Melania Trump vs Michelle Obama – Public Speaking Clinic

The big news story from today is that Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican Convention partly plagiarized Michelle Obama’s address from 2008.

Looking at the speeches side-by-side gives us an interesting look at the women’s different speaking styles.

And we can see who is the better, more charismatic speaker: Michelle Obama wins hands down.

Body Movement

First, Michelle Obama is way more relaxed and moves much more smoothly as she speaks. She uses hand gestures for emphasis very effectively.

In the first 10 seconds in the clip above: her hands move to emphasize “values” and she lifts up her right hand when she stresses “you work hard for what you want in life”. Melania uses no hand gestures at all, indicating nervousness, and it cuts down on her impact tremendously.

Michelle’s neck is relaxed, which is why her head can move naturally in line with her body and hands. She looks to her right and left more times during her speech than Melania (in this clip). She turns her head to look at all sections of the crowd–left, right and center.

Melania is much more rigid. She sticks to just one teleprompter for longer periods, either left or right. She switches sides much more rarely than Michelle.

Melania’s overall rigidness and stiffness makes her less compelling and less charismatic.

Facial Expressions

Michelle’s face is relaxed and calm throughout her remarks. In the video above, she gives a genuine smile at time 0:35-36, and smaller smiles at other times in the clip.

Michelle also raises her eyebrows, opens and narrows her eyes, and utilizes a wider range of facial expressions to communicate her points.

By contrast, Melania’s face is frozen for most of the clip (perhaps because of cosmetic surgery). She does smile genuinely, briefly, as the crowd cheers at 1:27. But that is the extent of her facial range.

Vocal Range

The last major difference is in vocal range.

Michelle hits lots of high and low notes, to great effect. Notice in the first 12 seconds as she says “you work hard for what you want in life” and “your word is your bond, that you do what you say you’re gonna do.”

Meanwhile, Melania is much more monotone. She does emphasize certain words, but the contrast is not as great, nor is it as frequent.

Michelle also outperforms Melania in vocal pacing.

This means she changes up the speed of her words effectively. She alternates between speaking quickly and slowly. She slows down at specific moments to draw more attention, and to contrast against the surrounding speech, for example in the segment 0:25-0:35.

The two women have the same height (5’11”) and similar build. This is a classic example of two people with similar physical attributes having a drastically different impact on an audience, showing the power of communication skills.

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