The Demagoguery Dimension

It happens every so often, after I have finished conducting a presentation training session with a number of clients. After the first post-training cocktail has been consumed, one of my student's will meekly put forth this question in hushed, apologetic tones:

"TJ, what do you think of Adolph Hitler as a public speaker?"

At first blush, it is hard to think of Hitler in any terms other than psychopathic mass murderer and the personification of evil. In fact to speak of Hitler under any circumstances other than across-the-board denunciation is seen at best as insensitive and at worst as NAZI sympathy - something most people, me included, don't want to be a part of.

However, I do believe you can take a scholarly assessment of Hitler's rhetorical skills without minimizing his blight on mankind. So I will try (but please no letters that I am "praising Hitler").

To look at Hitler's skill as a public speaker is especially intriguing in that is was seemingly his sole source for his rise to power. Unlike other politicians before or since, Hitler had no other obvious strengths to draw upon.

Traditional power sources for politicians are as follows: wealth, charm, good looks (including height), family connections, academic credentials, elite education, erudition, charm, high military rank, business success, and other world (especially athletic) success.

Hitler had none of the traditional political assets. Not one.

He had one strength only: public speaking.

For anyone interested in analyzing Hitler as a speaker in his prime, I would recommend that you view Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will - this classic film features numerous Hitler speeches made at the 1934 Nuremberg rallies.

As a speaker, Hitler exhibited the following strengths:

  1. Pausing (though not captured in "Triumph," Hitler would build anticipation to his speech by pausing for as long as several minutes before starting an address.
  2. Grand arm and hand movements - Hitler communicated with every fiber in his body.
  3. Full vocal range - Hitler would speak softly, even whisper, and he would shout at full lung capacity.
  4. Tempo change - Hitler would speak slowly, but then build faster and faster until he was racing, almost out of control.
  5. Visual and concrete - Hitler spoke of concrete visual things, the country, the land, the people, and not mere abstractions.
  6. Avoiding the lectern - Often times, Hitler did not even use a lectern. He wanted his audience to have an unobstructed view of him. He wanted to seem courageous and as one who didn't need to hide behind a lectern or notes.
  7. Repetition - Hitler was highly repetitive, he fleshed out his concepts over and over again, never afraid of repeating himself. His audience had a firm understanding of his message when he was through.
  8. Narrow focus - Hitler always focused on a handful of themes in any speech; he didn't do long laundry lists.
  9. Eye contact - In most of his speeches, Hitler looked up to the stars or out at his audience, he did not look down at his notes often times eschewing notes altogether.
  10. Emotional Hitler never communicated with his audiences purely at an intellectual or abstract level; he always communicated at an intensely emotional level.

Again, I AM NOT ENDORSING NAZISM when I say this, but all of the above traits would serve any speaker in the 21st century well.

Of course Hitler spoke in the pre-television era, so his speaking style was crafted for the experience of huge crowds seeing him from great distances. In that situation, his yelling and screaming "worked" in the sense that it created a favorable reaction with his audience. In today's close-up television world, Hitler's extreme style of yelling does not work for TV audiences (think Howard Dean Scream). But Hitler's other strengths as a speaker remain relevant today.

Hitler went to great extremes to appear as though he weren't image conscious. He wore what appeared to be a lowly corporal's uniform throughout his reign of terror, never wearing more than a couple of medals. He was short, pudgy, poorly dressed with a bad haircut and an odd little mustache. Yet, he still went to great lengths to manage certain aspects of his image while speaking. Although he was severely nearsighted, Hitler never wore glasses when speaking in public. He sensed that he would seem less like a leader to people if he had to hide behind glasses.

So is my message that you should imitate and be more like Hitler? NO. NO. NO.

The lesson here is that public speaking, the power to move people to action through the spoken word, was and is still the most potent form of power in the world for good and evil. Those who want to accomplish good things for their country, community, company, service club, or even just their own career need to realize this force and use it accordingly.

 

More Tips from TJ Walker

   

 

Bully Pulpits: Speaking Secrets of World Famous Leaders

The Short Story - Joel Osteen
Great leaders understand how valuable stories are in their presentation. However, a good story doesn't have to be long to be effective.

(More Videos)

SpeakCast Tutorial: Improve Your Communication Skills

Make it Easy on Yourself
Tony Coleman used notes, you should too.

(More Videos)

Publisher: TJ Walker
Managing Editor: Jess Todtfeld
Creative Director : Kris Gentile

Subscribe
Name
Email

Please select how often you would like to receive updates:

Daily Updates
Weekly Updates
 


 


PowerPoint Tips: Slide and Title Masters
IT Management, CT
PowerPoint has its share of features that reduce the time it takes to create and format a presentation, but some of..

St. Patrick's Day: New PowerPoint Template Set From Ppted
Ppted released a new PowerPoint template set -- this one is called St. Patrick's Day. Not only do... [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more!

How do I Create and manage PowerPoint table data?
TechRepublic, KY 
In Microsoft PowerPoint, tables can be a bit troublesome because space is limited. Too much data on one

How NOT To Do A PowerPoint Presentation
One is Presentation Zen, which should be a must-read for all undergraduate (and graduate) students. Here's another, titled "Life After Death By PowerPoint." It hits most of the high (and low) points in...,

FREE PowerPoint Business Slide Backgrounds... COOL....!
This site gives us 100+ innovative powerpoint slide backgrounds for FREE.Just check it out...

How to Add Video Clips to Microsoft PowerPoint | eHow.com
This is a great tutorial from e-How about adding video clips to your PowerPoint presentation:. How to Add Video Clips to Microsoft PowerPoint | eHow.com. On another note, frequently people ask me how...

Let viewers set the pace of your PowerPoint presentations
CNET Blogs, CA
You can convert any PowerPoint presentation into a self-running slide show, or add controls.

Make PowerPoint Text Stand Out
Chances are you have sat through a PowerPoint presentation that was just too wordy. Being the conscientious employee that you are, you start off paying thorough attention, diligently reading along as the speaker presents slide after slide listing everything from the company’s new 572-word mission statement to the interim president’s entire five page letter of introduction. But somewhere along the way, your eyes glaze over and drool begins to pool in the corner of your mouth. And now it’s your turn to create a PowerPoint....

Tips for Better, Faster Computing
PC World Canada, Canada
Have you ever gotten a PowerPoint file that you can't read? I don't want you to miss anything, so pick up.

(More PowerPoint Alerts)

 

 
April 10 & 11, 2008
Media Training Workshop

New York, NY
More Info
Sign Up

 

ISU speaker: Technology out of sci-fi coming soon
By Michele Steinbacher
The way Ray Kurzweil tells it, the stuff of science fiction isn’t far off — a few decades, at most. The inventor and futurist, who headlines Illinois State University’s sesquicentennial finale Thursday, believes biological humans and computer technology are going to merge very soon — say by 2045.

The most useful new gadgets for your car
MSNBC -
Text-to-speech technology has become the latest buzzword in the navigation industry because of its emphasis on safety,

Davide Franco is the New as CEO at Loquendo
TMCnet
By Stefania Viscusi, TMCnet Assistant Editor Speech recognition and text to speech technology provider, Loquendo ,...,

Going high-tech costs school board $900K

Venice Gondolier, FL
The interior upgrades, including improved electronics on the dais where laptops can be plugged in for easier..

Finding Fun Stuff with filetype:
Technology Evangelist, MN
This should bring back a list of every PowerPoint file Google has found on the web. Results like this show up in..

Newspapers will survive by doing what they do best

Holly Connects Integrates LumenVox Ad-Hoc-
News (Pressemitteilung), Germany
Its innovative speech technology empowers channel integrators, developers, and solution providers to...,

SRI International Receives Patent for Voice-Based Search Technology
Market Wire (press release)
The Speech Technology and Research Laboratory's staff of about 25 includes.

Composica Enterprise 3.2 to be launched at Learning Technologies 2008
Training Press Releases (press release), UK
Composica Enterprise offers highly robust PowerPoint.

(More Technology Alerts)

 

One Thing At A Time
Good presenters want the focus to be on their message, not the tools that communicate their message—there is a difference.

 

Announcing the official Call for Ideas for BlogHer '08
Why a "Call for Ideas" and not a "Call for Speakers" or "Call for Proposals" or something like that? Because BlogHers are a generous bunch, and there are plenty of you who like to recommend other

Call for Speakers for Wireless Mobile Expo
2008 Wireless & Mobile Expo and Conference call for speakers is now open. Proposals will be accepted until April 30, 2008. Call for Speakers Opens for 2008 Wireless & Mobile Expo and Conference...

JetBrains Sponsors Developer Day Scotland
The call for speakers is still open, but hurry, it will be closing soon!

(More Alerts)

 

The Speaking Channel Newsletter is provided by Media Training Worldwide
Media Training Worldwide provides more media and presentation training workshops and seminars (54 separate courses) than any other company in the world. Media Training Worldwide also publishes more than 100 presentation training books, DVD's, CDs, and other information products and is the largest presentation/media training publisher in the world. For a product catalog or more information on training services call 800-755-7220 or visit us online.