As we near the end of another agonizingly long campaign season, the Republican candidates were pared down to the nominee many at first believed unelectable, Donald Trump. At one point Hillary Clinton enjoyed double-digit leads in the polls, but might now be on the verge of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Even staunch conservatives have doubted the fitness of Donald Trump, and yet his campaign continues to build momentum, begging the question: Why?
The answer is emotion and passion. The Donald’s harsh comments towards minorities, promises ranging from vague to absurd, and a creative memory never detract from his growing momentum. In fact, it is because of The Donald’s off-the-cuff comments that his campaign continues to thrive. It is one of many lessons in speaking that we can take from current and past presidential campaigns. Here are three.
Speak from the heart. Hillary Clinton is certainly a very intelligent woman. But her presentations are pre-scripted and lack influential soundbites. She speaks from her head and feigns passion by contriving to raise and lower her voice at the right moments to inspire applause or emphasize attempts at humor. Meanwhile, Donald Trump speaks with a completely unfiltered voice that resonates with much of the electorate.
The American People want to know less what is on the candidate’s mind and more what is in their heart.
The Presentation Lesson: Speak from the heart to connect with the heart, be heard, and influence others to action.
Less is more. In 1841, William Henry Harrison ascended the podium to deliver his inaugural speech as the 9th President of the United States. He did so in a pouring rain and, in spite of the inclement conditions, delivered a two-hour speech that caused him to die of pneumonia 32 days later. It’s the shortest tenure of any president in American History.
One score and two years later, Abraham Lincoln delivered the speech at Gettysburg that has endured as perhaps the most famous by any president in history. The Gettysburg Address lasted two minutes. Notable among his words were the claim that “the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.” Lincoln was wrong—we do remember. His words served to immortalize the sacrifice of the soldiers on that battlefield and all warriors before and after.
The Presentation Lesson: Say less to be more memorable.
Keep it simple. The greatest campaign slogans in presidential politics are always the simplest. Many readers have heard of “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” It was the campaign for the military war hero of the battle at Tippecanoe, William Henry Harrison, which won him the election before he audaciously delivered that two-hour speech in the rain.
Time magazine rated the “I like Ike” campaign slogan for Dwight Eisenhower as one of the top 10 of all time. The man behind the campaign was Rosser Reeves, pioneer of the Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Reeves said a USP must offer a specific benefit; be different than the competition; and something the audience wants. His famous “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand” campaign differentiated other chocolates during World War II for soldiers who wanted access to sugar without the inconvenience of gooey residue on their hands and guns.
Presidential campaigns have historically worked to create a simple USP, albeit with different levels of success, to distinguish a candidate. One recent example is “Yes We Can.” Another is a variation on Ronald Reagan’s “Make America Great…” with the added word “Again.”
The Presentation Lesson: Keep it simple and quickly clarify your Unique Selling Proposition.
As you follow the race, observe the reasons why various campaigns resonate. Then leverage their best ideas to deliver a sales message that works for you.