Public Speaking Tip from Patricia Fripp and President Obama

Roxann Andersen
Roxann Andersen, Fripp Speech Coaching Camp Alumna & Expert on Storytelling for Business Presentations

Don’t you love it when your public speaking seminar and coaching camp students so internalize a message that they continue to send you specific examples that can be used in blogs, talks, and seminars? Coaching Camp alumna, Roxann Andersen shares this observation on the effective use of concrete language in public speaking:

Dear Patricia,

I read an article in the paper yesterday and thought of you. You often teach on using words that are specific rather than general. This is a related topic: using words that are concrete rather than abstract. I think politicians are especially guilty of floating away on their abstractions, but I give President Obama kudos for this quote.

President Obama was commenting on the Trayvon Martin verdict and specifically on how African American males are perceived by our society. He could easily have said that the white population fears and mistrusts them—but really, what does that mean? Instead, he gave a triad of very concrete word pictures.

From the Saturday, July 20, Press-Enterprise, A-1: “Obama: Trayvon ‘could’ve been me’”:

“The president detailed how most African-American men, including himself, have been followed when shopping in department stores, heard the locks click on car doors when walking across the street and seen women clutch their purses nervously when getting on elevators.” For me, that was a very effective way of communicating what fear and mistrust feel like.

Roxann Andersen

Thank you Roxann!

Roxann Andersen is no public speaking slouch herself; she is an expert on Storytelling for Business Presentations. With her husband Bob she leads seminars that use dance as a metaphor for communication skills. For more information on Roxann visit:

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