Think about it. There were 20,000 people inside the venue. There were thousands more outside. Millions of people were watching both on TV and online.
But attracting a live crowd and a large viewing audience is only the first part. The key is knowing how to ratchet up enthusiasm to bring down the house.
President Donald Trump possesses communication skills that most professional speakers haven’t even heard of, let alone know how to use and maximize. This gets far less attention than it should in today’s culture — and it’s worth noting this week as the Democratic primary debates get underway with a vengeance.
Below are a few of the strategies Trump used at his 2020 campaign kick-off rally in Orlando, Florida, last week to create one of the most meaningful events in recent political history.
There are lessons here that other speakers — no matter who they are or what their field or expertise — can apply as well.
1.) Immediately engage your audience. Within moments of taking the stage, President Trump pointed to the media pen, calling many of them fake news. The crowd’s enthusiasm exploded and followed his lead by chanting “CNN sucks” and “Tell the truth.”
Until there is a Democratic nominee, the mainstream media is the biggest foe of Trump and his supporters — and by doing this, he fueled the crowd from the get go.
2.) Know your purpose — and say it again and again. Trump asked everyone listening to vote for his re-election on Nov. 3, 2020. That was his purpose and message.
It was a call to action that he articulated clearly and repeatedly. This was wrapped around his lists of achievements already accomplished and for what’s coming next. But throughout the speech, he never stopped reminding his audience that reaching these goals was only the first step here. The action of voting is the second, and most important, step that must happen.
3.) Have a vision the audience can make their own. “Vote to win” — that was the strong, concise message and goal of the massive rally. More importantly, it was the vision Trump shared with his audience for them to carry with them.
He did this by welcoming cheers of “U.S.A.” and asking the crowd to decide which they liked better, “Make America Great Again” or “Keep America Great” — saying the winning campaign slogan would be decided by the loudest chants.
Creating this audience-participation game that re-enforced his vision was a smart way of making the crowd feel part of something, but also letting them know that their opinions mattered and he was listening.
4.) Make eye contact. Think you can’t do that if you speak to thousands of people? Trump does it — and so can other speakers if they commit to doing so.
Every time the president stepped away from the podium, he walked around the stage while clapping and moving his eyes up and down — looking at members of the audience and nodding to people, from those in the front row to those in the highest rafters, to those in the back of the room and the rows and sections across the entire stadium.
Trump actually became part of the fired-up crowd when he took breaths of 45 seconds to two minutes or so — and focused his attention on the audience. Trump’s clapping and pointing to people everywhere, even turning around to make eye contact with those standing behind him, showed his respect for every person regardless of where he or she was seated. He focused his energy, his smiles, and his points on the foundation of his words. He made everyone feel important.
5.) Bring audience introductions to the middle. Trump was clever. He introduced Sarah Huckabee Sanders as well as local politicians and dignitaries — along with naming their accomplishments — after he began his speech and not before.
This did two things. It gave him a break from speaking (which is necessary when on stage for nearly 90 minutes). But it also recognized them when the crowd was at their most enthusiastic. This made the introductions even more special and meaningful.
He is emotionally engaging because he has a non-negotiable confidence and a focused delivery.
6.) Speak with your heart and heads will follow. President Trump was successful because he believes in his own message. He is emotionally engaging because he has a non-negotiable confidence and a focused delivery.
He also knows how to navigate organic moments with systematic breaks. Through his tone and voice fluctuation, he spoke both on-script and off-script, always guided by audience response.
Trump was able to communicate his messages at an event that will be long remembered — even well after the Democratic debates occur this week.