Debate Prep 101 – Lights. Camera. Reaction. Political Debates in the Age of the Instant Soundbyte and The Tea Party

Share Article

Public Speaking Consultant & Coach Matt Eventoff’s Top 10 Tips in "Debate Prep 101" for Political Candidates in 2010

The final weeks of the 2010 election season bring political debates and political debacles on a national, regional and local level to the American voting public. Political campaigns spend an inordinate amount of time raising money to do one thing -deliver their message to the voters, most often through paid media. Precious positive "earned" media opportunities - stories involving a candidate in a positive light, in print or on television - become like rainbows without rain - very rare.

Matt Eventoff, Founder & CEO of Princeton Public Speaking, who has first-hand experience coaching and training US and international business leaders to become the superb communicators they were meant to be, has carefully followed the political debate season over the course of the last several national elections and compares it to a textbook case of Debate Prep 101.

Eventoff notes: “The Tea Party phenomena confirms one thing that we all learned in 2008 - there are a lot more people involved in politics, a lot more people receiving a lot more information - if your debating skills are not up to par, your campaign won't be either. The 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debate illustrated the importance of debating skills in the age of television. Debates are a very rare opportunity for political candidates to get over an hour of free - free - exposure before the electorate. Almost all races (State, Senate, Congress) have locally televised debates, and bigger races get the opportunity to debate on much bigger stages - venues such as ‘Meet the Press,’ etc. These opportunities can turn an underfinanced candidate into an all-star performance, which usually leads to multiple days, or even weeks, of positive "earned" media exposure to follow. Yet, too many candidates spend more time preparing breakfast than preparing for a debate, and it shows.Which brings us to 'Debate Prep 101: Top 10 Tips for Success.'”

Tip #1: - The candidate who doesn't prepare will quickly know how they will fare.

Tip #2: Too Long is Wrong - The moment is finally here...the moderator has offered up a softball. "Candidate xyz, how do you feel about ____?" This is the ultimate opportunity to really deliver a crisp, focused, moving message. The candidate answers and hits a home run, and then...keeps going, and going, and going, until finally the moderator puts a painful end to it.

Tip #3: Never Forget…to Memorize -- Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona is the latest victim of trying to memorize an opening statement, and...blanking. It happens to everyone, but very rarely on such a national stage. Audiences will forgive a lot, but an audience will not forgive blanking on an opening statement when articulating on why you are running for office. More on Governor Brewer's tough week to follow...

Tip #4: Bills Don’t Pay - In training dozens of political incumbents, most share one trait when it comes to answering a debate question. "My bill on..."; "Senate Bill 1234, which I co-sponsored...;" House Resolution 123, which I voted against..." Other than very contentious, very public pieces of legislation, the public rarely remembers a bill number and even in that circumstance, talk about the issue behind the bill, not the bill itself. Hint: When unemployment and taxes are through the roof, not very many people will believe that a bill, regardless of party affiliation, will change everything instantly.

Tip #5: Smile. It's Candid Camera Time. - Today, if a candidate is running for dog catcher and is debating, it will be recorded. Say something questionable or make a gaffe, it will be on YouTube. Approach an opponent before the debate begins, smile, shake hands, and act like an adult for the next hour. Even if the debate isn't televised, mess up and it will be.

Tip #6: Be a Composer - Delivery is as important as content. Allow cadence to guide the listener. Allow tone to serve as a verbal highlighter when making a point, changing course, or framing an issue. Pause between thoughts. The voice is an instrument. To make a dramatic point, build up to it through changes in tone.

Tip #7: Don't Lose Composure - There isn't a candidate yet who has lost a debate solely by being too civil. Many lose solely by failing to be civil enough.

Tip #8: Mind Your Manners - No pointing, slouching, smirking, scowling -- all send a message, and all have led to debate losses by major party candidates in the past two decades.

Tip #9: Fighting is for Fools - Debates are not the time for anger, invective, cursing, etc. A debate is a duel, not a fight, and there is a difference.

Tip #10: Discipline Defeats Drama - A disciplined candidate has a message, stays on the message, maintains decorum and directs the line of discussion, as opposed to constantly reacting to an opponent. Discipline trumps drama every time.

For more information, visit:

Press Contact:
Renee Young
Renee Young & Associates


Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Renee Young
Visit website