Trump versus Clinton Debate One – Body language and speech analysis

 In Learning from Luminaries, Politicians

What type of leaders are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton – based on their spoken messages, style, look and body language? Is there anything they need to do to win over voters?AdobeStock_71024322(1) (Large)

When voters make judgements on whom to vote for, they ask themselves questions such as: ‘Do I like the candidate?, Do I trust the candidate?,

Can I emotionally identify with the candidate?, Does the candidate have integrity?, Does the candidate have the bearing and the world view of a leader of state?, Will the candidate be competent?’

They make these judgements in part, on the candidate’s facial expression, tone of voice, gestures and word choice. These body language and speech characteristics reveal a candidate’s character, and a window into the candidate’s soul.

Below is my analysis of Trump and Clinton’s  personal communication (body language, speech, feeling tone, bearing and vision), and what, if anything, they need do to win over voters.


I’ve only watched varying grab footage of Trump’s speaking over the last six months.

Here is my analysis of the first and last four minutes of Trump’s Spokane, Washington rally on 7 May (Trump comes on stage at the 39:20 minute mark of the clip).

On the viewing of the first two minutes of the footage featuring the audience’s cheering and Trump’s basking in the cheering and adulation – Trump’s physical presentation, bearing and manner was a combination of:

a top level entertainer interacting with his adoring fans; a popular CEO of a major Fortune 500 company opening a company kick-off conference; and, of a charismatic preacher whipping up his congregation.

The interaction between Trump and his audience was akin to mob hysteria.

What does Trump need to do to win over voters?

Trump is hard to define. He is a conundrum.

He project aspects of an inspiring, visionary leader, but at the same time is a parody of an inspiring, visionary leader. He projects total smugness. He projects total certainty and belief in himself and his ideas – so much so – that his audience ‘catches’ that belief and readily becomes convinced in him, and in his ideas.

His simple one liners – of how he will fix and lead the United States – is blatantly shallow. It reeks of motherhood.

I have no comment on what Trump needs to do to win over voters.


I also, have only watched varying grab footage of Clinton’s speaking over the last six months.

Here is my analysis of the first and last four minutes of Clinton’s South Carolina primary victory speech on 27 February

Clinton has always projected utter certainty in herself and her ideas, a consistent calmness in the public eye and a regal ‘I am destined to lead’ bearing.

In the first four minutes of the speech Clinton’s voice was faltering probably due to the extent of her speaking over the campaign. However, she presented as ‘all of one piece’. Her face, body, voice and words were in synchrony. She was believable.

She was the polar opposite of Australian Opposition leader, Bill Shorten, in delivery*.

Starting at the 11:00 minute mark of the speech, Clinton was sombre in face, body, voice and feeling tone, when talking about the five mothers who had lost children. She then shifted into a series of rhythmic sentences starting with ‘Imagine’.

This delivery was consistent with that a confident, inspiring leader of state – with the caveat that her rhetoric here was difficult to believe. For example, “Imagine a tomorrow where every parent can find a good job”.

Clinton was masterful in her use of pauses as demonstrated in the last part of the speech when talking about the minister. She rivals Barack Obama in her use of pause to let a point ‘sink in’ to the audience.

At the end of the speech, her smooth, sudden shift in crescendo in voice rate, use of strong body movement and gesture, and in repetitive phrasing – was powerful. (with the caveat that this style ‘plays well’ with American audiences).

What Clinton needs to do to win over voters, is to do more of the same. She has presented in the same style for decades. Any attempt to change her style would be counter-productive.

* (Shorten is, unbelievable in his delivery. He is not ‘all of one piece’ – rather a stitched-up version of how he/his minders thinks a leader should portray himself. There is asynchrony between his face, body, voice and words.)

For perspective on today’s leaders, check out this AFR article from June 2005 with my analysis of former Australian PM John Howard, former British PM Tony Blair, Former foreign minister of Australia Bob Carr, and Australian businessman Gerry Harvey.

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