obama could have stated that we travel that road - not just as one people - but as a community of individuals, each with something to contribute.

From the Green Room: When you speak to an audience, imagine you are having a one-on-one conversation with each individual present.


Anonymous said...

I appreciate your point that speakers should connect to their listeners as individuals rather than as a collective group. But if, as Dickerson suggests, many individuals in Obama's audience do not see the bailouts in their own self-interest, wouldn't Obama's pitch be strengthened by directly addressing those actual concerns instead of merely glossing over them with high-minded rhetoric about how individuals can contribute to the common good?

Sarah Gershman said...

Thank you for your comment. I don't think they are mutually exclusive. He can both address those concerns and also rally people to use their strengths to make a contribution. Those are two different messages. My point was that if your goal as a speaker is to inspire involvement, it is more effective to address individuals.

Anonymous said...

Good point.