This U.S. presidential election was like no other. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump went head-to-head in a heated debate with more twists and turns than a roller coaster ride. The ongoing soap opera kept people riveted to their screens -- sometimes inspired and other times disgusted. Regardless of the outcome, there were lessons learned about public speaking.
Here some presidential guidelines to deliver winning presentations:
Deliver a Message that Resonates -- To be effective in any presentation, a public speaker must have a message that resonates with the audience. While sizzle is important, if the message doesn’t speak directly to the self interests of the audience, it won’t be remembered and it won’t move the crowd.
Both Sanders and Trump leveraged the emotions of the audience and spoke directly and specifically to their frustrations, problems, and concerns. To resonate with an audience the presenter needs to speak simply, use shorter words, and to tell stories that relate to what the audience believes and experiences. When the presenter speaks their language, the audience feels heard, understood, and connected. And that builds trust.
Smile and Deflect -- At some point every public speaker will encounter resistance or hostility. The worst approach is to get defensive. When you play your opponent’s game, you lose. The debates got nasty at times. When Trump attacked Hillary, she reacted by smiling until it was her turn to rebut. Hillary showed poise under pressure. In situations other than a debate, the presenter can involve the audience to deflect hostility. There’s nothing more powerful than peer pressure.
Do the Unexpected -- Attention spans are growing shorter. There’s now research that states that the attention of a goldfish is one second longer than that of a human. Yikes! To keep an audience engaged and attentive, be different.
Trump broke the rules. He was unpredictable and said things that were politically incorrect. The audience found it refreshing because he said what they were thinking. When presenters avoid naming the elephant in the room, the audience retreats and resists. It’s difficult to be influential if you tiptoe around the truth. (Yes, he went too far, and lost credibility for being inappropriate to say the least). When used appropriately, the element of surprise will keep the audience with you.
Get Personal -- All three candidates showed a personal side of themselves by involving their family and sharing stories. Every audience is thinking three things subliminally -- Who are you? Who are you to tell me? What’s in it for me?
An audience first wants to know the presenter as a person, not as a talking head. Sharing personal stories and talking about one’s family humanizes the speaker. Substance without personal connection will not yield results. An audience relates to people they know, like, and trust. Never underestimate the likability factor.
Be Gracious Victory and Defeat -- Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It’s true in politics, sports, and at work. A gloating winner or a sore loser will cast themselves in a negative light. What separates the ordinary from the great is how a presenter handles victory and defeat. When Donald won the election, he complimented Hillary on her toughness, hard work, and service. Bernie and Hillary were gracious when they conceded the election. Hillary’s concession speech inspired the country to unite and paved the way for a new administration. This is truly the mark of leadership.
Most of us will never run for office but we can take a page out of the election playbook and remember to apply the good, and eliminate the bad and the ugly.