"Communities and countries and ultimately the world are only as strong as the health of their women...part of that health includes an outstanding education." That's First Lady Michelle Obama, speaking in April 2009, at a London girls' school with a plea to them to pursue education as a path to opportunity. TED has just issued this speech as part of its "Best of the Web" series of speeches, and it gives me the chance to add Obama to our growing list of top current women speakers.
In this appearance, Obama does a mix of speaking from text and speaking extemporaneously, and it's clear that the latter is her strong suit. She's said before that her campaign stump speeches were effortless because she was telling family stories she knew well, a tool she has in common with other top women speakers and uses to effect in this speech. She also demonstrates a deft touch with her audience of young schoolgirls, tailoring her remarks on education in ways that make her seem like someone who's been in their shoes. With lines like "I thought being smart was cooler than anything in the world," describing her own school habits, she's at once leveling the gap between student and First Lady and subtly underscoring where you can go with a devotion to learning. Both factors combine to create her decidedly conversational approach--and if you're a speaker, one of the best types of feedback you can get will be "that felt more like a conversation than a lecture." Another contributor to the connection: Her willingness to share personal details and perspectives, not only about herself and her views, but those of her husband, daughters, and mother, all of whom are mentioned here.
Related posts about Michelle Obama and public speaking
About this series: One of my readers noted he was having trouble finding examples (especially on video) of top women speakers of today--plenty from the past, few from today. So I'm working to compile a list of the top 10 women speakers. Please send me your nominees! I'm looking for nominees from the present day, particularly those for which video examples can be found. You can mention your nominee and any video links in the comments below; send them to me on Twitter; or email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.