If you don’t think debates are important, consider the howling of the Republicans who think they may be left out of the August Fox news debate.
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Of course debates are important. They determined the 1960 Presidential election, destroyed the reelection prospects of Jimmy Carter in 1980, put a nail in the coffin of George Bush in 1992, and knocked Rick Perry out of contention in 2012.
Today some rules on how to prepare for them.
1. Know the Format.
Will you stand or sit? Who is the moderator? Will there be an audience? If so, Will the audience be visible to the tv cameras during the debate or while the candidates are talking? Will the audience be allowed to ask questions? How many candidates are participating? How long will you have to answer the questions? Why know these things? You can’t properly prepare if you don’t.
2. Know the rules.
Will the candidates be given the opportunity to give an opening or closing statement? What topics will be covered? Will the candidates be allowed to rebut or respond to what the others say? Will the candidates be allowed to ask one or more questions of the others? And will the television audience see how your opponent is reacting while you talk?
3. Develop a Debate Strategy.
Decide in advance what you want to get out of the debate, the distinctions you want to draw, and the headline you want to see in the news the next day. If this debate is the first in a series, you will want to consider ways to draw your opponent out on a topic they may not want to discuss, or force them to clarify a position they would rather not have clarified, or use the first debate to set a trap that you’ll spring in a future debate.
In 1858, Lincoln used the debates to force Douglas to clearly state his position on slavery, which enabled Lincoln to use it against him in the campaign of 1860.
Study your opponents and their records so that you know their strengths and weaknesses. Anticipate the strategy of your opponents, and ways they will try to trip you. Make sure as you practice that you live by the rules that will be imposed on you during the debate.
A few other things worth mentioning. How you look and sound is just as important as what you say. Voters are also judging your body language and taking a measure of your personality. While they like candidates with convictions, they are repulsed by those who snarl, hurl barnyard insults or act like they just sucked a lemon. Smile during the debate and act like you are having fun, for while it is important that you win on points, it is equally important that you look like a likable human being.
Well prepared, you will look and feel far more confident. Your confidence will show in the way you talk, your presence and command. Ill-prepared, you may find yourself joining those who reside in the dustbin of history.
Have questions? I’ll be happy to answer them. Hit the comment button. Call me at 845-458-1210, or email me at Jay@JayTownsend.com.
More videos on the art of running for office and how to win an election:
- Running for Office? TV Interview Tips
- Running For Office? Talk Radio Interview Tips
- Running For Office? Preparing for an Interview with a Reporter
- Running For Office? Fixing Stupid Things You Once Did or Said
- Running For Office? Time Honored Ways to Get Attention from the Press
- Running for Office? How to plan & Execute Your Formal Announcement
Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.
How to win an election:
Running for office and knowing how to win an election is a challenge, especially for first time political candidates just learning how to run for office. Discerning the fine points of how to campaign, raise political contributions, and execute a political campaign strategy often requires the help of someone who has served as a political strategist or who has experience as a political consultant.