The former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney, became the first non-incumbent Republican since 1976 to win the party’s presidential nomination in both Iowa and New Hampshire and has everything to play for in South Carolina which, if he wins, will all but sew up his nomination.
It’s all about momentum and looking like a winner and that is exactly what Mr Romney looks like right now.
He has a spring in his step – he is walking like a president, i.e. with purpose and direction and with a sense of urgency. He is using his eyes to great affect rather like Bill Clinton with the ‘point and smile’ method of wooing a large crowd. He looks directly into his audience’s eyes as he is speaking to them. His body language and his gestures are open and confident in a very ‘you can trust me with your future’ way.
Listen to his voice and how he is communicating his message – there is intention, purpose and energy in his speeches and this served him well in the first two rounds. People like a candidate to look like a winner even if that candidate is not in his or her natural political habitat like Romney in South Carolina.
But there is a danger in being all about the style and less about the substance (we don’t have to look too far from our own shores to be conscious of that) as America found to its cost when it sent Warren Harding to the White House in 1921. He won the nomination because ‘he looked like a President’ but his speeches were described as “an army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of an idea.” (William Gibbs McAdoo)
Romney faces an onslaught to stop him by his opponents, none of whom seem to have donned the mantle of ‘winner’ themselves but yet are still very dangerous, not least former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, the supremely confident congenial intellectual who prides himself on his oratorical skills. He is not all about the slick, charming and attractive candidate but rather of straight talking, tell it like it is brigade and that has its appeal too, not least to the Republicans of South Carolina. Romney needs to make sure he knows his audience rather than just replay the same movie, he needs to be chameleon like and demonstrate that he is listening to and understanding the very different concerns of the voters there. If he gets that right, he will win, if he doesn’t demonstrate that effective communication is not just about creating and presenting the image but listening to people then he will face a longer battle.
Imagine the appeal of a candidate who combined all those qualities – straight talking, charismatic and engaging – and who listened. US Presidential history has a few of those in its pages, not least ‘The Greatest Communicator’ Ronald Reagan.
de Burgh Group founder Luan de Burgh is available for interview and commentary as well as for further tips on public speaking and effective communication and presentation skills.
The de Burgh Group (dBg) specialises in providing high-end corporate presentation and communication skills training and bespoke conferences and seminars for leading professionals.
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