A Public Speaking Lesson from Donald Trump

Christopher Witt —  July 29, 2015

Whether you love Donald Trump or hate him, you can learn a lot about public speaking from watching him. Especially about gaining an audience’s attention.

I, personally, find nothing appealing or attractive about Donald Trump. His appearance, reputation, ideas, lifestyle, and style of speaking annoy, even antagonize me.

And yet I find him fascinating.

He commands people’s attention. Whether you applaud his every utterance or shudder in revulsion, it’s hard to take your eyes off him.

That’s what it means to fascinate: to transfix and hold spellbound by an irresistible power; to command the interest of.

Donald Trump’s #1 Public Speaking Lesson: Get Attention!

If you’re not able to gain and hold your audience’s attention, you may as well stop speaking because your audience has stopped listening.

And Donald Trump has mastered the art of gaining an audience’s attention.

Lessons from Trump about Commanding Attention

  1. Be Yourself.
    No one’s going to mistake Donald Trump for anyone else. And that’s the way it should be. The first principle of public speaking is you are the message. Who you are as a person — your character and reputation, experience, values, likes and dislikes — shapes how people hear and interpret what you say. Don’t stand off to the side in darkness, ceding center stage to a screen. Don’t be objective or impersonal. Be yourself.
  2. Take a Strand.
    Do you have any doubt where Trump stands on any issue he addresses? Of course not. He’s taken Churchill’s advice to heart: “When you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time — a tremendous whack.” Don’t dilute your message. Don’t make people guess at what you mean or want them to do.Tell them.
  3. Don’t Be Boring. 
    Trump is — depending on your preferences — refreshing, blunt, arrogant, willing to buck the system, self-serving, or dead-wrong. But boring, he isn’t. And you shouldn’t be either. Not if you want to keep an audience’s attention. You don’t have to be an entertainer to be interesting. You just have to be interested in (maybe even passionate about) your topic and your audience.

Of course, it isn’t enough to command an audience’s attention

Getting an audience’s attention is the beginning point, not the goal of speaking.

The goal of speaking is to bring about a change in your audience. A change in the way people think and feel and act. A change for the better, not the worse.

“The wise speak because they have something to say,” Plato said. “Fools because they have to say something.”

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Christopher Witt

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Chris Witt was born in Los Angeles, California. He currently lives in San Diego. He works as a speech and presentations consultant, an executive speech coach, and an orals coach.

One response to A Public Speaking Lesson from Donald Trump

  1. I’ve always loved to hear all sorts of public speakers. They command your attention. I would love to be able to speak so confidently. It’s pretty awesome to see people really put themselves out there taking a stand. Thanks for the share!