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Wailing and Gnashing on the Campaign Trail – The Passion Gap

August 22, 2015

Professional 3 3836The term Passion Gap* is being used in a new way in the media this week – to draw a contrast between the speaking styles of the fiery Donald Trump and the low-key Jeb Bush. Ever since Trump referred to Bush as “low energy” the tag has stuck and the contrast has been more noticeable to viewers and potential voters.

Although speaking style doesn’t always indicate who will win, I’ve said many times running for the presidency is more about presentation, perceptions and persuasion than policy.  People will vote for the person they perceive to be a better leader –regardless of reality.  On stage at rallies that perception is impacted by the candidate’s ability to be dynamic.  Being dynamic ties back into how one uses the three little building blocks of communication – non-verbal, vocal and verbal signals.

At this point, Trump is wowing audiences with his ability to get “big” with his animated body language and sweeping gestures, plus the level of authority and emotion in his voice, and his plain, direct wording.   Bush is not.  And Bush’s audiences are smaller which gives the appearance of nothing much happening.

If you’re watching news coverage of the campaign, notice how much Bush has taken heed of Trump’s name calling and has started to “bring it” by getting “bigger,” with his body language and more expressive and emphatic with his voice and words.

There’s a great lesson here in how to handle yourself in front of an audience.

*Passion Gap was originally used to define the practice of people in Cape Flats, Cape Town South Africa who deliberately remove their top front teeth as a show of fashion or status.

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