Donald Trump Targets Audience’s Emotions

(Writer’s note: As part of a fellow Toastmasters’ advanced manual project, I was asked to be one of three panelists discussing Donald Trump’s effectiveness as a speaker and leader. I spoke last. This is essentially what I delivered.)

Well, those were wimpy presentations from my fellow co-presenters!

Madam moderator, fellow Toastmasters, and distinguished guests:

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Credit:
Gage Skidmore)

Is Donald Trump succeeding because he embraces Toastmasters’ guidelines or because he violates them?

The short answer is: Yes.

Let’s look at how he violates Toastmasters rules or culture:

  • He doesn’t listen.
  • He interrupts.
  • He bullies.
  • He thrives on being politically incorrect. He uses terms like “anchor babies” and “illegal immigrants.”
  • No matter how many times he claims he is not, The Donald is crass.
  • He’s bombastic.
  • His speeches are not polished.
  • He has very poor transitions between segments of his speech.
  • He starts his speeches by saying how nice it is to be here.

And how does he embrace Toastmaster rules and culture?

  • He closes his speeches by revisiting his main points.
  • He uses stories—To illustrate his position on trade with China, he tells a story about a business friend who can’t get his manufactured products into China without paying a 35 percent tariff.
  • He uses analogies—To illustrate his view on the U.S. negotiating weaknesses, he compares China negotiating with the U.S. to the New England Patriots playing your high school football team.
  • He has good vocal variety.
  • He uses pauses effectively.
  • He uses gestures effectively.

But mostly, Donald Trump succeeds because he taps into how real people think and talk. Ever watch a TED talk? Most of them are not polished, Toastmaster-like speeches either. But they work because the message touches a piece of our psyche or soul.

More than 332,000 Toastmasters think and breathe in the world. But they make up a small portion of the more than 7 billion people who walk this planet. In fact, fewer than 5 percent of people in the world are Toastmasters or think like Toastmasters.

As Toastmasters, we’re a supportive people. We try not to be politically incorrect. We watch our language.

We’re so freaking polite that we don’t even use the word “criticize.”

The other 95 percent of the world’s population don’t think like that. Most people who are politically connected this early in the game think like Trump. That’s why the talking heads on Fox are so popular with conservatives, and the talking heads on MSNBC are so popular with liberals. They don’t listen to anyone but themselves. They interrupt. They bully. They are just like the majority of opinionated people in the world. But most importantly, their message resonates with their target audience in their language and at their emotional level.

You can be the most polished speaker in the world. But if you can’t connect to your target audience by speaking their language and energizing their emotions, you’ll flop. Trump uses stories, analogies, and other good speaking tools. But most importantly, he has the language and emotional appeal down pat. His message is clear: The current president and all the other presidential candidates are too meek to solve illegal immigration and take on ISIS, al Qaeda, and China. His strong language makes it clear that The Donald is anything but meek. He knows his audience – which, of course, is another Toastmasters teaching.

Will that take Donald Trump to electoral victory in 2016?

I’ve been in politics one way or another my entire adult life. One of the lessons I have learned in 40-plus years is it’s too early to predict what may happen more than a year from now.

All I can say is: I hope not.

Madam moderator.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

CVC’s Tom Pfeifer Certified in Inbound Marketing Methodology

Badge signifying that Tom Pfeifer is Inbound Certified by HubSpot AcademyFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Aug. 3, 2015
Contact: Tom Pfeifer

CVC’s Tom Pfeifer Certified in Inbound Marketing Methodology

SPRINGFIELD, VA – Tom Pfeifer, managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications, has been certified in Inbound Marketing Methodology by HubSpot Academy.

Inbound Marketing recognizes the current buying practices of customers and clients. It is customer-focused and draws in customers, rather than using a hard-sell. It focuses on educating consumers and building brand awareness so you are their choice when they are ready to buy.

“I was drawn to Inbound Marketing because it relies on customer personas, a concept I had independently developed as ideal clients,” Pfeifer said. “Building ideal clients – or customer personas – allows you to anticipate your clients’ wants and needs and build your marketing message around it.”

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Give a Eulogy to Your Public Speaking Fears

The author working his laptop while presenting at a Social Media for Business seminar, wearing a  Jerry Garcia print tie.

The author presenting at a Social Media for Business seminar. And, yes, that is a Jerry Garcia print tie he is wearing. (Photo credit: Nancy-jo Manney.)

The No. 1 fear in the United States is public speaking. No. 2 is death.  As comedian Jerry Seinfeld noted, “This means for an average American, if you have to be at a funeral, you’d rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy.”

We’ve all heard of comedians who died on stage. Which is fine, because then someone else has to deliver the eulogy. But today I’m going to share with you three keys to successful public speaking so you can give a eulogy to your public speaking fears and never again die on stage.

The three keys are:

  • The art of storytelling
  • It’s really NOT about you
  • Practice, practice, practice

But first, let me tell you something about myself. I’m an entrepreneur who believes in dressing the part, so most days I wear a tie. And I’m known for it. I show up at meetings and people ask, “Did you dress up just for us?” Well, yes, in fact, I did. It’s part of my brand.

And I have a brand of tie I like. Most of my ties were designed by Jerry Garcia. Most of you probably know Jerry Garcia as the drug-addicted front man and lead guitarist for the Grateful Dead. Unless you’re a Deadhead, however, you probably don’t know that he started his professional career playing banjo in a jug band and was quite a visual artist as well.

Now, except for a video he shot with mandolinist David Grisman, Garcia probably hadn’t worn a tie since his childhood school days. But he designed and sold ties so old hippies who sold out to the business world like me could play the part and still wear a bit of the revolution.

Did you notice? I just told you a story about my tie. Yeah, it had a point about me being an undercover revolutionary, but it was still a story about my tie. What are you wearing that you could weave into a story? Earrings given to you by your mother or child at the reunion? A shirt you bought at an out-of-town convention because when you got there, you discovered you had forgotten to pack dress shirts? A spring jacket you pulled out of the closet three times last month only to discover winter had not yet passed? The point is, you can weave a story about just about anything.

And why stories? For two reasons.

One, people relate to stories much more than they do numbers or a recitation of facts. We’re humans. We’ve been telling stories around the fire since we could first utter words. We relate to the storyteller and are much more likely to remember what the speaker said and to comprehend it as well. But here’s the kicker for you as someone trying to eulogize their fears: Stories are easy to remember for the speaker too.

When I first started on the road to public speaking, I tried to memorize my speeches. I failed completely. My brain would freeze on stage. I was dying up there. My friend and mentor Paul White mentioned one day that he, too, tried memorization and it didn’t work for him either. So then he tried just telling stories, and he could do that. So I tried telling stories too. And it worked.

Sheryl Roush taught me the second point I want to relate to you today. Sheryl is an international speaker who gives public speaking workshops around the world. I’ve attended two so far and look forward to attending my third. At the end of her workshops, Sheryl flits around the room asking for golden nuggets, the one thing you took away from the workshop that you are going to implement in your public speaking.

At the last workshop I attended, my golden nugget takeaway was: It’s not about you, the speaker. It’s about the audience.

That is powerful. So powerful that I repeat it to myself before I get up to speak. It’s about you, not me. The spotlight is on you. Not me. You’re here to learn something. Or to be entertained. And I can give that to you. I want to give that to you. Because I’m a giver. And nothing makes me feel better than to give to people.

As humans, we’re wired that way, to give. It’s how we’ve developed and survived. Without cooperation, without caring for our children and our elderly, without making sure that all made it through the winter, we would have died out as a species long ago. Scientists have found centers in the brain that are stimulated when we give. It literally makes us feel good to help others. So if you put yourself in the mindset – without getting haughty about it – that you’re up there to give to your audience, the butterflies might not go away, but they will fly in formation.

And how do butterflies fly in formation to Carnegie Hall? Practice. Practice. Practice.

And for practicing opportunities, I know of no better organization than Toastmasters. For 15 years I worked on Capitol Hill and wrote speeches for politicians, but I did not give them myself because I was terrified of speaking in front of audiences. Then I joined Toastmasters. Now I grab every speaking opportunity I can. Toastmasters offers a nurturing atmosphere to practice the craft of public speaking. You receive noncritical feedback from your fellow speakers on what you have done well and ways you can improve. I suggest joining a club that meets at least twice a month. My home club meets every week. That gives me ample opportunities to practice, practice, practice.

I needed it. As I mentioned before, my brain froze during the first few speeches I gave. I was dying on stage. But I received wonderful feedback and support and found a way to make it work for me.

And it’s relatively inexpensive. Dues are $36 every six months, although some clubs tack on a few extra dollars for club dues. Still, in most cases, for less than $100 a year, you can get some of the best public speaking training available.

And that’s how to give a eulogy to your public speaking fears. Tell stories. Give to your audience. And practice, practice, practice. See you at the funeral.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

What Can I Expect from an Editor?

Closeup of copy with hovering red pencil and

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / bradcalkins

Editors come in two flavors: a content editor who – surprise, surprise – edits for content and a copy editor who edits for grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

If you’re hiring an editor for a full-length book, you may want to hire two separate editors. If your editing needs are less than a full-length book, you can hire a 2-in-1 editor, one who can provide both content and copy editing.

Either way, here’s what to expect from content and copy editors.

A 2-in-1 editor will first edit for content and second for copy. Likewise, if you are hiring the editors separately, first your content editor will review your work, followed by the copy editor.

Content editors find and fill the holes in your writing. As a content editor reads, he asks: Does the piece grab the reader? Do the ideas flow in logical sequence? Are they comprehensive and comprehensible? Is there a beginning, middle, and end in a storytelling narrative? Does it answer the “who, what, when, where, and why” questions in a news release or business letter? Is it written in inverted pyramid style for a media release or news story? Will the target audience understand it or does it contain language that needs to be explained? Is it funny – intentionally? In fiction, do the characters maintain a consistent point of view and act within their characterization?

A thorough content edit may take three, four, five, or more edits to ready a piece for publication, depending on the length of the piece and the skill of the writer.

Content editing is followed by copy editing. A copy editor reads the copy line by line in search of grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors, ensuring the correct “there,” “their,” or “they’re” is used, that “it’s” is used in place of “it is” and not the possessive “its,” that the semicolon is not misused, and that the Oxford comma is used or not used consistently. A copy editor may also note content inconsistencies, but that is not his primary objective.

Once an editor is satisfied that the piece has reached perfection, a good editor will print it and read it out loud. Humans first communicated through the spoken word and good writing must stand up to an oral reading. Editors catch more mistakes when speaking it aloud and studies have shown that more mistakes are caught when reading a printed page as opposed to an electronic page. Good editing cannot be a completely green process.

But it is always a two-step process, a process that ensures your copy is comprehensible and grammatically correct.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

If— By Rudyard Kipling

Since I was a teenager, I have carried a copy of this poem in my wallet. I pull it out to share with you today.

If—Kipling in Vermont

By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

3 Elements to Writing an Attention-Grabbing Press Release

Photo of a pyramid that has been flipped to be inverted.

© Can Stock Photo Inc./ANZAV

According to one public relations blogger, the three largest press release distribution companies issue a combined 1,759 press releases every day. But a 2014 study found that journalists spend less than a minute perusing each one.

To break through the clutter, you must write a compelling press release that grabs an editor’s attention. Press releases have been eulogized by many, but they’re not dead. On the contrary, they remain an essential tool to anyone who wishes to get the media’s attention. Even in today’s climate of blogs, online releases, Facebook, and Twitter marketing, the press release maintains its relevance.

Three elements are essential to writing a compelling press release that grabs the attention of reporters and editors: the inverted pyramid, the lead block, and the headline.

Press releases are written in the inverted pyramid style

Speeches, columns, feature stories and most other forms of writing have a beginning, a body, and a conclusion. A press release, however, is written in the inverted pyramid style. Because of that, the lead paragraph(s) and a strong headline are crucial to grabbing an editor’s attention. In the inverted pyramid style, we begin with the conclusion. There are no surprise endings in a press release. You must put as many of the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and/or How elements in the first paragraph. Remember, you only have a few seconds to grab the reporter’s or editor’s attention. If he or she needs to wade through the press release to find the pertinent information, you’ve lost them. The most important information leads your press release, followed by the next most important information, followed by the next most important information, and continues until you end with the least important information. Hence, the inverted pyramid.

The lead paragraphs must give the most pertinent information

Aside from the headline, your first paragraph or two are the most important element in a press release. In PR parlance, it’s called the lead. Remember, you must put as many of the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and/or How elements in the lead. Let’s consider this lead I wrote for a food truck rodeo sponsored by Alexandria, Virginia’s West End Business Association. It’s a two-paragraph lead:

“ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA – Everything from Maine lobster to fresh pizza will be offered at this year’s West End Business Association’s 2nd Annual Food Truck Rodeo as the number of food trucks increases to 10 from the seven offering grand grub last year. In addition, an expanded general store of four mobile merchandise outlets will provide the optimal shopping experience – from plus-size women’s fashions to skateboards.

“Presented by WEBA and the DMV Food Truck Association, the event will take place from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, June 5, at Southern Towers Apartments, 4901 Seminary Road, Alexandria. Entry to the event is free. Up to 5,000 buckaroos and cow belles are expected this year.”

  •  Who: You have the food trucks, the merchandise trucks, WEBA, and the DMV Food Truck Association.
  • What: 2nd Annual Food Truck Rodeo
  • When: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday, June 5
  • Where: Southern Towers Apartments, 4901 Seminary Road, Alexandria
  • Why and/or How: Not specifically spelled out in the lead, but good grub is why people should attend.

Under that I have a quote from the president of the organization that adds more information to the 5 W’s, followed by information on the specific food trucks. All important information, but not critical to capturing the editor’s attention.

Write a compelling and editor-grabbing headline

The headline is your first chance to grab a reporter or editor. If you’re emailing the press release, it’s in the subject line. If you’re faxing it, it’s bolder and larger to stand out. If you’re posting a link to it from your web site, it needs to cause someone to want to click the link.

A headline should not exceed 15 words. If you need to add information, a drop head – a smaller headline under the main headline – is acceptable. Here’s the headline and drop head I wrote for the food truck rodeo.

10 Food Trucks to Rustle Up Some Great Grub at 2nd Annual Food Truck Rodeo
4 merchandise trucks includes a mobile skateboard boutique

What makes that a compelling headline – aside from the fact that I wrote it? Several ingredients make it so. One, it contains numbers. Humans are attracted to numbers. 10 food trucks, 4 merchandise trucks. Second, it uses verbiage that reflects a rodeo atmosphere. Rustle Up Some Great Grub. It has an action verb. Rustle Up. It has a bit of alliteration. Great Grub. The drop head includes a surprise entry – a mobile skateboard boutique. But mostly it contains Who, What, and Why – three of the five essential questions you need to answer in the lead. (One could argue that 2nd Annual Food Truck Rodeo is What, Where, and When as written. But it would be presumptuous of me to point that out.) (See the full press release: 052115_WEBA_Food_Trucks_Announced.)

So there you have it: The three most essential elements of an attention-grabbing press release:

  • Inverted pyramid style that has the most important information at top and continues in a hierarchy of importance until it ends with the least important.
  • A lead paragraph or block that not only provides the Who, What When, Where and Why and/or How – but makes it sing. And,
  • A strong headline that quickly and accurately summarizes your release in 15 words or fewer and contains an action verb.

Practice those three elements and you, too, can grab the attention of reporters and editors.

Want to know more? Download your FREE copy of "14 Press Release Best Practices."

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

Don’t Parrot. Interpret.

Mother breastfeeding child.Here’s how NBC Washington identified one new Virginia law that takes effect today:

“Breastfeeding: Women can breastfeed anywhere the mother is lawfully present.”

Anywhere the mother is legally present? Where is a mother illegally present, other than in jail?

So I checked the Washington Post story:

“And a new Virginia measure gives mothers the right to breast-feed in public places, expanding current law that allows breast-feeding on state property.”

Ah. Much clearer.

A journalist’s job is to interpret and put in plain English laws, regulations, and other government speak. Score one fail for NBC Washington and one win for the Washington Post.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at


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