Cancel the reality show

“I’ll keep you in suspense.”

I never watched Donald Trump’s “reality show,” The Apprentice. But since I haven’t been living under a rock, I do know that its conceit turned on someone getting fired every week. Like all reality shows, it saved the final reveal of the unlucky contestant for the last act, just before the credits rolled.

Hundreds of people, famous and not, paraded through the Trump Trump at the last debate of the reality show—er—electionboardroom in the course of that series. And the one certainty of the proceedings was that the only person completely immune from being fired was Donald J. Trump himself.

If anyone doubted that Trump sees this election as a giant reality show, we got our proof Wednesday night. Asked if he would accept the results of the election win or lose, Trump twice refused to say yes. Secretary Clinton described his response as “horrifying.” Indeed.

The only person who benefits from “keeping us in suspense” is Trump. He apparently wants to trigger a civil war. Someone should explain this to him in terms he can understand: Donald, no one will be able to afford to stay in your fancy hotels or buy your condos or play on your golf courses after the economy collapses.

I used to fear that armed militia would bring down our country. Now I fear all it would take is words.

Reality show vs. reality: Words, used well

In response to Trump’s narcissistic reality show tease, The Washington Post published an article about the concession speech of “the most beautiful loser”—Adlai Stevenson, who lost to Eisenhower in 1952.

“It is traditionally American to fight hard before an election. It is equally traditional to close ranks as soon as the people have spoken,” he said in the brief but poignant speech. Stevenson thanked his supporters before continuing. “That which unites us as American citizens is far greater than that which divides us as political parties. I urge you all to give to Gen. Eisenhower the support he will need to carry out the great task that lie before him. I pledge him mine. We vote as many. But we pray as one.”

“We vote as many. But we pray as one.” I don’t know about you, but reading those sentences brought tears to my eyes.

Stephenson delivered this speech more than 60 years ago, but we don’t have to reach back that far to find civility in a concession speech. Eight years ago, I blogged about John McCain’s remarkably gracious concession. He didn’t demonize his former opponent—that may be difficult to recall, since the loudest voices in his party have spent the last eight years doing little but demonizing Obama.

McCain recognized the historical import of the moment, electing the first African-American president. And he respected the Constitutional compact that has kept our country united through more than 40 hard-fought presidential elections.

One line brought me to tears—serious, entire-box-of-Kleenex tears (I still remember)—and gave me a great deal of respect for the man:

“Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.”

The crowd responded, according to The New York Times‘s transcript: “(Cheers, applause.)”

It’s too far-fetched to expect Adlai Stevenson Trump to take the stage. And he has no respect for McCain (I’ve lost mine too with his recent comments about obstructing the new President Clinton’s nominations for the Supreme Court, but that’s another story).

Perhaps Ivanka can deliver his concession speech. Sell the idea to him as a plot twist for the ages. And then please, my fellow Americans, cancel Trump’s destructive reality show for good.

Holding your audience — how to keep ’em listening

I found an article full of great advice on holding your audience. The headline grabbed my attention immediately, but then—irony of ironies—the copy lost it immediately.

Before I got to the advice the headline promised, I had to wade through nearly 200 words of nonsense, mostly irrelevant data points. Some mentioned twice! I’m going to blame the editor here, for trying to put a fancy hat on an otherwise perfectly serviceable listicle.

It’s a sad, sad thing when Good Writing Goes Bad. So let’s see if I can salvage the meat of the article for you (paraphrasing heavily).

The do’s and don’ts of holding your audience

Don’t use jargon. I beat this drum often, so couldn’t agree more.

Do be authentic. Again, an essential point.

Don’t, um, say “um” or other filler words. Er…enough said.

And she adds some things I haven’t thought about, but which make sense:

Don’t speak in a monotone. Chris Anderson devotes an entire section of his fine book TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking to “Voice and Presence.” If you need help to speak naturally, that’s a great place to start.

Don’t be dismissive of other people or their ideas. Excellent advice for everyone, not just speakers. While it may work in some settings (see: Trump, Donald J.—Primaries), it can backfire badly in others (see: Trump, Donald J.—First Presidential Debate). Unless 100% of your listeners share 100% of your views—and how could you possibly know that?—going negative puts people into a defensive frame of mind. If you want folks to be open to your ideas, you need to find commonalities with them. Don’t put them on the defensive.

Do pay attention to physical and social cues. Make eye contact with your listeners. Offer them opportunities to interact with you—whether you take questions during the presentation or in a Q&A afterward. And if you’re on a panel or even just in a one-on-one conversation, respect other people’s personal space.

I’ll add one Don’t that didn’t make it into the article:

Don’t try to buy credibility by throwing in unnecessary data. Not everything needs a statistic. That’s the biggest key to holding your audience: Get to the point and stay there.