TPG CEO featured in Huffington Post article

Tell-It-Like-It-Is Trump Becomes Teleprompter Donald

The GOP nominee is now using the machine he used to scorn, except really badly.

S.V. Date Senior Political Correspondent, The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON ― Donald Trump has become what he has long mocked.

After a full year ridiculing his rival candidates for relying on a teleprompter and finding himself on a shorter leash from his new handlers, the Republican presidential nominee has fully embraced the tool. There is, of course, one key difference: He is bad at it.

“If you’re just going to be staring at a monitor and shouting and gesticulating, then what’s the point?” wondered Aileen Pincus, a public speaking consultant and teleprompter coach based in Washington. “It’s painful.”

Trump’s staff has for months realized that his tendency to wander off topic or unleash personal insults made any effort to deliver a serious address risky. So Trump has, beginning with his speech to a pro-Israel lobbying group in March, resorted to a teleprompter to get through important speeches.

But although the machine was designed to help public speakers appear more natural and maintain eye contact with their audience, it appears to have the opposite effect on Trump.

During his acceptance speech at the Cleveland Republican convention, Trump squinted for much of the address. In his Aug. 15 speech about terrorism, he appeared at times to get confused about what he was reading, leading to awkward pauses and sentences that trailed off. And on Wednesday night’s much-touted speech on immigration, Trump seemed fixated on the lefthand screen for long stretches.

On occasion, Trump also has misread words, sometimes to embarrassing effect. On Aug. 24 in Tampa, he said Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had created a private email server “deliberately, willfully and with pre-medication,” before correcting himself: “premeditation.” And on Wednesday, Trump read “amnesty” – a key trigger word among his hardcore, anti-immigration base – as “amnety.”

Pincus said Trump’s problems with the machine are common for beginners. “It’s not unusual at all,” she said. “What’s unusual is that this man is the Republican nominee for president.”

Trump’s campaign did not respond to The Huffington Post’s queries about how much training the candidate has received on the device. One Republican consultant close to the campaign acknowledged that Trump could use some help, but isn’t particularly interested. “He resists all attempts to change, train, educate, generally,” said the consultant, speaking anonymously because he didn’t want to anger the nominee.

Trump’s resistance to the machine appears tied to his overarching concern to be entertaining and never boring, at all costs. He has said numerous times over his campaign that he could be “presidential” if he wanted to, but his audience wouldn’t like it.

He repeated that thought on Laura Ingraham’s radio show Thursday. Ingraham, who supports Trump, asked him why, at his Phoenix rally Wednesday night, he didn’t use the low-key tone that he had used in his remarks earlier in the day in Mexico after meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto. “We had this unbelievably energized crowd,” Trump replied. “And if I would’ve used the tone that I used in Mexico, I think everybody would’ve fallen asleep.”

The new reliance on the machine ― which uses transparent screens on either side of the lectern that display the script ― began with Trump’s installing Kellyanne Conway as his third campaign manager in as many months. Top Republicans urged Trump to tone down his public persona and keep to a strict set of messages on immigration, trade and attacks against Clinton, using a teleprompter to stay focused.

The switch, though, comes after 13 months of mocking other candidates for using one.

On Aug. 14, 2015, Trump told a Hampton, New Hampshire, audience: “If you’re running for president, you should not be allowed to use a teleprompter,” and then rotated from side to side to mimic someone reading from one screen and then the other. “You shouldn’t be allowed, because you don’t know what you’re going to get. Look what happened with Obama, where he’s a teleprompter guy.”

On Oct. 10, in Norcross, Georgia, Trump told his crowd: “I’ve always said, if you run for president, you shouldn’t be allowed to use teleprompters,” to big applause. “Because you don’t even know if the guy’s smart.”

As late as July 6 in Cincinnati, Trump mocked Clinton for using the device in her speeches. He stared at an imaginary screen to the left: “North and south,” then turned to his right, “or east and west,” and then turned to the left again: “Donald Trump is a bad person.”

In his mockery, however, Trump resembled mainly himself.

“There is something truly unique in his delivery and affect in his teleprompter speech, and I don’t mean that as a compliment,” said Rick Wilson, a Florida GOP consultant and a longtime Trump critic. “Some of it is his raging ADD. He’s trying to race ahead of his message and do some ‘acting.’ It’s clumsy and weird. And for people who aren’t for Trump, it’s incredibly off-putting.”

Pincus, the speech trainer, said Trump could easily get some professional help. A two-to-three hour session with her firm would cost a few thousand dollars – considerably less than an hour’s worth of jet fuel consumed by Trump’s personal 757 airliner.

“I doubt it’s the money that’s holding him back,” she said, but hastened to add that she personally had no interest in volunteering her services. “I’m quite sure there are plenty of other people who can help him.”

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Literally Speaking: The Art of Talking About Your Book

Congratulations! You’re an author! If you’re generating some “buzz” about your book (or even if you hope to), you’ll need to know how to talk about what you’ve written in a compelling way. Every writer knows that good writing is re-writing. That’s the way it is with public speaking as well. It’ll take you some time to hone your style and discover what works for different audiences and different formats. There are some basic best practices though to help you get started.

Have a message  

This is author Lauren Weisberger on her book “The Devil Wears Prada” speaking to “Readers Read”:

“Hopefully readers everywhere can relate to the other things in Andrea’s life. The repercussions of her job on her personal life, the problems that arise with her best friend and boyfriend and family, and the way it feels to live in the big city for the first time, are common experiences for so many young women. At the end of the day, I’d be thrilled to hear that readers related to Andrea and this year in her life, and that they had a few laughs while they read. This is clearly not War & Peace, so I’d love to hear that people just enjoyed themselves while reading the book. That would be perfect.”

Ms. Weisberger’s messages sum up that her book is about a relatable young woman, living life in a big city, coupled with the author’s hope the book brings enjoyment and laughter to readers. While there are any number of things she could say about the book (based on a real-life internship she had for a noted designer in the fashion industry), her core messages simply revolved around her central character’s test of strength and ambition that anyone can relate to.

Messaging isn’t about the details of the book, but rather opening a window into its bigger ideas and themes. Think about what you’d like people to remember and take away from what you’ve written and build your talk from there.

Tailor your pitch

Always speak about your book with your audience in mind. Knowing what you know about them, what would they be most interested in hearing? Is there an excerpt or anecdote that you can summarize that you know your audience would especially want to hear? For instance, in an interview with NBC’s Dateline, Author JK Rowling spoke about how her life has changed since becoming one of the world’s best known authors.

“…Everyone wanted my emotions to be very simple. They wanted me to say, ‘I was poor and I was unhappy, and now I’ve got money and I’m really happy.’ And it’s what we all want to see when the quiz winner wins the big prize, you know. You want to see some jumping up and down, for everything to be very uncomplicated. The fact is, I was living a very pure life. There was no press involvement, there was no pressure. Life was very pure and it became more complicated.”

Instead of details of her well-known characters and speculation about where the story might go next, Rawlings surely knew that the very broad and mostly adult audience she was speaking to would focus more easily on what her personal success has meant. She might have expected far different questions from a different media outlet, based on the interest of their viewers.

Understand as much as you can before doing any interview or appearing before any audience about the audience itself. Be prepared to understand their perspective and speak to what about their particular interests intersects with your subject.

Leave them wanting more

Of course you want to turn listeners or viewers into readers. You want to give your audience just enough information to fascinate them, but not so much detail that there is no point in reading your book! This will take some work and practice. Learn to speak about your subject in broad terms, adding color or anecdotes to spark more interest. Think of speaking orally about your book as the equivalent of the “book jacket,” with more color and one or two anecdotes added in.

When people hear or see you in person, they also want something that’s NOT in the book. A backstory, a funny or interesting anecdote, something about the way your book came to be is always interesting to a broad audience.   Here’s how Anthony Bourdain described his route from chef to well-known author to Powell’s Books:

“I was getting frustrated, so I mentioned it casually to my mother, and like a good mother she said, ‘Oh, you should send it to The New Yorker. It’s good enough.’ Yeah, right. That’s gonna happen. An unsolicited submission to The New Yorker? Never. I was absolutely floored when they called up a month later and said they were going to run it. They explained to me that the odds are something like one in ten thousand, if not more. They use me as a case study now when they do seminars at colleges. Very shortly after it appeared, a publisher called up and said, “Want to write a book?”

Remember, oral communication is very different than written communication. Most people listening and watching won’t be taking notes. You have to be understood the first time. Be brief, be engaging, and know that no one is more qualified to speak on your book than you are.

Best Briefings: How To Deliver A Briefing Your Boss Will Thank You For

Briefing, noun brief·ing \ˈbrē-fiŋ\: an act or instance of giving precise instructions or essential information.

As usual, Webster’s definition is a useful starting point for helping us focus on the goal here. A briefing should communicate only the essence of what your target audience needs to know. As the briefer, you presumably know quite a bit more. To understand where your knowledge and your audience’s need to know intersect, begin by asking yourself about your purpose. Why does your audience need this information? How will they use it? What do they already know or assume about what they’re going to hear? Briefings are a no-frills form of communication that seems deceptively simple, but one that even senior executives can struggle with. Follow some basic rules to deliver the kind of briefing your boss will thank you for:

EVEN INFORMATIONAL BRIEFINGS HAVE TO BE PERSUASIVE
If your audience is to believe you know what you’re talking about, regardless of your title or position, you’re going to have to persuade them of that in your briefing. Your audience will have to hear and see through your presentation that you’ve selected the right information for them to consider. In other words, the recitation of raw data, no matter how profound or complex or enlightening, isn’t going to make your case for you. Numbers actually don’t speak for themselves (and neither do ideas). You’re there to provide perspective on the information. Even when presenting raw numbers, you’ll need to help your audience make sense of their meaning (are they more than expected, less? What are they comparable to?) Help your audience understand your information, not just hear it.

BRIEFINGS MUST BE BRIEF
Remember your audience, any audience, does not want to know all you know and could possibly say on the subject. That’s true for any executive presentation. Briefings particularly however are a mode of communication that carry the assumption of being short and succinct. Let your audience guide you in the q and a portion (if there is one) into any further detail they require. (Even there, the answers need to be direct and brief, with an option for more explanation in a different venue if need be.)

TEAM BRIEFINGS ARE ABOUT THE TEAM
If you’re preparing for a team briefing, first decide every member’s distinct role in delivering the information. You want the information to highlight both individual contributions and knowledge, as well as display your team strategy and a sense of cohesion. You can accomplish this by looking for places to back each other up with references to what’s come before and what the audience is about to hear presented from others, at the same time avoiding repetition. Make sure your briefing team participates in oral rehearsals and doesn’t just share written information. You want to experience the briefing the way your audience will, orally, so you can make adjustments to benefit them.

REMEMBER THIS IS ORAL COMMUNICATION
If you’re presenting your briefing using PowerPoint or handouts, remember those are visual AIDS, not the whole of the briefing itself. Make sure whatever materials you have are visually powerful and not mere words for your audience to read. Whatever aids you use shouldn’t take center stage or overpower you–the job of the briefer is all important here. Remember too that oral communication demands you be understood the first time. As FDR famously said, “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.”

Aileen Pincus is President and CEO of The Pincus Group, Inc., providing tailored presentation training and media coaching to executives worldwide, with headquarters in Washington, DC.

PowerPoint or No PowerPoint: That is the question

During every coaching session, the question is sure to come up. “Do I have to to use PowerPoint in my presentation?” PowerPoint has become almost synonymous in some circles with the modifier “boring”, but that’s not the fault of the tool. It reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of that tool’s purpose.

Before you toss the tool, ask yourself whether you’ve been using it effectively. Are your slides packed with text? Is the point of each slide difficult to follow? Are the slides chiefly there to help you communicate your points? Are you using your slides both as presentation tools and as handouts for the audience to read and refer to later?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may not be using PowerPoint very effectively.  Remember, if your audience can see and hear you, you need to be communicating differently than if you sent your information in an email, or mailed out printed material. Oral communication demands something different from both the presenter and the presentation. [Read more…]