Donald Trump’s Inauguration Speech

So I suppose having just critiqued Theresa May’s speech I should have a crack at The Don’s as well hey?! So here goes. Again no political comment intended (though that might be a challenge) and again I’ll be splitting it into content and delivery.
Let’s be grateful for small mercies
Before I get into all that, a few overall thoughts. All in all, I thought it was one of Trump’s more conventional speeches in that most of it actually made grammatical sense. He did at least write this one (or helped to write it) as opposed to what he did on the campaign trail which was to just talk. If you listen to his previous speeches, he would very often start a sentence talking about one subject but by the time he gets to the end of a sentence be talking about something else entirely. I found many of his previous speeches to be almost completely incoherent, just a series of sound bites and non-sequiturs; a rambling stream of consciousness.  This was more thought-through as you would hope it might be!
Part 1 - Content
Unlike May’s speech, this one appeared to have little obvious structure that I could notice and was, mercifully, half the length. The themes were very obvious: much of the opening of the speech was about how this was a victory for the people of America rather than himself – “This belongs to you”. Later he spoke extensively about putting “America First”. As has already been mentioned in several commentaries, this was an incredibly nationalistic speech. The rest of the world hardly got a mention except to say that, whilst there would be “goodwill” and “friendship”, America will be putting “our own interest first”. Not particularly promising for those who might be hoping for lots of lovely free trade deals…. He thanked a lot of people but saved his heartiest thanks for God. In fact, religion came into it far more than you would see in any political speech in the UK. God received quite a few plaudits – clearly Trump believes he was on his side – and the bible was quoted, so he ticked the “Christian” box though what Americans of other religions would have made of it…..God only knows. J
It goes without saying
The speech drew to its inevitable conclusion as the final sentence built to the quote we all knew was coming but that he saved for the very last:
We shall make America strong again
We shall make America wealthy again
We shall make America proud again
We shall make America safe again
And, yes, we shall make America great again.
This is a not-so-subtle trick that worked beautifully in both his campaign and the Brexit one; implication. The use of the word “again” like “take back” as in “take backcontrol” implies that America is none of those things anymore. In fact, it is almost like saying, “this is not even up for discussion. We all know it right? Let’s not even debate that, let’s debate how we will fix it.”
Poetry Mr President?!
Unlike May’s speech and unusually for Mr Trump, the speech included several poetic devices. There was imagery, “The urban sprawls of Detroit” “The windswept plains of Nebraska”; there was metaphor “rusted out factories scattered like tombstones” and there was alliteration “disrepair and decay”, “politicians prospered”.
Like May’s speech there was repetition “From this day forward”, “America first”; there were contrasts “we are not merely transforming power from……but we are…” “their victories have not been our victories, their triumphs have not been our triumphs"; and there was the rule of 3, “making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs”; And most of these devices were used to paint a picture of America in ruin. Must have been nice for the outgoing President to hear!
Easy to grasp
As always with Trump, the language was as simple as you can get. He very rarely uses words of more than three syllables and most of his words are one or two syllables. I read that, during the campaign, he used 3rd grade language as opposed to Hilary’s 11th grade. This might explain one or two things – everyone got him. His sentences were very short and almost all of them were quotable. He fired bomb after bomb with those sound bites and there was no room for misinterpretation. As has been written by many people, he is the antithesis of political correctness and says it completely as he sees it without any desire to dress it up or tone it down. This has clearly appealed to many.
Part 2 - Delivery
Meaning It
In many ways he is about as far from Theresa May as you can hope to get. But I think there are also comparisons to be made. In contrast to the Prime Minister, the President speaks with passion. Whether you like him or not, there is little doubting his conviction and he is far more theatrical than Mrs May with those gestures and pouts. You get the sense that he speaks from the heart not the head.
What’s eating Donald Trump?!
But, like Mrs May, I find him terribly one-dimensional. Watch the speech again and you will not see one, single smile. This was his inauguration, his moment of triumph or his people’s moment of triumph and yet he still looked angry. He had a permanent scowl on his face. His eyes were almost closed-shut throughout the speech. He was humourless both in word and action and showed no soft side. Even the poetic sections lost their authenticity coming out of the mouth of one so frank and artless. Clearly this candid style is what a lot of people want now but to me he came across as defiant, I might say resentful or even petulant and his face rarely changed in expression no matter what he was saying – positive or negative.
His delivery, whilst passionate, had no gear changes. He has a habit of pronouncing ev-er-y sing-le syl-la-ble almost as if someone is having to dictate it. So the speech was staccato and he never allowed the language to flow. He paused after every statement to allow the crowd to clap. This is fine when you have something important to say and you want to let the message sit but he overplayed the pauses meaning that all major points carried the same importance. Great speakers will choose moments to talk through a crowd clapping or cheering as they amplify their message and build their point and raise their audience to a thunderous crescendo and then pause. Not Mr Trump. His delivery was laboured.
Love him or hate him?
He uses many gestures but they are repetitive; that pointed finger or the circling of the thumb and forefinger. His eye-contact is one of a person who speaks at a crowd not to a crowd so there is no real engagement or connection. They said that JFK made you feel like you were the only person in the audience. I doubt Donald will ever have the same effect. For me, he will need to change not just his words but his whole delivery style if he is to make good on his promise of uniting his country.  I would say that this all makes him unlikeable but then plenty do seem to like him or at least admire him. As with Mrs May, he seems to me to be lacking in any real charisma or warmth, but this has clearly not held him back, in fact it may have aided him. He is not a politician and he doesn't pretend to be. He is authentic, just not very nice. I guess his supporters will love this; his enemies might be saddened by it.
It will all come out in the wash
So there we are. It all begins now and it will be fascinating to see if/how his delivery changes over the next few years as the reality of what he has become takes hold. There is no doubting that his plain style of speaking has been able to galvanise tens of millions of people who have clearly felt left behind and disenfranchised. Time will tell whether he will be able to deliver on all the promises he made in his speech and whether he will be able to bring his country together or destroy it.

Having Your Cake and Eating It

Lucky Jonny
I am a lucky little boy. On Saturday afternoon’s my wife and 6-year-old daughter, Iris, make cakes. It’s their thing. Mum-and-daughter-time. The smells that sift their way through to the sports-obsessed boys as we shout and scream at the TV in the living room have us salivating so we look and sound like rabid dogs! Mum has taught daughter well and what I love is that each weekend we are treated to something different. They begin each new cake-making adventure with a new recipe so that we never get the same one twice. When finished, the cakes are works-of-art. I’m no cake-maker but I can see that they use the normal ingredients to bake the base (flour, butter, eggs, milk, salt etc) but it is the bits that they add on top of those ingredients that make the difference. The currants, the cherries, the smarties, the hundreds and thousands, the chocolate buttons!!! Mmmmm my mouth is watering just typing it!
Dry And Stale
So I was watching them at work during half-time of the rugby this weekend and it struck me how their methods are not dissimilar to the ones that I try to pass on to my clients everyday. I spend much of my working life watching and then reshaping business presentations and key-note speeches. And everyday I see presentations that are like tasteless cakes. If I’m lucky I might see some that have the basic ingredients; they may have facts, they may have stats, they may have structure. But 95% of the business presentations I see don’t even have that. They are meaningless words jumbled together to form an incoherent stream of consciousness and are then delivered with no passion and with no conviction. They are dominated by text-powered PowerPoint slides that the audience and presenter read from and are remembered for as long as it takes me to get up from my seat and make my way to the door. And interestingly, like any cake, I know from the first taste whether I am going to want to savour every mouthful or just chew my way through it like a cow with cud.
Banging The Same Drum
On my courses I talk about PowerPoint slides and say that I despise bad Powerpoint and think that there is absolutely no place for it in the modern workplace. I ask my clients “what do you think I mean by bad PowerPoint?” and, without exception, they say the same thing every time - “too many slides”, “too much text”, “the PowerPoint IS the presentation”. Everybody knows the pitfalls. Everybody knows exactly what is meant by the term “Death By PowerPoint” and yet businesses up and down the country and all over the world continue to bore the pants off their clients, stakeholders or staff.
“Well - it’s what is expected.” “It’s the way it’s always been done” “they’ll think we haven’t done any work if there is no PowerPoint” or (my BIGGEST bug-bear) “we have been told we have to use the approved company slides” – talk about handcuffing your own people!!! If I had a fiver for each time I had heard words like these I wouldn’t be typing this, I’d be having my back rubbed on my own little private island.
It simply has to stop. There is no excuse for it.
Push Yourselves!!
So think of your presentations as cakes. Be creative. Be memorable. If an audience can’t relate to something they won’t listen - they just won’t.
So think.
“How can I get them to relate to this?” “What can I do to make this memorable”
Think of metaphors as your currants; think of analogies as your cherries; examples are your smarties, stories and anecdotes are your hundreds and thousands and characters are your chocolate buttons. Be creative. Try different ingredients each time. Challenge yourselves.
The conventional-wisdom approach - doing what everyone else is doing - is never going to make you an outstanding presenter. At worst, it's mind-numbingly dull. Going against conventional conventional wisdom is the reason the GB team finished an incredible 2nd in the Olympic medal table whilst the England football team were embarrassingly dumped out of the Euro’s by Iceland. Be innovative. You don’t settle for mediocre in other areas of your work so why should you when it comes to presentations? Set yourself the same high standards.
Tasty Tasty
The most fun part of the weekend cake adventure is when Iris proudly presents her creation at supper time. The smile on her face, the enthused and passionatedescription of how they made it, the fun they had along the way. It is not just the cake. It is everything that goes with it. It is an event. An adventure. But that presentation would be so much more difficult if the cake was tasteless. Iris is proud because she has created something special; there has been thought behind it, care behind it. She and mum have been creative. And us lazy boys get to taste the results. Life CAN be good!!! So go out there people and bake yourselves some tasty cakes!!!

How Do Others Perceive You In The Workplace?

The Starting Point
If we should ever meet, check out my fingernails. Seriously. They’re my pride and joy. Not because they’re long, elegant, beautifully manicured (they’re not!), but because I have them.
You see, as a child / young teenager, I chewed my nails. And chewed them a bit more. And chewed them even further still (if I do something, I like to do it well – always have done – always will do). My parents were at their wits end. They tried everything. They ran the whole spectrum from cajoling to intimidating (just for the record, I never did believe the one about the nail clippings gathering into one huge mass in my stomach and causing me untold grief). There was a brief spell of painting my fingernail … mmmmm, well, let’s call them “remnants” … with some revolting bitter tasting gloop which simply served as a minor inconvenience for a while.
The Turning Point
Then one day, my eldest sister came to visit and announced that she was getting married and that she wanted me and our other sister to be bridesmaids and “… won’t that be great – all girls together – such fun …”
I was 14 old. Vast swathes of my life were being spent declaring “… it’s not fair …” Vast swathes of my poor Mother’s life were being spent declaring “… don’t you dare look at me in that tone of voice, young lady …” I was loud; I was gawky; I was “angular” (still am!). No – it would not be fun!
I remember begrudgingly shuffling my way through the service and enduring the mind-numbing ignominy of the obligatory photo’ session. My sister still has a picture, taken by a guest, which shows the “official” photographer with his hands on my shoulders trying to manoeuvre me into position. If looks could kill, dear reader, if looks could kill … And, I found myself a nice corner to occupy throughout most of the reception where I could sit and gently glower.
The Awakening
Why am I telling you all this? Well, some weeks later (yes, weeks – very little was “instantaneous” back in the early 70’s), the “Wedding Album” arrived which prompted another visit from my sister so that we could gather round and re-live the happy occasion (deep joy). And there it was. One particular photo’. An “arty-farty” affair involving the bride and her bridesmaids with their bouquets “tastefully” arranged. And I saw them. My hands. More specifically – my nails!
The Realisation
And that was that. No more nail biting. I’d be fibbing if I said it stopped overnight, and there were a couple of lapses, but to all intents and purposes I was no longer a nail chewer.
So – what happened? Why did a photo’ provoke my “Road To Damascus” experience when all the time I only had to look down at my hands – permanently attached to the end of my arms for goodness sake – to see how dreadful my nails were?
It was because I got to see myself as others saw me. I saw myself as I was perceived.
That’s why we film participants during our Effective Communication workshops, so people can get to see how they are seen (and heard) by others. That’s why our behaviour workshops explore the impact individuals have on those around them, so that people can gain an understanding of how they are “received” by others (why some relationships are easier than others).
The Solution
If you’d like to discover how you relate to the rest of the world and how the rest of the world relates to you, then check out our Effective Conversations workshop Just like nail biting – bad habits can be broken and replaced with good ones. For more information, hints and tips keep us with us on social media - Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin

I’m A Person Not A Robot!

I’m A Person, Not A Robot!
Those of you who know me will know I’m a woman ‘of a certain age’. No sooner had I got myself fully conversant with the 20th century when I found myself rudely flung into the 21st. How does this ‘certain age’ affect me? Well, in several ways – some of which are probably not appropriate for a public forum – but one manifestation involves ‘technology’ and its impact on interaction with our fellow man.
I recently made a trip to Birmingham, courtesy of Southern Rail and Virgin trains. I’ve caught on to the fact that if I buy my tickets, in advance, ‘on line’, I’m more likely to grab myself a bargain (ha, ha – there are many interpretations of ‘bargain’, my friends). Any road, I did exactly that – secured tickets via the ether to be collected at my station of departure.
My departure date arrived. On entering the station concourse, I was delighted to discover that the ticket office was not only open, but ‘staffed’ as well (it isn’t always). Why should I be delighted at this prospect? Yes, OK, at ‘my age’, I am easily pleased, but mostly my delight stemmed from the fact that I would be able to converse with a real, live person in order to gain my tickets rather than faff around with one of those ruddy ticket machines which 1) require me to put on my glasses, 2) have buttons to press which are not conducive to fingernails of a certain length {remember my finger nails? If not – see a previous blog}, 3) seem to ‘time out’, forcing me to start the tortuous process all over again … I could go on!
Anyway, there he was – his name (Peter) proudly displayed on his name badge – behind his protective screen, sitting on his swivel chair, master of all he surveyed, his sole objective to assist members of the human race in purchasing train tickets. I approached with confidence, my booking reference number written neatly on a PostIt note. I smiled my nicest smile, gently shoved the yellow piece of paper through the small aperture that serves as the portal between his world and mine and said “… I’d like to collect these, please …”
Imagine my … um … dismay … disquiet … disillusionment … utter disbelief when the lovely Peter replied “… that’s a function usually performed at the ticket machine behind you, Madam (Madam! That’s when you really know you’re a woman of a ‘certain age’!), but on this occasion, I’m willing to perform that action on your behalf as a (wait for it …) customer service courtesy …”
CUSTOMER SERVICE COURTESY?! Are you ‘avin’ a larff? Isn’t that the crux of the lovely Peter’s job? Let’s ‘un-pick’ those 3 little words for a moment and see …
‘Customer’ – AKA ‘purchaser’, ‘buyer’ – one who buys goods or services. ‘Service’ – AKA ‘help’, ‘assistance’ – the act of helping someone. ‘Courtesy’ – AKA ‘politeness’, ‘consideration’ – behaviour that shows respect for another person. Yep – I’m fairly certain that as a ticket sales operative, a KPI (Ha! Didn’t think a ‘woman of a certain age’ would know that initialism, did you?!) is to aid the person handing over the money to make their purchase whilst maintaining a civil manner. It’s a good job those apertures are of the size they are, dear reader.
What has happened to human interaction? Why would I rather ‘interface’ with a machine than engage in gay badinage (not for long – obviously) with another member of the human race? Human interaction. AKA communicating with another individual / individuals.
At Speak The Speech we believe everyone has a voice and that everyone deserves to use that voice to the best of their ability. Our Presentation Skills programmes will help you to become inspirational as well as persuasive. Our Communication Skills programmes will help you to build healthier relationships with those around you. And as communication involves using your ears as well as your mouth, implicit within our workshops is how to listen effectively too.
To find out more, visit our website where you can not only read more about what we have to offer, but can also ‘live chat’ with one of our support agents (yep, that’s animate contact with a fellow member of the human race). We look forward to helping you – in a respectful, gracious manner!
(PS: just a thought – if we each did something specific to show service and courtesy to another individual, we could, perhaps, ‘flash mob’ the world with kindness?).
(PPS: bet you didn’t think I’d know anything about ‘flash mobbing’ either, eh?).
(PPPS: I had to look it up!).

It’s Good To Talk!!!

Dostoyevsky once said “Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” My question today is “Are we losing the ability to talk with each other?”
Does any of this sound familiar?
You are home from work sitting with your partner, having just finished eating or putting the kids to bed and you get out your laptop, your partner gets out his/her Iphone and you both spend the evening Tweeting, Facebooking, playing Candy Crush or surfing the internet.
You are sitting at your desk at work and you email your colleague who is sitting 5 metres away asking them if they have finished the report you have been waiting on.
You decide not to pop into town to pick up some shopping or go to the bank or post office and do it all online instead.
At Speak The Speech we run courses like “Building Trust” where we coach people on the art of conversation; how to be interested before being interesting by asking questions that seek to find common ground and quickly build trust; how to listen in order to genuinely understand; how to communicate in an authentic and engaging manner.
Oh, For A Quiet Life
We live in a new world of social media. Tweeting, Facebooking, Snapchatting, Instagramming, emailing and texting are “ings” that didn’t exist 20 years ago. Over that time we have seen dramatic changes in the way we communicate with each other. We rarely do it face to face anymore. It is so much easier, so much faster to email or text.
Don’t get me wrong I am as guilty as I am sure many of you are. My thumbs are without doubt twice the size that they were 10 years ago. As I type this on holiday in France, my kids are quietly playing with their Ipads whilst outside the sun shines and the waves crash against the beach that is 50 metres from our apartment. Oh the guilt! What a terrible parent I am. But it keeps them quiet doesn’t it?!!
Of course, in many ways this new technology is great and not just as a way of keeping the kids from screaming at each other. My parents live in France and we can now connect with them whenever we want - the children think “Skyping” them is the most normal thing in the world. I doubt they could imagine a world without it. Text and Skype have helped us keep in regular contact as opposed to “ye good olde days” when we would probably have made one expensive, long-distance phone call a week or sent a pigeon.
The Drawbacks
But isn’t there a danger that we use electronic communication too much now? With friends or family that we would previously have called or met for lunch? It is so much easier now to send them a message or tweet.
I remember how my dear old Grandad used to take me on his morning errands from time to time. To the bank, to the post office, to the local shop. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. He would engage with people and they would engage back. Relationships and friendships were built and they seemed more genuine. It was the way things were. It was real conversation not just the “oh look what I had for breakfast” type that we so often see on Facebook nowadays. Do you know anyone in your local shops now?
So don’t we miss that flow of conversation; that banter, those changes of tone that a good old chat can bring? And how well can we actually communicate via text or email? Real conversation is infinitely subtler and more complex than electronic communication. It doesn't just involve talking; it has a crucial and often woefully overlooked counterpart: listening. The best communicators are always the best listeners; those who put other people first, who are prepared to suspend their own agenda so that they can properly listen to the other person and be genuinely curious.
And worryingly, doesn’t a lack of intimacy actually make us colder and more detached from one another? None of us like confrontation and emailing or texting has helped us avoid it. It is so much safer, more anonymous and less stressful to use that cold little weapon in our hands than to speak to someone face to face. But, because of these easy ways out, have we forgotten what it is like to confront our issues?
Risks For The Future
And what about the consequences for the next generations? If we lose the art of conversation, isn’t there a risk that we may become inflexible in our thinking, self-righteous perhaps? If nobody challenges us, then we end up only agreeing with ourselves.
And beware, managers amongst you, sending lots of emails to your staff is not communicating effectively! In my experience, bosses often use email to communicate because it is quick and efficient, and they can send the same information to a lot of people at the same time. But email can be frequently misinterpreted or just too plain complicated to fully understand. What so many managers do not realize is that truly effective communication must go beyond the written word.
There is also the small matter of building better relationships. Email encourages us to be rude. We can fire off an abrupt one liner or worse still completely ignore someone. How rude - no? Can you imagine that happening in a face to face to conversation? Just completely ignoring the other person? Of course not. With email it is somehow acceptable. We are forced to think “oh well they must be really busy.”
Love Thy Neighbour
Last year Boo and I were out in the Middle East coaching a local bank. Our group consisted of six of the most senior executives in the organisation, we had the head of finance, the head of marketing, the head of private equities, you name it they were head of it. The lady that had arranged the training warned Boo and I beforehand “you might have a tough day.... these guys hate each other.” “Great” – we thought.
We decided to treat it just like any other training and, after an admittedly frosty start, the day started to get better and better. By lunchtime there was a buoyant and positive mood in the training room. We all sat down for our lunch together and about half way through I got a little cheeky: “I think it’s great you guys get on so well” I said. There was a moments silence and then one of them started laughing and said “Jon. You wouldn’t believe. We normally all HATE each other.” At which point they ALL started laughing. “REALLY!?” I said “You would NEVER have guessed it.” “Well it’s true” said another. “All we do all day is send each other nasty emails. We never actually talk!”
At the end of the training they all left the room with big smiles and handshakes and slapped backs. Boo and I packed away all our stuff and then went down the escalator to exit the hotel. There in the foyer bar were the six of them – sharing an after-course drink. We left the newly found love-birds to themselves. Conversation, talking, listening, could mean the difference between harmony in the office and conflict; good client relationships or bad, keeping customers or losing them.
And so……
……the next time you have finished dinner and the kids are asleep, don’t just turn on your computer and start surfing the internet. TALK to your partner, engage with them, listen. Don’t just ping off an email or instant message to the person who sits next to you. Turn to him or her and speak to them. Pick up the phone, call your brother or sister or cousin or friend and have a conversation! TALK! LISTEN!
Let me leave you with the ominous words of Einstein “I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots”.
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