Look Pretty, Talk Pretty: Advice for the Presidential Debates

2 Oct

As an internationally known expert on public speaking, I have been inundated the last few weeks with requests for my debate advice from campaign managers on both sides of the US political battle. Listen, people, I am just one woman. I simply cannot do everything others request of me. Even if I wanted to (which is only about half of the time anyway). I’m going to be honest with you: sending me multiple emails on the same day you’ve left two answerphone messages already does nothing to hasten my reply; actually, it just irritates me.

However—despite the hassles, not because of them—I’ve been moved to share some of my insights with the candidates. Why? Because I love my country and I hate stupidity. Please listen carefully as I intend to say this just once.

Let’s begin by looking at what you can learn from others. From my thorough analysis of the 2010 British election, we can take away important lessons from the three candidates there:

  • David Cameron teaches us that if you look doughy in life, you will look five times more doughy on television. Get yourself camera-ready, but don’t go crazy with the hair product or make-up (or fake tan).
  • Gordon Brown  teaches us that doing things that don’t come naturally (in his case smiling) is not going to fool anyone.
  • Nick Clegg teaches us that if you make promises that you cannot keep, you will end up curled in the foetal position because an entire nation sees you as pathetic and/or bastard-like.

One thing that is important to remember is that this is a debate—not a campaign speech. This means you are going to be required to actually listen to what the other person is saying. I know it’s hard to listen to someone else besides yourself speak, but it really is quite important. First of all, not listening appears rude and no one wants a rude president. Secondly, if you’re going to argue against something, it’s relatively important to know exactly what that is. Just arguing against everything a person says simply because they’re a Republican or Democrat just makes you look like an idiot. Even Republicans know that.

It’s also essential that you actually listen to yourself when you speak; after all, the voting public will be listening as well. Use key terms like “community,” “responsibility” and “logic.” But use them wisely. Let’s say you are arguing against raising taxes, saying that it’s more “logical” that when financial resources are low to stop spending (on foolish things like health and social care) and save instead. Fine. So surely you’ll be applying this same “logic” to green issues as well, arguing that we should save our environmental resources (especially since we can’t replace them), yes? See? See why it’s important to listen to the things you say? Come on now, THINK.

Don’t interrupt the other person by saying “Imma let you finish but…” Once something becomes an internet meme, it’s no longer funny. In fact, no jokes full stop. Leave the political humor to Todd Akin—that guy is hilarious with the stupid stuff he says!

Lastly, President Obama, no singing. I mean you’re good and all, but a debate is just simply the wrong venue for an impromptu concert.

Best of luck to you both!

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