Getting Over Yourself

October 3, 2012

What to look for in the debates that will help your speaking


The presidential debates can offer you free speaking training so I suggest you watch them and look for some specific things. If you record it, you can watch once for content and once for improving your speaking. (You really have to put your personal prejudices aside for you to get the most out of this exercise.)

Things to look for:

The biggest one is did they take something personally? If so, it can be a big lesson to you on why not to do it. My mother always told me it was my tone of voice that caused the problems with my brother. Well, if you take things personally it will affect your tone of voice (and your body language). And, in this case, it may affect how listeners vote.

If they interrupt does it seem pushy or passionate?

How many times do they sidestep the question and give a pre-programmed answer? And do you care?

What are they doing while the other person speaks? Are they listening? Frowning? Looking interested? Frustrated? Angry?

How well do they stay within the allotted time?

Do they shift their weight back and forth? Grip the lectern?

How steady are their eyes?

And note as well how any anomalies strike you. For instance, during the debates, President Clinton didn’t stand behind a lectern and it worked for him. Al Gore came out from behind as well and it didn’t work for him. It isn’t always what they do or say, but whether or not it seems comfortable or forced.

Studies show that the visual and the tone of voice trump the words, so try to separate those “channels”so you can tell what’s influencing you (and everyone else).

There are subtleties in speaking that affect how your audience perceives your message. These debates are an incredibly naked and brutal forum for a speaker. And, has been said many times, running for office and governing take two entirely different skill sets.

But watching them can be a great help in your own efforts to be a better speaker. Watch and learn.

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