Appeal to Your Audience on an Emotional Level
The summer is nearing an end it is election season in Canada and the United States. In Canada, our pre-election period will last 11 weeks while, in the US, it will continue for the next fourteen months. As I’ve been watching the US election run-up and, of late, the Republican race for a Presidential nominee, I’ve found myself more and more intrigued by the attention, and controversy, generated by the nomination campaign of billionaire Donald Trump.
Mr. Trump is far ahead of his GOP rivals in the polls, and it doesn’t seem like those numbers are going to change anytime soon. Consistently polling at 23% Mr. Trump has garnered almost double the number of supporters as his closest rival. No matter what Mr. Trump says or does and, in the face of growing opposition from both inside and outside the Republican Party, his numbers remain firm.
What surprises me about this turn of events is that the media seems to be baffled by it. Day after day, we hear predictions that the end is near and how Mr. Trump is going to plummet to earth like Icarus caught in a Florida heatwave. The truth is, it’s not going to happen; and, here’s why.
At Sliding.ca one of the axioms that permeates our teaching is that humans are emotional beings and as such, must be appealed to on an emotional level. Regardless of the number of indisputable that may be presented to an audience; that audience will not willingly adopt the presenter’s point of view until they feel emotionally comfortable with the message being presented.
When Donald Trump speaks he comes across as contemptuous, angry, and frustrated at the state of the United States in the 21st Century. Well, that’s exactly how his audience feels. Mr. Trump’s critics complain that his tone is unrelentingly negative, and that he offers no solutions to the problems he seems to be contemptuous, angry, and frustrated about. For that 23% of Republican voters which support Mr. Trump, the negativity is not a problem, and the solutions don’t matter; what matters is that he mirrors how they feel.
There are many studies that show that, when faced with incontrovertible facts that contradict a person’s core belief system, their core belief system becomes even more rigid and intransigent than before the facts were presented. This is precisely what’s happening with Donald Trump’s supporters. On television last week, I watched a focus group of Trump supporters. One lady said she supported Mr. Trump because he was a pro-life candidate. When the commentator then played a video for the lady showing that, just a couple of years ago, Mr. Trump professed to be a pro-choice supporter her answer was “turn that off, don’t tell me that, I don’t want to hear about it.” Emotional connection trumps facts.
For as long as Donald Trump remains in the running as a Republican Presidential nominee that 23% of voters that support his candidacy will stand by him, come hell or high water, and regardless of any facts that run in the face of their emotional connection to him.
So, what does this have to do with presenting? Well, Donald Trump is a presenter. His success with that 23% of polled Republicans stems from the fact that he speaks to how they feel. The words don’t matter, the facts are irrelevant, and opposition to him is of no consequence. When Mr. Trumps speaks, that 23% has their core belief system honored, and spoken to, and exalted, and they will stand by him no matter what.
The next time you are faced with the formidable task of bringing an audience around to your way of thinking, consider approaching the endeavour from their emotional point of view. Start by discovering how your audience feels and what core beliefs they hold dear. Then, take a look at your presentation and figure out a way to frame and deliver your information in a way that avoids running counter to that world view but also supports the position you represent.
This isn’t always an easy task, but I think you’ll find the reward of having your point of view not only accepted but embraced by your audience well worth the effort.