All Eyes on You – Debate Style

  • October 3, 2012
  • INK Team

This post was written by Allison Glass. 

I can’t help it – watching people sweat live on national TV makes me smile. While most people cringe or change the channel, I can’t help but turn up the volume. That’s why tonight’s first presidential debate has been on my DVR for weeks.  In the PR industry, a large part of our counseling comes in the form of media training – what to say, how to say it, when to use your hands, and how big of a smile. Coincidently, every media training session I have ever conducted always begins the same way – with one of the trainees saying, “I don’t need to be here.” Alas, my friend, you do.

While the specifics of our media training sessions are too detailed in to be listed in a blog post, three recurring themes seem to develop for even the most seasoned spokespeople. The first – stay on message. Keep it brief and keep it simple. While I am personally fascinated by the nuances of your company’s technology / history/ favorite watering hole – your audience is surely not. Know who you are speaking to and make sure your terminology is relatable and easy to understand. The second – practice. This seems simple, but you would be surprised how many executives think because they have been in the industry for years they have what it takes to represent their company’s image. And lastly – be trained. Professional media training (such as that offered by INK) gives you the opportunity to practice in front of an unbiased third party and in front of a camera. Everyone has his or her ticks that come out while speaking in public. Those who tilt their heads, angry neutral faces, fast talkers and let’s not forget the plethora of “ummms” and “likes.” Until you see yourself on camera exhibiting these traits, you too, could be totally unaware.

Months (maybe years) of media training practice have led up to tonight’s debate – so what makes this setting so special? This is the only place you will see both candidates together, in a setting that is completely out of their control. Think about it – no commercial breaks with attack ads, or media pundits inputting their “unbiased” opinion. Just two people, and a moderator answering the best they can on a time limit – talk about pressure. Ok, so these debates rarely sway an election, but a simple slip of the tongue or wrong wording creates a ripple effect felt for days (even weeks) after- just ask Rick Perry.

*All opinions expressed in this post are that of my own


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