Natsuyo walking toward the camera in the quiet lobby of an office building

When you look at some of the most powerful speakers of the past, and analyse their presentations, there is so much you can learn about their persuasive techniques. 


I’ve chosen 3 female speakers who successfully use persuasive techniques and storytelling in their speech to deliver a powerful message: 


Michelle Obama delivered a forceful persuasive message at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.


Her ability to appeal to the emotions of her audience while still maintaining a personal connection with them was what made her speech so unique and historic. It wasn’t only because she spoke poetically; it was also because she was able to make it both personal to herself and then turn it around and relate it to her audience. 



She begins by talking about her husband and then how she is going to protect her children, focusing less on herself and more about others. 


She paints visually compelling stories for the audience: 

“I will never forget that winter morning as I watched our girls, just seven and 10 years old, pile into those black SUVs with all those big men with guns. And I saw their little faces pressed up against the window, and the only thing I could think was, “What have we done?” 


Her language contains stark contrasts such as “When they go low, we go high” to sharpen her ONE BIG MESSAGE®


She uses repetition of the same word in the same sentence to emphasize her subject matter and help her sentences flow. 


“Kids who take the long way to school to avoid the gangs. Kids who wonder how they’ll ever afford college. Kids whose parents don’t speak a word of English but dream of a better life. Kids who look to us to determine who and what they can be.”


Note that her speech is short (only 14 minutes), yet it is packed with content and emotion. 


Another great female speaker who uses the power of persuasion is Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, speaking to the graduating class of Virginia Tech. 



Speaking on the matter of resilience, she tells a truly emotional personal story about the loss of her husband. 


She sets the scene with a ‘problem statement’: “that we are not born with a certain amount of resilience.” This immediately helps her become more authentic and relatable to her audience, knowing that this was something her student audience would instantly relate to. 


She uses short sentences containing repeated words to get her message across

“There are times to lean in, and there are times to lean on.”


She gives a heartfelt Call-to-Action at the end which she delivers using collective pronouns: 

“Let’s go beyond just looking at how do we overcome things and start to find the joy, and the gratitude, and the love in the world around us.” 


Despite the fact that this was a very personal story, she draws the audience in with her: 

“None of us get through anything alone,” she said. “We get through it together.”


Lupita Nyong’o, at the Black Women Hollywood Luncheon, gave a truly moving speech about what it means to be a black woman in Hollywood.




Actress Nyong’o began by sharing a passage from a fan letter she received. A young girl wrote to the actor to say, “I think you’re really lucky to be this Black but yet this successful in Hollywood overnight. I was just about to buy Dencia’s Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me.”


She opened with this straight away; immediately creating intrigue with her audience. She continues by talking about her own personal struggles with her own self image and self acceptance growing up, and eventually finding a role model who transformed her confidence. 


She ends powerfully with a clear message:

“Let’s get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty.”


What strikes me most about this speech is that in just under 5 minutes, she delivers such a clear and powerful message that is profound and memorable. 


If you need help turning your message into a powerful, personal story. Start with downloading my The 6C’s of Strategic Storytelling™: which has helped many business leaders find innovative ways to deliver their message. 

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