With a year to go before the 2016 presidential election many of us are glued to every campaign development, poll result and candidate speech. As we monitor the 24/7 election coverage, we can’t help but notice what candidates are doing right and wrong in each soundbite, debate and interview.
Here are some tips to keep in mind for any media interview and what to watch for in upcoming debates.
Keep your message simple. Donald Trump never speaks above anyone’s head or goes into the weeds on a policy issue. He speaks in a direct way everyone can understand. A good rule of thumb is to explain an issue the way you would to a 5th grader.
Answer the question you want to answer. Stay in control of your responses – don’t take the bait and go off-message. Instead, pivot gracefully and answer the question you wish you had been asked. In an earlier debate, instead of being drawn into an attack, Hillary Clinton took the opportunity to discuss her experience.
Monitor your volume. Bernie Sanders debates like he’s writing in ALL CAPS. He seems to always yell. Use your voice as a tool. Draw people close by lowering and softening your voice, and when you’re finishing a strong statement raise it to forcefully punctuate your point. But, whatever you do, don’t yell.
Tell personal stories. When discussing legalization of marijuana, Carly Fiorina leans on her personal experience and evokes emotion to drive her message home. Sharing specific stories humanizes complex policy issues and provides context people can relate to and understand.
Speak in soundbites. Television news needs 7-10 second soundbites; print media needs simple quotes. Don’t speak in long run-on sentences, or go off on tangents. Prepare short soundbites ahead of time and anticipate when to use them.
Practice. Practice. Practice. We can’t all hire professional debate coaches, but we can take five minutes before any interview to anticipate questions and identify the main messages we want to convey. If you need help, contact Candor for media training.
As debates continue, we’ll be watching and sharing more Do’s and Don’ts.