After yesterday’s shock election result in USA, I have to ask the question: “Did Clinton lose the election due to lack of charisma?” This was a candidate who was so well qualified; so experienced in world politics, competing against someone who had no political experience. Yet she lost.
There will be plenty of people analysing the results: focusing on segments of the population who didn’t vote for the Democrats. There will be speculation that the election was the Democrats’ to lose and the analysts will be working overtime in the next few weeks to review future campaigns. However I want to focus on my expertise – charisma and the voice, and to question how effective she REALLY was at engaging with her potential supporters. Listen to a podcast I have broadcast on this topic.
I believe Hillary Clinton: well qualified and experienced as she was, just wasn’t able to connect with the electorate. It is interesting that during the 2008 Primaries, competing against Obama, Clinton’s lack of charisma and specific communication style became apparent. Of course Barack Obama is an extremely charismatic, gifted public speaker, but Hillary had no hope against his brilliance. Since then, Clinton has clearly worked very very hard on her presenting skills, to engage with her audiences and the electorate. However, these are the weaknesses that I believe played a major part in Clinton failing to engage with her electorate. Listen to the podcast here.
The barrage of abuse from Trump. Throughout the campaign, and during the TV debates, Trump hurled abuse at Clinton. A lot of it was of a misogynist nature; it was personal, vindictive and effectively deflected from his lack of experience. With credit to Clinton, she never rose to the bait, but I suspect in order to maintain her cool, she had to detach herself from the abuse. I wonder if she switched inward in order to do this, and this resulted in a slight disengagement with the audience?
Empathy: there is something very detached about her speaking style. One always feel she is telling people what she feels they should know. She doesn’t appreciate what people are feeling or want to hear. Of course the Democrat party will have written Clinton’s speeches and responded to what they believed to resonate with the electorate. Clinton is rather like the person you meet at a network event who talks AT you; they don’t respond to your body language, allow you to interject or have a two way conversation. Subconsciously people switch off from the conversation because they don’t believe they are part of it. This applies whether the speaker is on a stage or on TV.
Engagement: An essential part of being a public speaker or leader is that you engage with your audience. Whether you are speaking to a crowd or smaller audience, you want them to breathe with you; listen to what you say; react to which you as the public speaker are energised and react. Even in interviews you didn’t believe she was fully engaged in a two way conversation; she was only thinking about what she was going to say.
Energy and charisma: Bill Clinton had huge charisma. I know people who have met him at events, and even run an event where he was the star attraction. They have all told me what an astonishing charisma he had; when he listened to you, you felt you were the only person in the room. And when he speaks, he has the attention of everyone; such is the power of his presence. Sadly Hillary doesn’t have this natural skill and whilst she worked on this aspect of her personal brand, it wasn’t there. Whatever you think of Trump, he had charisma too – not as effective as Obama and Bill Clinton, but he commanded the stage.
TV and Social Media: we now live in a world of 24 hour News TV and social media. Everything you say and do is broadcast to the world. Any soundbite is repeated and shared. Clinton was quite 1990s in her political campaign approach. Since she isn’t charismatic, this was magnified on the TV screen, to her disadvantage.
Lack of authenticity: all of her appearances appeared to be over rehearsed. Nothing was left to chance and it was all polished. You never felt you saw the real Hillary, and audiences want to see some authenticity. Ironically it was only after the election result that you saw a glimpse of Hillary’s disappointment, anger, frustration and exhaustion. She won many fans from this speech. A little late though!
Being a woman: I hate to say this but there is unconscious bias, conscious bias and blatant misogyny at play here. There are many people who are not ready for a woman to be leader. However good, well qualified and experienced Clinton was, there was a significant number of the electorate who believed this. Trump also played on this with his unacceptable misogynist comments and hatred towards her was whipped up by him. USA: this is a low point in your history and many many people should be UTTERLY ashamed at the rhetoric and comments directed towards women. Unacceptable for a Western nation in the 21st Century. Listen to the podcast here.
We can learn a lot about how Hillary performed with her public speaking and the points I have raised are skills any public speaker needs to acquire and practice in order to become effective. Few of us will be campaigning to be the President of the USA, but the same skill sets apply! Good luck.