A lot can be said about a person based on their non-verbal communication, and Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are no exception. Based on their second debate, here is my assessment…
Hillary Clinton made a concerted effort to use hand gesture to mixed results. Their were moments where her gestures appeared muddled and indirect to me, and moments where she used gesture to much bolder and better effect. She made much better use of the audience than Donald Trump, addressing answers directly to the questioners.
Watch Donald Trump debate with the sound off. It’s an interesting experience. He tends to gesture on two planes, either sawing the air back and forth, or up and down. Their is little else in his movement vocabulary. Additionally, he tends to pace the stage like a panther, in a rather menacing fashion. His non-verbal communication really shouts contempt.
So Hillary is the winner here. She uses stillness effectively, addresses questioners with direct eye contact and sincerety, and she uses hand gestures to powerful effect. I think she comes across as presidential.
Jim Hemerling gives a great speech here. What he does most effectively is use pacing, breathing, word stress, and gesture to accentuate his points. He pauses after each thought group, takes a nice relaxed diaphragmatic breath, and speaks with deliberate intention, often hitting content words (nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs) to make his points. Notice how each of his gestures is timed with a content word. This deliberate pacing really helps him pull out key concepts.
If I were to quibble, I would argue that Mr. Hemerling could benefit from keeping things a little more conversational while he speaks. It’s possible to be both deliberate and easy in your delivery. When speaking, it’s best to balance the two.
Test out timing gesture and word stress with a colleague. Read a passage from your presentation with timed gesture, moving your hands in unison with your words, and then try reading without any movement or word stress. Ask your colleague which is more impactful.
At a recent presentations skills workshop I gave in New York City, I asked an executive with a thin voice to rate the loudness of his voice on a scale from 1-10. He picked an 8, the rest of the room picked a 3. I see this over and over again. For some reason, most of us tend to imagine our voice is louder than it actually is.
Try rating the power of your speaking voice. Ask a friend to evaluate your voice on a scale of 1-10 while you’re presenting. Is their perception of your voice the same as yours? If so, how is it different? When you speak, does your voice “go to the walls”, but not beyond them? Are you able to fill the room with sound? Really engage the diaphragm?
If your perception of the power of your voice is an 8 and your colleagues think you’re at a 3, trust their feedback, and make some changes. Try speaking at an 8, even if it seems like you’re shouting. Again, test the results in front of your colleague. If they feel that your volume is adequate, really challenge yourself to stay at an 8 while speaking. It may feel awkward to you, but it’s likely fine for your audience.
First, Chris Christie:
Governor Christie is a strong debater. He has a firm command of policy and he answers questions with confidence and finesse. I think his non-verbal communication is not helping his cause, however. He has a tendency to lean on the side of the podium as if he was saddling up to a bar. Clearly, he is trying to play up his image as a maverick. His casual body language is inappropriate when he speaks about such weighty issues as nuclear proliferation or abortion rights. It reeks of arrogance.
Next, (of course) Donald Trump:
Ahh Donald. Of course, Mr. Trump has a commanding presence. But he can barely control his contempt for his fellow candidates. He often rolls his eyes and smirks while other candidates speak of him. He has terrible posture. He scowls. His body language suggests intense disgust for people and ideas that are foreign to him, and I predict this will eventually be his downfall.
Finally, Mark Rubio:
I like the way Senator Rubio projects himself on the stage. He has an upright bearing, crisp diction, and a confident delivery. He makes direct eye contact with the camera, and by extension, the home viewers. He also manages to smile on occasion! It seems ironic that this debate, with all its rage and righteous indignation, should take place at the Ronald Reagan Library, an institution named after a man who won debates with folksy charm. In any case, I think Rubio’s command of basic public speaking craft will propel him forward in the polls, and bode well for his chances at the nomination.