Saturday Q&A: Assessing what comes out of candidates' mouths
Jayne Latz, president of Corporate Speech Solutions in New York City, has more than 25 years of experience as a speech-language pathologist and professional speech trainer. She spoke to the Trib regarding the oratorical skills of the remaining presidential candidates.
Q: Which of the Democrat candidates, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, has the better speaking abilities?
A: Sanders comes off warm and engaging. He does not come off as if he's had a ton of speech training. He really speaks from the heart. Clinton communicates powerfully; she communicates passionately. I think the difference between Sanders and Clinton is that Sanders communicates genuine warmth and Clinton does not. She communicates confidence, sometimes too much confidence, but she does not exude the warmth that Sanders does. And that's what (Sanders supporters) are reacting to — who can't relate to a grandfather? He uses his arms a lot to bring people in, you know, like, “You're all my grandchildren; you're all my family.” We don't have to listen to what he's saying, necessarily, but he's likeable. Clinton, by contrast, has such a strong voice sometimes. She has that power but can't turn on the charm.
Q: So Sanders is the warm granddad and Clinton is the cold, detached grandma?
A: I think that's fair to say.
Q: Do you believe that much of Donald Trump's appeal is not in what he says but how he says it?
A: Three years ago, a company out of Austin, Texas, called Quantified Impressions released a study that found the sound of a speaker's voice matters much more than the message that voice delivers. So yes, it's not what we say but how we say it, and that's the reason Trump has gained such popularity no matter what comes out of his mouth. He comes across as a strong, confident presence, and I think the reason the country is reacting the way it is — voters want a leader and, good or bad, Trump is communicating leadership. When he opens his mouth, he takes control. That's why, time after time, when he makes these gaffes that people can't believe came out of his mouth, his (polling numbers) still rise.
Q: How do Trump's speaking skills compare to his Republican challengers, Ted Cruz and John Kasich?
A: Cruz also has a very strong vocal presence. One of the best deliveries of a spoken message involves the use of strategic pausing. You say what you need to say, you pause so the listener can really process what's being said and then you move on. Cruz has a very strong use of the strategic pause to communicate his message.
(Regarding Kasich), when I was watching the debates, I couldn't get past his hands because they were flailing all over the place. But seeing him (on TV recently), I was impressed with his spoken delivery. He is so confident he is going to be in the White House, and (in delivering) that message he is clear, articulate and (uses) the same strategic pauses as Cruz. If he continues to communicate that way, I think he can actually gain some traction.
Eric Heyl is a Tribune-Review columnist. Reach him at 412-320-7857 or firstname.lastname@example.org.