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What We Can Learn From The Presidential Debates

by guest blogger George Drucker

From a communications and presentation point of view, without getting political and commenting on the content or quality of each candidate’s responses, there’s a lot to be learned here. The style disparity between the candidates and the difference in outcomes provide food for thought.

Based on what we have seen thus far, those most successful at public sparring must not only have full command of the facts and be fluent in sharing them, but must also heed wisdom from two adages: “It’s not necessarily what you say but HOW you say it,” and “Style trumps substance.”

No matter the audience, there’s a world of difference in how they perceive messages based on the speaker’s delivery, his or her tone, inflections, body language, and energy. Debate coaches say you should be able to turn down the volume and still be able to tell who is commanding the action.

Here are some debating tips to incorporate in your own communications:

Always cite facts, quotes and sources. You won’t have Candy Crowley fact-checking for you in real time, so know your stuff!

Don’t get drawn into personal attacks. No one wants to see a bully, unless being satirized on SNL helps your cause!

Begin answers with yes or no. Definitive and declarative wins the day.

Find common ground and stake a claim. If you and your opponent/colleague agree on something, that makes you appear conciliatory, or in presidential parlance, willing to “reach across the aisle” – nearly always a good thing.

Listen to your opponent for openings. You may not get one as good as “binders full of women,” but then, you never know!

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