2 Different Responses, 1 Powerful Speech Structure

Same Structure

The recent structure of gun violence in Orlando has been a terrible tragedy.

And since this happens to be the Presidential election season in the United States, the 2 presumptive Presidential nominees from both big parties in the US are compelled to respond.

A crisis like this amidst an election creates a unique situation – both candidates now have a common platform to ride on voters’ emotional surge and launch their political agendas from.

As expected – 2 different candidates, 2 different opinions, 2 different ideologies.

No. this post is not going to start a debate about political and social inclinations.

It’s going to analyse the speeches these candidates just made, and how we can extract elements for our next speech, pitch or keynote address.


Well, since we are not going to get political here, let’s not look at what they say,
but how they structure their response speeches for maximum effect.

And you’d be surprised – there isn’t much difference.

Hillary Clinton’s Response

Donald Trump’s Response

So, let’s dissect their speeches.
Here’s the structure both candidate used, with the starting timing of each portion included (referenced to the 2 videos above):

1 – Connecting to the Event

Clinton Connecting To Past Event structure
Connecting to the Event – Clinton from 2:04
Trump Connecting to Past Event structure
Connecting to the Event – Trump from 0:50


Clinton started out with the usual yadayadas of politics while Trump started out with his usual rants.

But they made it very clear when they were diving in to talk about the event.

Both appealed to emotions, both offered sympathies and both acknowledged the pain suffered by the living.

With the crisis still hot in the headlines, it’s a surefire way to build instant connection and rapport.

Planning your next speech?
Start out by finding common ground with your audience to build rapport.
Headlines are powerful tools, but if you have deeper connections with your listeners, exploit them.


2 – Painting the Villain

Clinton Painting the Villain structure
Painting the Villain – Clinton from 4:37
Trump Painting the Villain structure
Painting the Villain – Trump from 2:22


This is a crisis and you’ve gotta blame it on something.

It’s a classic element used in both politics and sales.

As you can see – same event, different antagonists.
(Clinton – radicalized individuals / Trump – dysfunctional immigration system)

It’s up to the speaker to craft the monster to suit the pitch.

The more relatable and viscous the villain is painted out to be, the more receptive the audience will be to the solutions that the speaker will have to offer.

Also, waste no time in introducing your antagonists.
Throw it in the ring as early as you can.
Your audience will want know that you are going to help them fight.


3 – Making a Stand

Clinton Making a Stand structure
Making a Stand – Clinton from 7:23
Trump Making a Stand structure
Making a Stand – Trump from 4:50


The strength in your ideals stems from the conviction in your stand.

And it has to come right after introducing your villain/problem.

How are you going to deal with it? What’s your general strategy?
What’s your stand?

In this case, Clinton made her stand clear, before listing out her “three areas that demand attention” in detail.
As for Trump, well, he made his stand clear..ish too, before reiterating his same rhetoric which is all over the news.

We’ll (or they’ll) come to the details later.

But yes, it’s important to make it clear to the audience where you’re bringing them, before you talk about the nitty-grittys.


4 – Empowering the Audience

Clinton Empowerment structure
Empower the Audience – Clinton from 9:20
Trump Empowerment structure
Empowering the Audience – Trump from 8:09


This is special. Cos the empowerment of audience for most speeches comes torrentially towards at the end of the speech.

So why do these two say stuff somewhere in the middle-ish to make the audience feel good and powerful?

That’s because this is the time they are about to….


5 – Justify the Controversial Idea

Clinton Justification structure
Justify the Controversial Idea – Clinton from 10:50
Trump Justification structure
Justify the Controversial Idea – Trump from 9:13


This is the part that’s all over the headlines – Clinton wants greater gun control while Trump wants the big Ban.

Yup. These ideas are their most controversial ones (amongst the flurry of other ideas that both of them have proposed).

Note that in this case, they aren’t proposing stuff that are shockingly new.
They have both talked about these ideas before. And Trump has even mentioned the ban earlier in his speech.

Okay right, no discussion on politics here.
Back to the speech structure.

Note that this justification portion came after Step 4 – Empowering the Audience (or some feel good stuff) to increase the acceptance of their justifications.

The timing/position is crucial too – seeded somewhere a third or just before halfway into the speech so that the audience is warmed up, rapport is built, villain is crucially established before making a push and justification for the hard-to-swallow policies.

And bolstered with other upcoming stuff to quickly switch the audience’s attention away to fend off any potential challenge.


6 – Offering Secondary Solutions

Clinton Solutions structure
Solutions – Clinton from 14:20
Trump Solutions structure
Solutions – Trump from 10:38

Bonus Stuff by Trump in this Segment – Attacking the Opponent

Trump Attack structure
Trump Attacks


That’s why Trump’s speech took a whopping 10 mins more than Clinton’s.

He may not have the extra 10 minutes bashing his political opponents, but that’s an extra ‘segment’ that Clinton’s speech did not have. (well at least, not obviously)

Still, yes, this is the time where you’d be talking about other palatable strategies to tackle the monster you created.

Which also includes why your strategies are better than those offered by your competitors’.

This might also be the “dryer” part of your presentation, so either keep it succinct, pepper with stories or well, whack your opponents hard.

Because right after this, you’re going to start building up to the grand finale…


7 – Structure Hope/Fear

Clinton Hope structure
Hope – Clinton from 19:30
Trump Fear structure
Fear – Trump from 18:23


This is where the fundamental difference between the 2 speeches lie – the focus of the message.

Clinton’s speech is hinged on hope and possibility while Trump’s is based on fear and reliance.

Politics aside, from a pitching point of view, there is no right or wrong.
Both are powerful emotions to stir if you want your final call to action to be irresistible.

After all, this is an age-old sales tactic – create the fear or greed/hope within your customer if you want your product to sell.

And it works!
Check out the videos from these timings and count how many times the 2 candidates have had their audience cheering for them.

This is the part of your speech where you should be raking in the applause too, and receiving the energy of affirmations.

Get the crowd excited, get the crowd emotional, get the crowd on their feet.

And you’re well poised for the grand finale in your speech…


8 – Uniting with a Common Vision

Clinton Unite with Vision structure
Unite with Vision – Clinton from 24:50
Trump Unite with Vision structure
Unite with Vision – Trump from 32:13


You can say they are doing the Captain America/Tony Stark inspirational thing.

Connecting on a greater vision or belief is always a powerful way to surge your audience’s emotions to the next level.

That’s why both candidates talked about what they envision their future to be.
A future that’s shared with their audience.
A future that’s not just about people and things, but higher ideals like Unity, Spirit, Safe, Great.

And you don’t have to be a politician to be entitled to talk about your vision.

What do you envision your company to be?
What do you envision your product to achieve?
What do you envision to be, that can impact the world?

Use it as a stirring conclusion, and use it to Call to Action!

That’s it!
Well, structure-wise that is.

There are a still a whole lot more in common when you look at these two speeches:

Both are peppered with lots of stories and anecdotes
Both use rhetorical devices lavishly throughout the speech and yet
Both speeches have largely simple clear sentences.

So, the next time you write your speech, plan it with this general structure like how the two candidates worked theirs.

And get those votes (of confidence) for your presentation!

This is why we need a speaking coach that could help us guide to the right direction.