Public Speaking

“Trumped”: Get Your Narrative Right and You Could Win the White House

Love him or hate him, few would disagree that Donald Trump is a master storyteller. Politics aside, Trump was the true underdog both within and outside of his own party.

Obama and many others skewered him in public. The media would often sway between sensationalism to downright skepticism in their reporting of all things Trump. Yet what the skeptics didn’t know or understand was that Trump was playing right into the hands of the American electorate.

People love the underdog story. Most can identify with what it’s like to be the outsider. It seemed that no matter what Trump said or did, he couldn’t lose. And people want to support a winner.

Perhaps even Trump himself was surprised that he was able to win over America to claim the highest office in the land. The fact is that Donald Trump is a genius at getting inside the zeitgeist of a population and in reading what it is exactly that people want. And it was time for change. Fed up with the status quo and their place in life, Trump gave his supporters what they wanted to hear. Like Superman rushing to save the screaming masses from a burning building, he was their hero and promised to fix things if they gave him a chance.

Many underestimated Trump. What his opponents and skeptics did was fail to see that through his storytelling and ability to read the current narrative playing out in America, he was able to tap into something so deep that no one else was able to reach it.

While there were many reasons that led to Trump’s victory, from a story perspective he hit all the right buttons.

Here’s what Trump did right:

  1. He tapped into people’s emotions and took them on an emotional journey. Great stories are built on great characters and he was able to create a persona for himself that instinctively drew people to his rallies by the tens of thousands
  2. He focused on what was really going on with the American people in a way that more seasoned politicians just failed to see. He read the narrative and followed the script. America was fed up and wanted to be great again. Trump offered a way out and his unconventional personality was able to draw people to his ideas
  3. His journey had many similarities to those experienced by heroes in the classic book by Christopher Vogler “The Writer’s Journey.” It’s almost as if Trump’s actions followed those in a dramatic movie script. There was a Call to Action, which led to the Hero’s Journey. Along the way, there were antagonists (or one key one – Hillary Clinton), tests, allies and enemies. After numerous challenges the hero crosses the threshold and returns with the ultimate prize – the White House

To quote Campbell, “Every storyteller bends the mythic pattern to his own purpose or the needs of her culture. That’s why the hero has a thousand faces.”

Great stories are mythic in nature and speak directly to the human spirit.They tap into a mythological core that teaches us something about ourselves.

From a storytelling perspective, Trump nailed it on all levels. Add to that his brand of authenticity yet unseen in the world of Washington politics and he proved to be a worthy opponent.

For Donald Trump, his final act is yet to be written. In the meantime, there will be more tests, allies and enemies along the way as he leaves the ordinary world and prepares to enter the brand new world of politics.




Public Speaking - Are You Kidding?

As a long-standing member of Toastmasters International and competitive public speaker, it boggles my mind as to the number of businesspeople who seem to lack basic skills in public speaking. Time and time again, I see professionals at the podium who, either through speaking style or content, are just unable to engage an audience.

We've all heard the statistic. The one that says most people fear public speaking more than they fear death. Well, "ye need not fear again." With proper training and a well-designed plan, you too can take the podium and become a speaker extraordinaire.

Here are three tips that can help turn a lackluster speech into a standing ovation:

1)  Know Your Audience

  • It sounds simple, but many forget this basic rule of speaking. It also touches on a fundamental rule of selling, and that is to know your client before you pitch your product.
  • If you're speaking to engineers, speak their language. Find out what makes them tick, and learn more about their daily challenges. If it's a business group, find an angle and show them that you've taken the time to try and understand their business. They will thank you for it.

2) Be Organized

  • Arrange your speech into 3 key points. Not only will this make it easier for the audience to follow you, but it will also help you find your place if for some reason you lose track. Many people find it hard to memorize a speech, but most can deliver a talk based on 3 key points.
  • Offer a clear introduction and conclusion. Wrap up with a quick summary of your 3 points.

3) Practice, Practice, Practice

  • Success in the art of public speaking is no different from success in any other profession. Once you have your material, practice. Practice in front of the mirror, practice in front of a friend or family member, or practice in the shower. Find a way that works for you. There's nothing more frustrating than a speaker who hasn't practiced his or her material.
  • Have back-up notes in case your equipment fails. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen a speaker falter because they failed to have back up notes once their computer crashed.

So, the next time you're asked to give a speech, give it a try. Send me a note if you want more tips, and feel free to comment on your speaking experiences.

See you at the podium!


Own the Stage - Own the Brand

As a long-standing member of Toastmasters International, I took part in a live taping in Toronto on Friday for an upcoming DVD release. The session was called "Own the Stage", and was taught by two former World Champion Public Speakers, Craig Valentine and Darren LaCroix.

While watching these two perform on stage, I found myself totally engaged in the presentation. They were funny, told a good story - and gave me the impression from the very beginning that my experience would be a positive one. When I left the session, I felt that I had actually learned something. In retrospect, I felt as if they were speaking to me directly in an effort to take my speaking skills to the next level.

I also noticed that a lot of their suggestions and key points were the same principles used to design positive and engaging brand experiences. Here are a few other points highlighted during the session:

  • Invite the audience into your "scene"
  • Tell a story, then make a point
  • You must connect with the audience before you can own the stage
  • It's not about YOU the speaker, it's about the audience and the fact that they must leave with something of value

Why is this any different than the process needed to create a positive brand experience? When we interact with a product or service in a positive way, there's a sense of intimacy that meets us on several levels. In addition to the physical level (ie. does the product work), this interaction might involve the senses and emotions. Did we come out of the experience with an overall positive feeling? Will we remember the experience, and did we gain something of value? Did we feel as if we were a participant in the experience?

In the groundbreaking book "The Experience Economy: Work is Theater and Every Business a Stage", Pine and Gilmore referred to the concept of "staged experiences." They suggest that in order to differentiate their product offerings, businesses must strive to become "authentic" (ie. the art of being true to yourself, as well as being what you say you are to others). This is a key characteristic of truly great brands.

The next time you're called upon to give a speech, use these principles to set the stage for success. Invite the audience to enter your scene. Tell them a good story, and leave them with something memorable. Give them a reason to call you back again.

As the story of any successful consumer brand tells us, if you're called in for an encore, you know you've done a good job.