The Master Persuader

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Donald Trump addresses his supporters in Hershey, Pennsylvania - 4/11/16

DISCLAIMER: This is a technical analysis, we do not support or endorse any political candidate

Us salespeople use persuasion techniques everyday in our business interactions - with varying degrees of success.

Donald Trump is a master of persuasive speech and this article shares some observations on why he is so persuasive so you may understand an otherwise baffling phenomenon.

If you’ve been following previous posts you’ll know that we use a graphical display to get a one page view of sales conversations. To date, we have not tested a salesperson who employed than five persuasive elements in a single sales conversation.

Donald Trump, by comparison is off the charts for use of persuasion elements, and we had to invent a range of new symbols just to show what he is doing with seventy separate persuasive elements in a single speech.

Without making any commentary or assessment of his political skill or suitability for the presidential role, we have analysed a 48-minute speech delivered in Hershey Pennsylvania on the 4th November 2016 solely to understand and expose his technique.

You can see and listen to the full speech here, our analysis graph starts at the 2:07 minute mark.

First let's look at Donald's conversation chart and then the symbols will be explained.

Conversation Analysis of Donald Trump's Campaign Speech.
(Hershey Pennsylvania, 4th Nov 2016)

The persuasion techniques highlighted by the colour symbols in the conversation graph are:

Social Proof - Others are doing it so you should too.  Trump uses social proof seven times in this speech. "...there are 7000 people outside that can't get in "

Authority - This <authority> believes in me, so you should too. Used five times in the speech. ".. I'm honoured to receive the endorsement of more than 200 admirals and generals"

Story - Stories are used to wrap a message in an emotional container and deliver it unrecognised to the emotional brain. Trump tells five short stories and brings onto the stage the mother of a Trump campaigner that died (in a road accident, I believe). The Mother, spends six minutes delivering a story whose only purpose is to show Trump is person who cares about the common people.

Liking - Subtly mixed with the persuasive technique of reciprocity, Trump states that " a matter of fact, I like you much more than you like me"
Scarcity - Buy now because this is your only chance! Trump uses scarcity at the end of his speech. " more chance like this ..this is your last chance "

Flattery - Needs no explanation. Used three times. " ...we all have great ideas "

In-Group - we are powerfully inclined to support and agree with those in our group. Trump uses 'in group" persuasion on seven occasions. "Maybe because I went to school in Pennsylvania"

Language Techniques

Trumps use of language is unusual and persuasive. There is frequent repetition with hypnotic pacing and rhythm. 

Word Play - In this category I include metaphoric language and alliteration. Good or positive messages are repeated with verbs and soft consonants such as "...real change, repealing and replacing Obama Care". Bad or negative points are made with hard consonants "Hillary's pay for play corruption ..."  or "bad instincts, bad judgement"  repeated three times.

Metaphors - More than thirty examples in the speech. When Trump calls for the audience to "drain the swamp"  (The Washington political elite), he foreshadows the metaphor by saying he thought it was a bit hokey (cliche') then gives himself permission to use the cliche.

Hyperbole - depending on your definition, there are at least five examples of extreme hyperbole, "...killing innocent Americans, threatening schools and destroying communities"

Contrast - Old way vs. new way, good vs. bad. "Hillary Clinton is the failed politician of yesterday" - then Trump contrasts with a future story of tomorrow.

Humour - particularly in-group humour as a means to get people to accept you. "just a little rumour regarding the FBI, you may have heard?”

Repetition -  A hallmark of Trump's speaking style - measured, rhythmic, hypnotic repetition. The instances are almost too numerous to count. "we win, we win, we win" repeated over and over

Number Play - Hijacking our numerical prediction engine with carefully selected numbers. "not 700 -  not 7000 - but 70,000 American factories closed down

You can see a table describing the 70 persuasion elements and the emotions triggered by each element here. >>>

The entire speech appeals to emotion, there is almost no attempt to persuade through logical argument. As part of the analysis we also list the emotions engendered by each persuasion element. The count is as follows and you can also see them listed in this full table

Emotions Engendered (by frequency) in the Pennsylvania Speech

Pride - 10 times, Anger - 9, Belonging - 7, Fear - 6, Disgust - 2, Sadness/Loss - 1, Urgency - 1

Existential emotions such as fear and anger are the most persuasive.

As you can see from this analysis, Donald Trump is a master at persuading others to take action and sales people can learn from him. However, like a black belt in martial arts it is the responsibility of the master to use these weapons judiciously and ethically.


The author does not support or endorse any political candidate. The purpose of this blog is to make visible psychological persuasion techniques utilised by one of the candidates. Like any tool these techniques can be used for good or evil, depending on your perspective.