Lothery & Associates

Debate Wrap Up: Speech Clinic

This was a comeback for the President, and a solid showing for Mr. Romney.

So put your party hats to the side, and lets look at the communication performances. ¬†We’ll begin with the president because he earned the “most improved” title.

Obama Strengths:

  • Solid numbers
  • Sincerity with talking about Libya
  • Comfortable with talking about his opponent’s record on key issues
  • Far more confident with numbers, examples, and the format than the first debate
  • Acknowledged where his campaign promises missed the mark, and followed up with his plan to continue working on those areas
  • Comfortable talking about what has been working in his first four years (more so than in the first debate)

Romney Strengths

  • Calm even when he was told he was wrong by the moderator
  • Conversational and polite to all participants in the town hall format
  • Great eye contact
  • Comfortable with the “walk and talk”

Obama’s Faults:

  • Way too much interrupting
  • A little aggressive on jumping into Mitt
  • Too much pointing (I know, I know, I bring it up all of the time. It just bothers me!)
  • There was some bob and weaving here
  • This last one, isn’t about the President, but it is about the First Lady. While he can’t control her facial expressions, I’m hoping he, or someone from “team Obama” will help her learn how to keep an open face when she listens, so she doesn’t look angry or bored.

Romney’s Faults:

  • A number of incorrect facts noted in the post-debate fact checking in the first hour
  • Aggressive behavior toward the president, getting into the physical space of the President
  • Additional inconsistency on his stance on some key issues
  • Failure to address the pay-equity question directly and acknowledge the pay gap, which is huge with female audiences
  • There were a lot of instances of stammering that implied he was uncomfortable or boxed in

So here are some of my take-aways for you to remember in your next contentious conversation, presentation or interview.

  1. Even if you’d rather eat worms than appear in front of a hostile audience, remain calm, poised, polite, and respectful. Leadership isn’t always in who’s loudest.
  2. I’ve said it before, and it warrants repeating often: make sure all of your facts are bulletproof. You can’t lose, if you stand on solid ground.
  3. Acknowledge your weakness before your opponent and follow up with your plan to strengthen that area.
  4. Great eye contact with an opponent is a sign of strength. Avoidance can be seen as pouting, disrespectful and usually turns off your audience.
  5. Take a position and stand there. Consistency is the foundation of trust. Changing positions frequently without explanation leaves people wondering where you’re going to stand when it counts.
  6. Be prepared and examine your audience’s position as much as you prepare your own.
  7. To keep an “open face” for a better listening posture, lift the eyebrows slightly, curve the corners of your mouth upward slightly, and lift your head slightly.

Finally, a great big “thanks” to Candy Crowley for taking control of this debate and making it bearable to watch. A much stronger moderator for two candidates with a lot of hostility for each other.

Good luck and we look forward to hearing about your next great communication. Communicate to connect!


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