2012 Presidential Debate #1 – Public Speaking, On Camera Presence
Obama still doesn’t get it.
Mitt Romney won last night’s debate — by mile. That means Obama lost — by a mile.
Now, all you Obama supporters out there, before you go ballistic and start sending me hate mail, please understand this has nothing to do with policy or substance. I cannot and will not comment on any of that. I’m just not qualified. But, please hear me out because there are lessons in this for us all.
Here is why Romney won:
He presented himself well. He looked happy to be there. He looked excited. He was prepared.
Here is why Obama lost:
He did not present himself well. He looked unhappy to be there. He was ill prepared.
And right from the very beginning, Obama tried to break the ice with that very sweet story about his anniversary being that same night, he was one-upped by Romney’s teasing about what an unromantic place he ended up in after all.
This tells me that Obama still doesn’t get it. Like a lot of people, he values substance over style. It’s a mistake that many intellectuals and other really smart people make. I see it all the time. A lack of recognition about the power of presence and readiness. You cannot just tell people about this. Voters will not go to candidates’ websites. The will not read through their policy prescriptions. They will not read detailed articles in good newspapers, uh-uh, though they will read their favorite opinion writers. No, the candidates have to SHOW it. And the only way to show presence and readiness is nonverbally, by the way one looks, sounds and moves, posture, stance, gestures, voice. And on TV, the most important of these are facial expression and eye contact. These were completely missing in action for the president.
These are the elements of communication that give our words meaning. Even, by the way, if our words are untruthful. You see, the way we’re wired is to filter information through our emotions. The person who connects with us on that more emotional level… and let me qualify that by saying a more positive emotional level… will capture our hearts and minds. It is the way in to that sacred space.
It was the way Obama captured voters’ hearts and minds in 2008 and the way he still does when he’s on the stump. No one can hold a candle to him there. He works at that, he knows it makes a difference, he practices, he prepares.
All he had to do last night was bring that same energy and level of preparation to the debate and he just didn’t. It was his job, but he obviously didn’t think so. People expected more and he left them disappointed, which is a big problem when things are so close and there are so many problems that have yet to be solved.
On the other hand, Romney exceeded expectations. Now, here’s a man who has had a very hard time connecting with voters. His singular job in the debate was to try to do that better. More importantly, he had to show he could equal the stature of the President of the United States. He had to enable people to visualize him in that role, to look and sound like he could be the leader of the free world who might also, by the way, have their best interests at heart. He understood the stakes. He was prepared.
Now, here’s the lesson for us: In today’s enormously competitive world, where there is almost nothing new under the sun, the ability to command the stage — and the camera — can be a game-changer. And for those of you who argue that only the substance should matter, I’m sorry, but that’s wrong. In fact the best combination is substance, plus style. But with so little time and so little opportunity for voters to see the candidates up close and personal, these Televised appearances matter in an outsized way.
Mitt Romney got it. We’ll have to see and wait whether Barack Obama will.
If you want to learn more about how to become a charismatic on-stage and on-camera presence, please hop on over to ruthsherman,com, where you can download my “Celebrity VideoCharisma Speakrets™” absolutely free. I’ll see you over there.