Hillary Clinton’s savage foreign policy beat-down of Donald Trump was awesomely overpowering. But why? What was it about her brutal dissection that made it the high point of her political campaign after a year of drab?
There are five main reasons that her speech, perhaps the greatest speech of her political career, was so effective. One poll has her opening up a double digit lead over the Orange One.
1.The Speech Delivered. We didn’t see much of Hillary in the week leading up to the speech. She likely spent days with the text, rehearsing it, learning its lines, and learning a different pacing than she normally uses. She was talking about foreign-policy, which is her expertise. The speech was widely announced in advance, building anticipation that it was going to be an Important Address And it delivered. It emphasized Hillary’s vast foreign policy knowledge and experience. The comparison with Donald Trump was unmistakable. Trump’s foreign affairs experience is limited to three honeymoons.
But there are technical reasons why the speech was so effective, and so well received.
2. The Majestic Setting. Hillary was elevated, standing behind a podium, with a phalanx of flags behind her. The podium gave her a sense of personal space, a comfort zone, and power. She looked presidential. The setting looked Presidential. It looked great on TV.
3. Hillary didn’t use that ridiculous “thumb gesture” that Bill always used to make a point. I don’t know what consultant thought it was a good idea, but fire them yesterday. It is unnatural. It doesn’t connote strength. Its not a signal to the audience to applaud. Its annoting. Nobody uses that thumb pinch except when they’re snapping their fingers. It looks like something you do on the way to doing something else.
Hillary didn’t hold the microphone. Not holding a microphone gives her power. It allows her to center herself, physically and mentally. It frees up both hands to gesture. She’s better off with podium mikes or floor mikes. She often grabs mikes roughly and wrongly holds them almost vertically.
As a former stand-up comic, that’s the visual equivalent of gargling with orange juice after brushing your teeth. A microphone should be held lightly in the hands, at a 30 or 45 degree angle.
4. There were no people props holding signs behind her. Nothing says cheesy more than a sea of signs held by people who are distracted from the speech because they’re all wondering, “How long do I have to hold up this stupid sign? Does it have to be held vertical?” If there are people behind the candidate, they should be seen reacting, and applauding, and laughing rather than acting as human billboards.
5. Hillary let the words do the talking, and she mostly stayed out of their way. The speech was well-crafted. Hillary knew where her strong lines were but she didn’t punch anything in an unnatural manner. She didn’t (as Donald would say) shout. She didn’t overemphasize anything. She just talked. Importantly, she used skilled joke writers. Writing as one who’s written hundreds of jokes performed on late night television and whose jokes were used in several presidential speeches, there was a quality difference in the jokes used in this speech over her prior speeches.
As terrific as the speech was, there was one problem: the laughter we heard was almost exclusively female. The response sounded entirely made up of women. I was surprised to see video of so many men in the audience.
Ideally, you want the sound of a mixed crowd. Stand up comics can hear a recording of another comic’s set, and predict with uncanny accuracy the size of the room, the number of people in attendance, and sometimes the day of the week and the time of the performance – based solely on the laughter.
Sorry to be sexist about this, but Hillary needs men in the audience so the sound of the response is more balanced. If it’s just female voices laughing and mocking, it sends a message that women are with Hillary (which they are), but she needs to convince male voters of her abilities as well. That is reinforced by male faces in the crowd, and male laughs on the soundtrack.
The truth is, It’s still effective if the only people you hear laughing are women, but in a different way. It ridicules Trump in a manner that is sure to get under his (thin) skin, to have women mocking and scorning him. It’s a valid message because he is so needy of women’s approval (why else is he always surrounded by eye candy, why does he continually trade in his trophy wives, and why did he buy the Miss Universe Pageant?)
Take a look at the speech, and watch for the things other performers will watch for when they evaluate the speech technique.
Cover photo:Hillary Clinton AIPAC 2016 Waving.jpg https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHillary_Clinton_AIPAC_2016_Waving.jpg By lorie shaull (source) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Hillary Clinton (25594267431).jpg https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHillary_Clinton_(25594267431).jpg By Nathania Johnson (Hillary Clinton) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Hillary Clinton (24007443263).jpg https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHillary_Clinton_(24007443263).jpg By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Hillary Clinton) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
CNN Video via youtube.com youtube.com/watch?v=g_wkSGLVpcE