Communication Lessons From Donald Trump
September 21, 2015
by Dan Solin
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In a previous article, I discussed the lessons that advisors could learn from the non-verbal behavior of Donald Trump. Today, I will examine his communication skills and ways advisors can benefit from emulating them. To be clear, I’m not talking about the substance of Trump’s message, as a presidential candidate or otherwise, but the manner in which he presents it.
It’s not surprising that Trump is an excellent communicator. He honed these skills as host of the popular Apprentice television shows over an 11-year period. Here’s a summary of why he is so effective.
He doesn’t use a teleprompter
Trump is unscripted. He speaks with no notes and takes pride in the fact that he does not use a teleprompter. He has derided “traditional politicians” who use this tool and give the same speech every day.
His demeanor is informal. His tone is conversational. Regardless of the size of the crowd, he intersperses his remarks with rhetorical questions and waits for an audience reaction.
His style is in sharp contrast to many politicians. They tend to be carefully scripted, with “talking points” that are polished by highly paid consultants. They strive to demonstrate an encyclopedic knowledge of their subject matter, often with mind-numbing results.
Instead of conversing with their audience, they lecture them.
When I started making television appearances, I was terrified. I prepared for hours and tried to anticipate every question. I rehearsed my responses. I recall vividly an experience I had on a Fox morning news program. The anchors were bantering with each other as I entered the set. One of them turned to me and asked this question on air: “Hey Dan. What do you have?”
I was like a deer caught in the headlights. I bumbled my way through an answer to a question I never could have anticipated. The interview went downhill from there.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. I noted how comfortable the anchors were in front of the camera and how stressed I was by comparison. So I came up with a simple solution. I decided that, in every interview, I would emulate the demeanor of the interviewer. I would be as conversational, relatable and comfortable as they were.
It proved to be easier than I thought, because that is how people relate to each other in their everyday lives. It also markedly reduced my anxiety. Instead of trying to live up to my image of how one should act on television, I just had to be myself.