Got to love election season.
The TV ads. The bumper stickers. The rallys.
And of course, the televised debates.
As a communication professional (presentation skills being my bread and butter) you can imagine my extra interest in the debates. The Oregonian headline following the first debate read “Debate was all about delivery.” Quite validating for our profession. Delivery matters.
And in the first debate, Obama flopped in delivery.
All news media outlets were calling it weak and disengaged- a stark contrast to his dynamic inspirational style of four years ago. Even Obama knew it was bad. At a fundraiser dinner over the weekend, Obama poked fun at himself, “As some of you may have noticed, I had a lot more energy in our second debate. I felt really well-rested after the nice, long nap I had in the first debate.”
What was so bad the first time around?
Maybe you noticed the following:
- Not looking his opponent in the eye (seeming timid and weak)
- Breaking eye contact from the moderator and television camera (seeming less focused and confident)
- Fairly monotone voice (seeming devoid of passion and conviction)
After the polls, Obama knew he had to change his delivery.
And boy, did he!
The President in the next two debates looked like a completely different man. He came off as more passionate, aggressive, and confident.
What can we learn from this?
- Strong eye contact matters. It’s a hard discipline that needs to be practiced. Most of us scan the crowd, but we will look much more confident and focused if we have longer eye contact with individuals in our audience. Practice, practice, practice.
- We can hear passion. Be mindful of your vocal inflections, pace, and having good pauses. If your audience can’t hear your passion about the ideas you’re communicating, they won’t feel passionate about them either.
Should we unpack the Vice Presidential Debates? Some good fodder for facial animation and gestures, don’t you think?
Nah, we’ll leave that for another time!