What can Donald Trump teach us about Speechmaking?

Halloween is just around the corner… which means that the 2016 US presidential election is a little bit further round the corner than that. On Tuesday, November 8th, the USA goes to the polls and the prospect of Donald Trump becoming officially the most powerful man in the world is something of a Halloween nightmare for many.

The fact that Trump has not only stayed in the race but thrived in it has everyone from the Democrat in the street to political pundits in their newsrooms scratching their heads. This is a “politician” who appears to have broken pretty much every rule in the book when it comes to the things he’s said and done…

Just how does he do it? How has he kept a political campaign on course for a close finish despite never holding back in his speeches. Just one of his long list of brags, insults and over-the-top threats would be enough to wrap many of his peers in gaffe tape knots and yet for ‘The Donald’, his most outrageous speeches have done little damage to his reputation – and in fact, in some quarters, they have enhanced it — although murkier aspects of his past have caught up with him of late.

In spite of all his shortcomings, the man many have labelled the Teflon candidate over the past year has shown a real aptitude for capturing his audience and there are lessons to be learnt from that… however uncomfortable.

Trump’s Speeches – Key Strengths

One of the keys to any effective speech or presentation is engagement. Well ‘The Donald’ is an expert at this. Much has been made of his disdain for rehearsal or the scripted reassurance of the autocue, and this aspect of his performance taps into the zeitgeist. Voters don’t want scripted and polished anymore, they want someone to walk and talk like they do – just look at the success of Nigel Farage whose popular appeal is built on coming across as a ‘normal’ person. Although Trump performs off the cuff, he is a skilled operator in the art of engagement thanks to his previous experience in business and playing for the audience as the original deliverer of The Apprentice catch phrase, “You’re fired!” Love him or loathe him, it is very difficult to keep your eyes off a Trump “speech”.

At one point in the past few weeks of feverish campaigning, Donald Trump urged the terminally ill to delay death until they had turned out to voted for him on November 8th. This is another one of The Donald’s strengths. He gives the impression of being very persuasive. He knows which buttons to press, how to press them and is not afraid to do so. Knowing how to connect with your audience and anticipate what they want to hear makes a speaker’s job very much easier.

Don’t like Trump? He simply doesn’t care. Whereas many politicians surround themselves with advisers, constantly eyeing poll ratings and worrying about voter approval, Donald Trump is so convinced by his own hype that he carries on regardless. In uncertain times voters look to a strong leader with the confidence of their conviction and it is the same in business too. Confidence rubs off on those around you and can inspire the followers to follow.

Pundits are in agreement that this year’s presidential election has scraped to new political lows across the board, and the recent debates between Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump testify to that. Despite all that, as a viewing audience we are hooked, possibly because we simply cannot believe it is happening! Win or lose the Donald Trump show doesn’t look like it’s about to end any time soon.

Luan de Burgh

October 2016

Luan de Burgh is a speaker, writer and founder of The de Burgh Group – a specialist business communication training provider dedicated to helping people perform at their highest potential.