I came across an interesting NYU experiment that proposed the question, “what if Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton switched genders?” Would voters view Clinton as a stronger candidate if she was a man? Would a woman be able to get away with the same antics President Trump pulled throughout the election cycle? Your reaction to this clip of the rehearsal may surprise you.
My impressions after watching the video surprised my expectations going in. The woman portraying President Trump, named Brenda King (performed by Rachel Whorton), came across with a clear and concise message. While the man portraying Clinton, named Jonathan Gordon (performed by Darryl Embry) appeared contrived and stiff. While the experiment was aimed to tackle sexism in politics, it also revealed a lot about what works consistently with presentations. So what public speaking lessons can we learn from this experiment?
Brenda King was able to highlight how effective emotion is for connecting to the audience and delivering a message, even if those emotions were negative. While she came across as angry, she also was strong and authoritative. Meanwhile, Jonathan Gordon knew all the right answers and had all the experience, but his delivery fell flat. He had no inflection or emphasis in his speaking and failed to make an emotional connection to his audience. Humans are emotional and empathize with true emotion. A great presentation includes moments that are emotional and authentic.
Listening to how the Brenda King character answered debate questions, her points were clear. She used simple language to explain her stance on policies or call out her opponent. Jonathan Gordon did a lot of talking when answering his questions, but did not break down his answers into simple points. His answers were backed by experience but were lengthy and content-heavy. The most effective way for a presenter to deliver their message is too keep it simple and short. Using the right language mixed with emotion creates an effective delivery.
Stage presence should not be absent in any presentation. Taking up the space you are given by walking and using arm gestures keep the audience’s eyes on you, and can be effective for delivering points. Brenda King took advantage of using her body to elevate her delivery. Jonathan Gordon, on the other hand, stayed mostly in the same spot and used limited hand gestures.
While this experiment might have been surprising when it comes to our perception of sexism in politics, it’s not surprising how these presentation basics work every time when it comes to winning an audience. Emotions, simplicity and stage presence are critical to becoming a great public speaker.
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