martes, 7 de marzo de 2017

How to win a televised political leadership debate

David Cameron and Nick Clegg taking part in the third and final leaders’ debate in 2010.

Televised debates have changed the face of politics since the 1960s; when the Kennedy-Nixon debates famously proved that voters believed what was seen on TV more than what was heard on the radio. As a result, many commentators suggested that Nixon (on radio) had won the actual argument, however, Kennedy (on TV) won the day.

So what do we look for in our leaders as we watch a TV debate? Exactly the same things we look for in our doctor: trust, assurance, experience, understanding and a confident certainty mixed with calmness under pressure. In short, a reassuring bedside manner.

Here are my top 10 tips to help our candidates in their battle to win the General Election Bedside Manner Contest:
1. Don’t put on a “public face”

The candidates need to come across as relaxed, authentic and confident. However, pressured situations, such as TV debates, can make it hard for people to be themselves so they don a “public mask” of confidence, which can make them look arrogant. They should use their own voice rather than their public speaking/formal voice. If they speak too loudly or from their throat they will sound fake and lose emotional connection.
2. Don’t be condescending

We are not stupid. Use natural language free from jargon and acronyms, of course, but talk down to us at your peril.
3. Slow down

If candidates speak too quickly they will lose credibility and look like they’re panicking.
4. Listen

In the midst of a TV debate, their nervous flight or fight responses will make it hard for them to listen properly, so politicians often show themselves up by answering the wrong question or failing to address the point.
5. Wait before answering

Pausing a second or two before answering will flatter the questioner by showing that their question is valued, which will make them feel special. It will also make the politicians appear more reasonable.
6. The elephant in the room

If they suspect their audience is feeling a certain way, it’s usually better to address it head on rather than trying to hide it away under the carpet.
7. Show your hands

It has been proved that people are much more believable if they show their hands – it’s a sign of honesty.
8. Remember names

Using a questioner’s name will make the candidates look like they care. Especially if it’s a few minutes after the name has been announced.
9. Less is more

The politicians will obviously want to look like they’re passionate about their views – but once they’ve delivered them, stop talking. Repeating dogma will just make them sound like a gramophone record that’s stuck.
10. Humour

The candidates should take their argument seriously – but never themselves. When we see someone who takes themselves too seriously, we can’t wait for them to slip on the proverbial banana skin. As Billy Connolly said: “Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cosy, doesn’t try it on.” A little self-deprecating humour goes a long way.

I will be fascinated by how the candidates perform in the run-up to the general election. It’s not easy to be in the pubic eye where everything single thing you say is recorded, scrutinised and then re-scrutinised.

The TV debates will be the heavyweight contest of the election. I’ve already booked my ringside seat to see who’ll have the best bedside manner on the night.

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