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Trump’s Town Hall Performance – Give Him a Grade

Trump’s Town Hall Performance – Give Him a Grade

    I just watched a video of Matt Lauer interviewing Donald Trump in front of a live audience in New Hampshire. The audience had some questions too. If you have been enjoying my Master Persuader series about Trump, you … have … to … see … this.

    I remind you that I don’t know who would do the best job as president. I am not that smart. I am only interested in Trump’s persuasion techniques. I hope you can learn something from this.

    Let me call out some of points of interest for readers of this blog.

    Negotiating Positions: Pay attention to Matt Lauer’s first question about whether Trump is taking extreme positions for negotiating purposes, as Trump says he does in his book. (One example of an extreme position that might be a negotiating stance is deporting 11 million people.) See what Trump says.

    Linguistic Judo: My favorite part was near the end, when a young man challenged Trump for not having enough details in his plans. Trump agreed he didn’t have details and explained to the young apprentice how the real world works. You could almost hear the kid’s head snap into pro-Trump mode. It was masterful persuasion down to the final smile and nod. The kid had accused Trump of being an empty suit and within 15 seconds Trump had redefined the situation as an experienced business person explaining something to a kid. That isn’t impressive until you think about how many ways that could have gone wrong.

    Expedite: Listen for the word “expedite” when Trump defends his plan to deport 11 million people. Can you think of a better way to expedite than the temporary embassy approach?

    Filter Fence: When Trump discusses Syrian refugees, he suggests building a safe zone in what was Syria. You might call that safe zone a squalid refugee camp of the future. But if your president happens to be a real estate developer too, I would expect to see a new city that is fabulous(ish), located inside some sort of filter fence.

    Energy Focus: When Trump doesn’t like a particular question, watch how much energy he brings to the distraction. His distraction is so high-energy and interesting that you almost forgive him for ignoring the question. Most pros avoid tough questions by going with the boring, safe answer. Everyone hates that move and it taints our impression of the weasel that is avoiding the question. Trump avoids questions too, but he immediately takes you somewhere interesting, with high energy. You might forget the question, or you might remember but still appreciate the ride. Emotionally, you enjoy it, even if your rational brain is protesting.

    Systems Versus Goals: Does Trump emphasize goals or systems? (That question only makes sense if you read my book on the topic.) Hint: “Great” is not a goal.

    Niceness: Watch Trump improve his likability. He talks about love, protecting women, loving Hispanics, and being a nice guy. He didn’t close the sale, but he made it clear he plans to do just that because it is his main weakness in the polls. He has the sense of humor and the personal history to persuade us over time. He’ll just keep tapping the likability button until you forget why you didn’t like him last week.


    I predict a sharp increase in Trump’s likability within the next month. This prediction is based on the Master Persuader Hypothesis and Trump’s direct statement that he plans to improve his numbers on likability.

    I say Trump has the tools of persuasion to get it done. If I am right, pundits will express surprise when his likability spikes up.

    Expect to see a “Save the cat” moment within the next month. Trump is likely to spot an organic opportunity for unexpected kindness and jump on it. And when the press cries “fake” you can expect stories from Trump’s friends and family saying he does that kind of awesome thing all the time, but never talks about it. 

    Most pundits still believe that the more we see of Trump, the less we will like him. I predict the opposite, based on his skills as a persuader.

    On the same topic, I recommend Brendon Marotta’s clever blog post that compares the likability of Trump and a few other candidates based on screenplay standards. I wish I had written it. Well done. 

    And Scott Alexander explains what the polls say (or don’t) about Trump’s support among minority groups. Fascinating.

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