What Can Presenters Learn from President Trump?
Regardless of where you stand on today’s polarized political scale, most will agree that President Donald Trump has a unique and powerful speaking presence. Are there things that all you presenters out there can learn from his style?
A piece by Vice News—“7 Public Speaking Tips We Can Learn from Donald Trump”—asked public speaking experts (though they didn’t ask anyone at EMS) to share their thoughts. It’s a pretty good list of things that he tends to do well, and we share them along with a few of our thoughts on each.
Here’s the list:
1. Makes speeches sound off-the-cuff
Trump famously avoids using a teleprompter whenever possible. In fact, when he speaks from a prepared text, he tends to speak slowly, lose much of his expression, and seems stiff. Often, the most engaging parts of his prepared talks come when he digresses from the text.
We actually had to look this one up: paralipsis is “giving emphasis by professing to say little or nothing about a subject.” Trump has different ways that he can create intimacy with his crowds, and one is when he says things by claiming that he’s not going to say them. It’s as if he’s letting his audience in on a personal joke.
3. Avoids pauses through repetition
We believe the point they are actually making is that the President reduces his use of “non-words” through repetition; it’s one of the techniques that he uses most effectively. Repetition pounds home an important message, and we haven’t seen many presenters who do it as well as Trump does. And while we continue to be big believers in the power of effective pauses, we do notice that repetition—like pausing—can help keep non-words at bay.
4. Uses Ambiguity
While ambiguity isn’t always the quality we want from a president, it does engage by allowing listeners to fill in the blanks, according to one of the experts. Ambiguity enables Trump to float thoughts and ideas without actually having to back them up, for example, “We’ll do the right thing, whatever that is.” While we’re not big fans of how Trump uses this technique, we have seen speakers use it effectively to generate interest among listeners.
5. Find a common grievance
Particularly at his campaign rallies, Trump fires up his audience by complaining. “Everyone likes to complain,” says one of the experts, “and Donald Trump complains about lots and lots of things.” We’ve heard him complains about general things that strike a common chord—incompetent government, stupid leaders, problem schools, and poor road conditions as a way to get people on his side. It often works for Trump, but it can be very divisive, too. We suggest you use this one carefully.
6. Audience participation
When speaking to friendly audiences, Trump compliments those on his side, calling them “beautiful people” and refers to them as a “sea of love,” both of which elicit cheers. Trump thrives on that energy, and he does what he can to get them excited. He also speaks to people as if he’s asking for a response, when it’s really part of his speech. It can be a powerful technique.
7. Uses suspense
Trump is described in this piece as the modern-day PT Barnum, who was “a master at attracting audience attention by making them curious.” Trump is often unpredictable, and it can be hard to predict what he will do next, which keeps audiences engaged and hanging.
If we were to add a tip to this list of what presenters can learn from President Trump, it’s this: He’s always selling. When we at EMS say, “SELL it, don’t TELL it,” we’re encouraging speakers to say what they think, and deliver the message with energy if you want to convince your audience of a point or idea. Through his passion, his repetition, and his stage presence, he shows us that if there’s one thing he knows how to do, it’s selling.
So there you have it, just in time for the New Year. Remember that one of the best ways to become a better presenter is to watch and learn from others.