Listen to the audio version of this post here.

 

It’s All About the Energy.

You’ve heard the punditry, I’m sure. Surprise! The president of the United States is an older guy, and sometimes he wanders off topic or mixes up a few facts.

This is not a news flash, is it?  Still, that report from the Justice Department’s Special Counsel is getting a lot of attention, and it puts Joe Biden in a pickle, along with the Democrats who’d like to see him re-elected.

The funny thing is, Biden’s all-but-certain opponent is not much younger. And Donald Trump is at least as likely as Biden to misstate facts, confuse names, places, and dates, and say things that just don’t add up.

And yet, Trump gets a pass from his voters and from the media, in a way that Biden just doesn’t.

What gives? And how can our businesses benefit from understanding it?

Might be that Trump just has more enthusiastic followers, people who are so enamored of him that no amount of fact-fumbling or name-mangling dissuades them from their conviction that he’s their guy. He gets the benefit of their adoration, no matter what comes out of his mouth.

Biden? Democrats settled on him as their candidate last election cycle, but many had supported someone else. They weren’t excited about Biden even as they went to the polls in 2020; they just don’t have the fervor of Trump’s base.

And there’s a theory that the mass media need to balance their negative coverage of the candidates. Biden’s age and absence of eloquence are the main things to criticize so they harp on those issues while spreading their critiques of Trump over indictments, impeachments, and that insurrection.

There’s probably something to both ideas. I think there’s something else going on, though. And it has implications for the rest of us, beyond the presidential horse race.

There’s a big energy differential here.

As I often tell my clients, when it comes to connecting with an audience, it’s all about the energy. Whether we’re speaking in a conference room, on a Zoom call, or on a stage, people pick up on our energy … or our lack of it. And they respond accordingly.

Call it charisma, magnetism, power. Whatever we name it, it depends on the vibe people get from us, the energy we convey.

Donald Trump, for all his faults, still comes across as strong, vibrant, even aggressive.

As leadership expert Carol Kinsey Goman told the New York Times, Trump “makes at least as many mistakes as Joe Biden, but because he does it with this bravado, it doesn’t seem like senility. It seems like passion.” With Biden, on the other hand, “it looks like weakness.”

At any age, it’s better to seem passionate than weak, right?

So how can we make that happen in our own business communication? If you and I have been connected for a while, you might remember my suggestions from Trump’s first presidential campaign.

It boiled down to this. Trump creates high attentional engagement with his audience using conversational language. By talking plain (and occasionally even vulgar) English, he establishes a bond with his listeners.

So, when people are listening to you, skip the statistics, jargon, and high-fallutin’ language. You’ll make a better connection by keeping it simple.

You’ll also notice that Trump can be as boring as any other politician when he’s reading the teleprompter; people sometimes vote with their feet and leave his rallies as he rattles off the same old scripted complaints about the last election.

They sit up and take notice when he strays from the script and says something outrageous. Maybe it’s the outrage that jazzes them up? Or maybe it’s just that audiences are more attracted to speech that sounds natural and authentic than to whatever a speechwriter came up with.

We can’t afford to just pop off when we’re talking to clients, customers, or colleagues. Some things really are better left unsaid. We generally win, though, when we go for the conversation instead of scripted oration.

Perception. It’s not reality, but …

A Republican political strategist promoted the notion that perception is reality, back when he was also promoting George H. W. Bush for president. People in politics have been quoting Lee Atwater ever since then.

I don’t agree. I say perception is often far different from reality, and we’re wise to remember that and keep an eye on what’s true.

That said, people do often behave as if what they see and hear is in fact what’s real. Which means what they see and hear of us is important.

Trump’s team gets that, maybe because of his show business experience. From the time he left the White House, they’ve crafted the perception of him as a leader. He’s never “the former president,” for example. He’s “the 45th president.” Why acknowledge that the voters booted him out in 2020?

The Trump people created an image that looks very much like the presidential seal and affixed it to Trump’s correspondence. And they refer to the plane that ferries him around the country as “Trump Force One.”

Could be silly make-believe, coddling a guy who just can’t get over it. Or maybe it’s brilliant image-making, creating the impression than Trump is … or should be … still in power.

What perceptions are you creating?

Think about the way you show up in a meeting; how you enter a room, your position at the table, even how you dress. What does your office say about you? When you send an email, or leave a voicemail are you crisp, clear, and direct or do you leave the recipient scratching their head wondering what you meant?

And above all, is your energy evident?

People are forming impressions of us all the time, often at the non-conscious level. They’re developing perceptions. And they’re liable to act on them, whether or not they have anything to do with reality.

You can use your body to project energy, even to create energy, and you can change the way people see you, hear you, and think about you.