Why We Need InaugurationsBy Merna Skinner (Words at Work) - No Comments
As I watched President Obama’s second inauguration, I came to realize that this historic gathering is really a cavalcade of words – words delivered in forms of prose, poetry and song – arranged with the rhythm of a well established ritual that we, as a nation, participate in every four years. Why is this process important?
The word “inauguration” means to mark a beginning – and the root “augur” means to foresee or predict. An inauguration is the ultimate leadership moment. It is a time for our president to set our course, to begin anew. The patriotic songs with familiar lyrics, sung by powerful voices, stir audience emotions – and neuroscience shows us that these emotional connections are essential to our decision-making process. The prayers and the poetry also connect with the audience on an emotional as well as spiritual level.
The best inaugural speeches help us to envision a brighter future – and inspire us to participate. In President Obama’s speech, his language reflects his desire to bring our politically divided nation “together.” He uses a litany of collective pronouns like “We,” “Us,” and “Our.” He speaks of “collective action,” “binding” and “bridging together” our “one nation” and “one people.” Later, the poet, Richard Blanco, reiterates the president’s theme and uses the power of metaphor in his poem “One Today.”
As a nation, we benefit from this coming together. You can also benefit by applying these concepts in your professional life.
Perhaps your company or your team is changing leaders – or you are updating a product, or seeking support for a new project – whenever you begin something new, you can apply the lessons of our presidential inauguration. Start by creating your core message with a compelling storyline and concrete, vivid language. Use metaphors, especially for complex ideas.
Your “inaugural” event may also be the time to take a risk. Following the President’s speech, political commentators remarked about Obama’s history-making mention of gay rights and climate change – two issues that will likely be on his agenda during his second term.
Next, connect to your audience emotionally, by way of stories and using confident delivery skills. If you are working with a team, align your content and theme with others who participate in your “inaugural” gathering. At this year’s inauguration all speakers included references about coming together (beginning with Senator Schumer who used the unfinished dome of the Capital building during Lincoln’s time to illustrate this point).
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, bring people together, physically or visually as you share your message. There is power in physical presence. As President Obama spoke to our country, he looked out on a sea of people gathered on the mall, an invested audience, waving flags and applauding. Later, the President and Mrs. Obama traveled in the motorcade along the procession route, lined with people. Near the end of the route, the President and First Lady stepped out of their car to walk along, to wave, smile and connect with the public. (A tradition started by Jimmy Carter). If you watched on TV, you too were connecting – and that is, after all, what effective communication is all about – connecting.