Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States gave his second State of the Union Address yesterday. Politics aside, I often find myself called on to review the rhetoric of world leaders to see what we can learn from them in the way of connecting with an audience.
Commenting on Donald Trump’s oratory skills is always a challenge. Whatever is written about his words and the way he delivers them half of the world will resonate with whilst the other half will admonish you for. I guess that’s just politics…
The way I see it is that whatever your personal or political views are on the current President of the United States, the one thing that is often lacking in the way he speaks is, consistency. In this case, I’m not referring to his message but the way he expresses it. In 2015 I wrote about President Trump’s speech at the Phoenix Convention Centre which concerned me on a number of levels. In my article ‘8 presentation tips for Donald Trump’ I offered him a few suggestions:
1. Lose the lectern
2. Get some structure
3. Make it about your audience
4. Slow down
5. Take it easy on the repetition
6. Leave out the bad jokes
7. Get a coach
8. Create hope not animosity
When I reviewed his first State of the Union address it seemed to me that he had taken most of my advice and had come a long way as I said:
‘In my view he did follow this advice and excelled himself as a public and presidential speaker. In retaining and demonstrating his passion he raised the bar for himself significantly in speaking in a way that was clear, calm, compelling and complete.’
With the exception of letting go of the lectern which of course many world leaders and politicians are reluctant to do, it seemed as though he followed the advice again in his State of Union speech last night.
So where is the inconsistency?
He did slow down, leave out the bad jokes and make it about his audience but this time his entire demeanour changed; perhaps a little too much.
In my view, the first 5 minutes of his speech were filled with words of hope, optimism and belief but his tone, pitch and pace akin more to a eulogy. The sombre continued, and as it did so it was hard to stay focused and even more difficult to feel connected to and compelled by his message.
He has certainly gone a long way to calming down and sounding less bombastic although last night it felt to me as though he had much more of a conciliatory but defeated tone. Paradoxically, his managed tone and manner was long over due but a little too underwhelming for such an important speech.
It was a pleasant, kind and generous speech in terms of his recognition for others but it was extremely hard to listen to for the full 90 minutes. Last year I wrote that he had ‘He left his arrogance, ad-libbing and negativity at home and crafted and delivered a speech which did exactly what it was designed to do; present the State of the Union.’
In contrast, last night it felt as though he had left his personality and enthusiasm at home.
That said, we all know that public speaking isn’t easy and arguably doing so to capture the hearts and minds of an entire nation is as difficult as it can possibly get. Whether it his politics, his personality or perhaps something else Donald Trump demonstrated very clearly last night how incredibly problematic public speaking can be.
It seems to me that he followed most of the advice and worked very hard to temper his tone of animosity and division but then that begs the question; when he does so, does that make him sound too boring and difficult to listen to.
Perhaps, its just me, so I will leave you to make your own mind up by watching the full speech here:
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