Active and fun debate watching this political season

Watching last week’s Republican debate as an expert media trainer, particularly for television, was great fun. I thought I’d share a few things for you to look for the next debate that comes up and as the political season gets hot. Just a few things to look for.

  1. Overall approach to what a debate is for, what goals are to be achieved. Indeed, not everyone views a debate forum the same way. You’ll see some candidates clearly coached to ignore the rules and be aggressive while others will be more focused on messages within the forum and its guidelines, rather than being disruptive to grab attention.
  2. Usage of time. Look at what candidates are most useful with their time. 15 people onstage with only 30 seconds to answer a question and 15 second to deliver a rebuttal means time is very valuable. Watch which candidates seem to say the most in the least amount of time.
  3. Active listeners. Watch which candidates are so overcoached that they aren’t even listening to the question and when it’s their turn, don’t answer the question at hand and just regurgitate messaging they’ve tried to memorize.
  4. Memorization versus speaking fluidly. These debates should be a fluid, active exchange of questions, answers and ideas. Notice which candidates have been overcoached and are trying to remember sentences word for word and can’t, and those that deliver touchpoints extemporaneously. For this last debate, watch Jeb Bush, who had a very hard time speaking vs. Carly Fiorina who was speaking very smoothly.
  5. Body language and appearance. Believe it or not, this really bothers some viewers and can be very distracting to the point where people won’t even listen to a candidate. Remember Nixon’s 5 o’clock shadow in his debate and how people didn’t like that? Slouching, wild arm waving, wrinkled clothes—it’s all on the table for evaluation.

Media training and public relations are a critical component of what we do at Strong PR & Multimedia in our work in the Denver public relations scene. How can we help you prepare for your next media interview?


Written by

Audrey Strong has more than 20 years combined experience as both a public relations professional and television news person. Her hybrid background makes her an expert in media relations and one of her favorite things is to introduce and get exposure for clients via longtime, trusted media relationships. Her specialties also include media training, crisis communications, issues management, messaging, press kit creation as well as audio/video production.