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Let’s Get Physical – Republican Presidential Debate 12.15.15

December 16, 2015

Professional 3 3836Over 28 years I’ve coached thousands of executives on their communication skills – many through the lens of my camera.  For last night’s debate I rated candidates much as I would leaders who participate in my coaching sessions, according to communication performance (but not policy).  I look and listen for a matched non-verbal, vocal and verbal message, and how persuasive or convincing the candidate may be.  In other blogs I shared my scoring.  This week I give my observations in a different format.  You can learn much about communication by watching these candidates vie for the most important office on the planet.

All of the candidates seemed to be on their game – several doing better than in previous debates.  From a verbal perspective – WHAT they said – I saw very few flaws.  The same for the vocal delivery – or HOW the candidate’s said what they said.  If one thing hurt several contenders, it was the accompanying body language (non-verbal communication) that diminished his or her message.  You may remember how John McCain’s limited physical mobility, due to injuries suffered as a POW, negatively impacted his overall delivery when he ran for president.  He lost the election to the far more congruent and fluid communicator Obama.

The candidates with non-verbal issues were:

  1. John Kasich – I’m glad to see him using his body language in an emphatic manner to accompany his voice and words. Unfortunately for Kasich, it doesn’t appear natural and signals he’s laboring or trying too hard to make his point.   Overdoing the non-verbal gestures can be as bad as under-doing.
  2. Jeb Bush – Bush continues to shake his head “no” continuously while he’s speaking. It looked like he caught himself a few times during the debate, and attempted to shake his head “yes” while speaking of something positive, but didn’t quite get it done.  To shake your head “no” when sending a positive or “yes” type of message is a mismatch and hurts one’s perception with the audience.
  3. Carly Fiorina – Although she’s an excellent communicator, Fiorina minimized her body language in the past two debates. When she allows herself to open up physically AND be emphatic with her gestures there’s no better communicator on stage.  She has an amazing ability to connect which seems diminished by her constrained physical message. She did great during a few moments of the debate.
  4. Ben Carson – Carson did a MUCH better job in this debate by sending a more energized and matched message with his body language, voice and words. So, congratulations to whomever is coaching him in this regard.  Problem resolved.

Here are my  added thoughts on the night:

Ron Paul: Best performance yet. Wins the award for being the Most Reasonable, Cautious and Compliant to the Constitution.

John Kasich: As good as previous performances, but gets the award for Most Likely To Not Be Elected But Not From Lack of Experience, Brilliance or Trying.

Chris Christie: Excellent performance.  Award for Most Credible, Commanding and Convincing (with Rubio) and Best Using the TV Camera to his Advantage.

Carly Fiorina: Should’ve had a great performance.  Most Responsive to Questions and Relevant in Hi Tech Times (with Rubio).

Jeb Bush: Best performance yet. Most Statesman-ish (over politician) and Most Likely To Not Be Elected But Not From Being Incapable.

Marco Rubio: Best performer in this debate.  Needs to remember to drink more water.  Having a dry mouth will throw anyone off his or her game.  Most Inspired, Articulate , Future Vision-ed and Relevant in Hi Tech Times (with Fiorina) and Convincing (with Christie).

Ted Cruz: Always a good performance.  Most Exacting, Oratorical and Commanding (with Christie).

Ben Carson: Best performance yet.  Most Improved, Likeable, Calming, Quietly Strong and Intelligent.  Most Opposite of Trump.

Donald Trump: Always performing.  It’s his nature. Most Expressive and Persuasive (In the fact he uses more persuasive techniques more effectively than the others)

Note: When I refer to Convincing I mean the candidate brought his or her non-verbal, vocal and verbal communication together in a highly matched manner to appear and sound like he or she meant what was being said.  When I refer to Persuasive I mean using the right mix of credibility, logic and emotion to strike notes with fear of loss or opportunity for gain.



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