Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Lessons Last Night's Democratic Debate Taught Us

I don't know about you, but I subscribe to lots of electronic newsletters. Among other things, it's nice lunchtime reading. One of the ones I get comes from Leslie Unger, a communications consultant and calls her business Electric Impulse Communications. Leslie had been kind enough to do a FastTrack Webinar for us and once I had heard her I knew that this was someone whose thoughts were worth knowing.

I had only seen highlights from the YouTube/CNN Democratic candidate debate, but it was enough to suggest that it seemed to make for far more interesting watching than what we are used to seeing. Apparently Leslie thought so too as one of the articles in her most recent newsletter told her readers some of what she saw as "learnings" from the event.

I share it here since I am sure that in doing so there will be some others who will now get a chance to see what she had to say:

I. Lessons Last Night's Democratic Debate Taught Us

1. Technology Won. Pundits can argue over the validity of YouTube or the format of the taped questions, but the updated use of technology was the clear cut winner over one candidate or an agenda.

Lesson Learned: Technology will continue to revolutionize elections as TV did in the Kennedy - Nixon debates. If technology affects elections, are we naïve to think our updated use and inclusion of it does not affect our success?

2. Being defensive is always a choice. All candidates were asked if they sent their children to private school. Every candidate whose children attended private school allowed themselves to be on the defensive, defending their choice for private education. Once on the defensive, very difficult to be proactive or strong.

Lesson Learned: From a communication standpoint, the most effective technique in dealing with an objection is to embrace it: "Yes, this is a country of freedom and choices, and we made a choice". Why should a candidate defend their choice of education?

Do you allow yourself to be put on the defensive? Embrace, rather than defend.

3. The value of wit. Humor can ingratiate, create a bond, crash through the invisible fence between speaker and audience. A few candidates had witty moments that said, wow-I can think on my feet. The exchange between Kucinich and Anderson Cooper about no one being left of Dennis, Bill Richardson's comment about his peers all looking good in the White House . . .as his VP. Who knew Kucinich had a sense of humor?

Lesson Learned: There is value in being relaxed, confident, and prepared enough to allow your Inner Brilliance to come out and play.

Points of interest:

• Positioning behind the podium: death grip or comfortable stance?

• Was John Edwards remark about Hillary's jacket sexist?

• Target YouTube audience is young, male candidates in traditional suits- good match?
As I read Leslie's piece, it made me also think that the "learnings" she pointed out had obvious implications and applications outside the political arena. If you are an executive and wondering about how you are perceived by your team or those you are trying to influence as a leader there are lessons for us as well.

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