Four years ago, I wrote a blog post “Obama and the rule of three“, in which I analyzed the previous American president’s re-election speech and praised his public speaking skills. Incidentally, over the past months – guess why? – this article has become one of the most frequently visited titles on my B2B Storytelling pages. Since then, an awful lot has changed, and the US as well as the rest of the world are getting used to living in the new, Trumpian reality.
I honestly admit that I’m not a fan of the 45th President of the United States. Neither of the person, nor of his political doctrine, nor of his deeds since January 20. But as Donald Trump was elected by kind of democratic process, he also deserves kind of credit.Tomorrow he will deliver his first State of the Union address. An occasion to zoom in on the newly-on-duty POTUS’ presentation skills.
Surely, Mr. Trump isn’t the eloquent orator that Barack Obama was, though in my honest opinion he is definitely not a bad communicator. Note that from the writing perspective of this blog, I’m only assessing his communication style, not his content nor his use of (alternative) facts and figures – which would put me on too thin ice. When analyzing his public talks, I think I’d rather associate him to a “rule of one” than to a rule of three: as a speaker, he systematically puts his one-self in the center; his person seems to be more prominent than his words or his audience.
There are common practices that seem to come back in every speech the president delivers. Some of them are so striking that they have become fodder for effective Trump parodies:
- He has a clear and strong voice and uses simple, often sloganesque, language with short and declarative sentences. This is an appropriate habit, considering DJT’s target audience and key messages. His one-liners like “make America great again” and “let’s build that wall” have the same magnitude of emotional impact as Obama’s “yes, we can”.
- The words he uses are congruent with his message, and he consistently repeats them. After analyzing 95,000 words used in campaign speeches, the New York Times concluded that “the most striking hallmark was Mr. Trump’s constant repetition of divisive phrases, harsh words and violent imagery that American presidents rarely use…”
- The new US president (figuratively and literally) tries to take a maximum amount of space. His alpha male body language, facial expression, and hand gestures are compatible with his overall message. Take, for example, his index finger pointing in the air while putting his second finger and thumb together (accentuating he’s right and the others are totally wrong), his thumb-and-forefinger pinch (that signals precision and control), and his pneumatic drill movements (to hammer the point he’s making home.)
Donald J. Trump has only been on duty for six weeks. Probably we ain’t seen or heard nothing yet. But, whether you agree with his politics or not, you can’t argue that he isn’t a good communicator.
More opinions and analysis:
- Donald Trump’s unique speaking style, explained by linguists (by Tara Golshan, Vox)
- Too much ‘my,’ not enough ‘we’: Pro speakers grade Donald Trump’s oratory skills in GOP convention speech (by Michelle Maltais, the Los Angeles Times)
- Trump’s repetitive rhetoric is a trick used in advertising (by Sean Rossman, USA Today)
- We noticed Donald Trump says a lot of things twice. He says a lot of things twice. (by Peter W. Stevenson, the Washington Post)
- Five Reasons Trump’s Communication Strategy Is Working (by Ira Kalb, the Huffington Post)
- Five Public Speaking Takeaways From Donald Trump’s RNC Speech (by Nick Morgan, Forbes)