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Communication Lessons From Donald Trump

Donald Trump has developed a reputation as the most controversial and divisive US president America has ever seen. The former businessman and Apprentice host has shown the world how to make more headlines than practically anybody else. 

In this post I present four communication lessons you can learn from “The Donald”. Sure he’s not as gifted as his democratic past presidents such as Barack Obama or Bill Clinton when it comes to public speaking, but I do think that he’s got his own unique presentation style. Read some of my thoughts below.

Donald Trump

1) Use Clear Simple Language

When you don’t understand a section of a book or magazine article, you can read it again and again until the meaning is clear to you. When you speak, your listeners don’t have this luxury. What you say must be immediately clear to your audience.

As I learned at Toastmasters, words are powerful. They convey your message and influence the audience and its perception of you. Word choice and arrangement need just as much attention as speech purpose and content. If you want listeners to understand and accept you, be sure to speak the same way they speak, using familiar words and concepts. Construct your speech in an oral style, using short words, short sentences and short paragraphs in your speech.

You’ve got to admire Donald Trump for his use of simple language that anyone can understand. What he says is filled with emotion and this resonates with voters.

An analysis found Donald Trump spoke like a fourth grader… it increases his appeal for those who are less educated.

Analysis done by the Boston Globe using a common algorithm called the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, found Donald Trump spoke like a fourth grader. This essentially means that what he says gets understood by large numbers of voters.

Takeaway lesson: use language that will be understood by your audience.

2) Have a Consistent Message

It’s an old age communication lesson and a classic positive PR move – keep your message to just a few points and keep referring to it over and over again no matter what happens or what you are asked in the Q&A.

Donald Trump has been remarkably consistent with his message. He is hoping to convince Americans that only someone with his particular skill set can “make America great again”.

Takeaway lesson: stay on message regardless of what is asked and always make any question fall back to your carefully selected main message.

3) Be Natural & Authentic

Donald Trump is unscripted. He speaks with no notes and takes pride in the fact that he does not use a prompter. 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.

Trump’s tone is conversational. Regardless of the size of the crowd, he intersperses his remarks with rhetorical questions and waits for an audience reaction. This helps him to connect with the audience. It shows Trump’s authentic self.

So go ahead and communicate a shortcoming. Be natural on stage. Be your authentic self. It can be a great way to establish a connection with the audience and it makes your message more concrete in their minds.

Takeaway lesson: no speaker should try to project themselves as flawless.

Donald Trump

4) Think Before You Speak

Thinking before speaking is a challenge for a lot of people, not least Mr. Trump. When you don’t think before you speak, when you utter ill-informed comments with no substantive backing, the odds are that sooner rather than later they will come back to you, like a football right into the face! Trump has been very outspoken much of the controversy he has encountered could have easily been avoided.

It’s simple Donald, just think!

T: Is it the right time?
H: Is it honest?
I: Is it about “I” (your ego)?
N: Is it necessary?
K: Is it kind?

Takeaway lesson: think before opening your mouth.