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‘Her style is simple, direct and competent': Pro speakers evaluate Hillary Clinton’s historic speech

History: Hillary Clinton’s full speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president. More coverage at latimes.com/trailguide or read The Times’ annotations of her speech at latimes.com/clintontranscript

Though Hillary Clinton has been on the Democratic National Convention stage before, this is her first time as the party nominee. How did she do?  

As we did after Donald Trump spoke, we again asked Toastmasters, a 332,000-member global organization focused on helping people become effective communicators and leaders. 

We invited its 2015 public speaking world champion and international president to offer snap evaluations similar to those done in two minutes at Toastmasters meetings, focusing not on the content or the politics but on the presentation and performance.

Here’s what they had to say, in their own words, edited for brevity: 

Jim Kokocki of New Brunswick, Canada, has been a Toastmaster for nearly 30 years and holds the title Distinguished Toastmaster.
Jim Kokocki of New Brunswick, Canada, has been a Toastmaster for nearly 30 years and holds the title Distinguished Toastmaster. (Toastmasters)

Toastmasters International President Jim Kokocki

Hillary Clinton’s strength is her strong content and ideas, which she communicates very well. The quality of her ideas and her experience are strengths, which she illustrated well in her speech.

Her style is simple, direct and competent. Her voice is strong, her gestures are authoritative and she makes solid eye contact with her audience.

She started very well by acknowledging the audience response and letting the audience enjoy their initial moments with her. She did an excellent job of meeting the audience’s energy and enthusiasm.

As she began, she quickly delved into personal areas such as her pride in her daughter and challenges that tested her and her husband. Later on, she continued by speaking of her grandfather’s career working at a mill, her mother’s personal story and her experiences in New Bedford, Mass., and with Anastasia Samosa, Ryan Moore and Lauren Manning. These were good selections of personal stories that show a personal side to the audience. Audiences enjoy stories as they are memorable and usually relatable.

She used some very strong structure in the speech contrasting and characterizing her opponent’s comments of “I alone can fix it,” versus her “we’ll fix it together,” and “none of us can fix it alone.” In this section of the speech, she appealed to segments of her listeners by referencing teachers, doctors, police, entrepreneurs and mothers.

It’s almost unfair that President Obama set the bar with style and humor. However, Clinton showed some self-deprecating humor when she said her opponent offers “zero solutions” and she “loves talking about her plans” with a big smile. This plays well to her strength and the perception of being detail-oriented and strong on policy.

A key message she landed was her statement that “if fighting for child care is playing the ‘woman card,’ then deal me in.” This was well paced and delivered, and she allowed time for the audience to absorb the message.

At times, the quantity and depth of ideas were almost overwhelming. However, Clinton displayed her strengths well, showing strong content and her more than competent style and technique.


Mohammed Qahtani, a security engineer from Saudi Arabia, won the Toastmasters international speech contest in 2015.
Mohammed Qahtani, a security engineer from Saudi Arabia, won the Toastmasters international speech contest in 2015. (Toastmasters)

Mohammed Qahtani, 2015 Toastmasters speaking world champion

When Hillary Clinton took the stage, she knew she had to bring power and strength. As the first woman to be nominated for president, she had to project the image of a strong woman — and I believe she did that well.

It was evident in the strong and sometimes high tone of voice during her speech.

She used the word “together” often in the beginning of her speech, and I think that was her way of implanting it in the audience’s minds. What also made her speech effective was the use of stories; she shifted from a lecturing style of speech into storytelling, which the audience appeared to love hearing. She also admitted knowing what people think about her, which created a strong connection with her audience. It seemed to be her way of saying, “I know what is going on in your minds.”

The speech throughout was very uplifting and motivational: I loved “Our founders fought a revolution and wrote a Constitution so America would never be a nation where one person had all the power,” and also when she said more than once “no one gets through life alone.”

However, she could improve in several areas, starting with smiling more. The speech was uplifting, but she rarely smiled, and she should invite the audience in with her smile.

Also, the structure of the speech in the middle was a bit confusing. I got a bit lost on the outline of her speech. I felt she jumped back and forth between points. She raised her voice effectively during important points, but there were times she raised her voice too much that it was almost screaming.

Lastly, it is important to pause long enough, especially when the audience is clapping. At several times, she talked through the clapping and at others she tried to stop the clapping by talking quickly. She should’ve taken her time and waited for the clapping to die down.

michelle.maltais@latimes.com

Chat me up on Twitter: @mmaltaisLA 

Too much 'my,' not enough 'we': Pro speakers grade Donald Trump's oratory skills in GOP convention speech

'We can all rise together,' Hillary Clinton proclaims in accepting her historic nomination

Transcript: Hillary Clinton's Democratic National Convention speech, annotated


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