Body language and speech analysis of why Don Draper is so good

 In Actors, Learning from Luminaries

3d illustration of golden star on a black background Why is Jon Hamm (Don Draper of the Mad Men series) such a captivating speaker and presenter?

Below is my analysis  – of first 14 seconds of a video clip of Hamm’s performance in The Carousel – as to why he is so good. (video clip is below).

The analysis includes the words, the voice and speech and the body language.

The opening ‘hook’ sentence. (14 seconds of ‘gold’)

Sometimes in presentations, for a variety of reasons, things may not go as you’ve planned. In this instance the client asked Hamm a question. Hamm answers the question and then segues into his opening.

That is: ‘Well – technology is a glittery lure – but there is a rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash, if they have a sentimental bond with the product.’

But if the client didn’t ask the question, Hamm could have opened this way.

‘Consider this – technology – like your cutting edge technology, is a glittering lure, but there is a rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash, if they have a sentimental bond with the product.’

My analysis


Here are three reasons why the language of the opening sentence is potent.

#1 It’s a simple ‘three-part’ sentence. (as I’ve belabored in prior posts – ‘Simplicity sells’). In the first part of the sentence Hamm delivers a proposition. Then he hooks us with an exception (ie. ‘rare occasion) that is better (ie. ‘beyond a glittering flash) and then tells us what that exception is (ie. ‘a sentimental bond. . .’).

#2 The three-part structure has a flowing rhythm which is ‘music’ to our ears.

#3 Classically excellent hooks makes us eager to hear the rest of the presentation. After you hear the sentence, do you want to hear more?


Hamm’s voice and speaking style are extremely captivating. This is due to a deep, smoky, resonant voice combined with measured, un-rushed phrasing (similar to B. Obama) and elongated, silent pause gaps (eg. after ‘Well, but, and especially ‘product’) and the conversational tone.


Hamm’s body conveys relaxed composure and presence. (note his hand in his pocket*). Movement is natural. He ‘owns’ and occupies the physical space. His hand to his mouth conveys thoughtfulness.

The 14 seconds pass so quickly it’s easy miss how much Hamm accomplishes in the time. Hamm’s performance is a great example of, making every second count.

Here the link for the clip

Here’s how you can adapt Hamm’s performance to your speaking


  • Here’s and example of a ‘internal presentation’, which demonstrates how you might adapt Hamm’s three-part structure.‘Consider this. We are the undisputed market leaders in the x category – but there is a rare opportunity to create even more distance from our nearest competitor – if we give an aspirational lure to product y’.
  • Put extra effort in crafting your first sentence(s). Generate three to five different phrasings to see which ‘hooks’ best. Get feedback from colleagues on the hooks.


  • As you start to speak, be aware of the ‘Presenter’s misperception of time’. This simply means that time, at the physical space where you speaking from, psychologically passes more quickly than from the physical location of the audience. You need to appreciate, that you have more time than you think you have (unless you’re an experienced presenter). Let silent pause gaps ‘sit’. A pause, even for a 1/2 second or two, is a good thing during your opening sentences.
  • Use ‘Measuring cup’ speaking. That is, imagine putting a ‘measure’ of words in a metaphorical measuring cup. Speak that measure of words. Put down the ‘cup’ to pause. Then ‘refill’ the cup with another different sized measure of words. Speak those words, Pause. and so on. Below are illustrations of ‘Measuring cup’ versus ‘Water hose’ speaking (where you are ‘spraying’ the audience with your words).

Measuring cup speaking


 Water-hose speaking



To generate composure and presence with your body, still the lower half of your body. One way to do this is to imagine your legs are very heavy. Here’s an imagery to promote ‘heavy legs’. (apologies if it is too graphic for some).

Imagine that someone drills a hole in each your kneecaps. The person pours liquid concrete through the holes filling up your leg with the concrete. The concrete is allowed to set. After that setting, your legs feel very heavy and ‘planted’ to the floor. You could move them, but it would take much effort.

Own the Conversation

At the bottom of my post ‘How I channeled Obama‘ there are steps for an Expert Modelling Process. Using Hamm’s 14 second opening as the expert, complete the steps in the process.

*(normally I don’t recommend executives put either hand in their pocket as it can covey defensiveness. Because of Hamm’s superlative acting, in this scene, it is a positive).

p.s. In a Special Event on Thursday 2 March – along with Recruitment luminary Tony Swift of Swift Support – I’ll be presenting at a breakfast seminar entitled:

It’s easy to get a job in Sydney in 2017 – Yeh Right!  Learn the mistakes you’ve been making and take ownership of the job search

This seminar will give any job seeker proven ideas and techniques to get an edge in landing a job. My section of the presentation will focus on ‘Own the interview environment’. 

The seminar is limited to just 10 participants. If you know of anyone who is seeking a job, please let them know of the seminar. Thanks.

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment

Subscribe to Behind the Voice

Regular insights, guidance and commentary on how communication influences business and the world around us

Thank you for subscribing