If it is Autumn, It’s Time for Political Debate

If it is Fall, it is time for candidates to line up to fillet each other in what is civilly referred to as a debate. Sometimes it seems as though a debate is just a formal invitation to belittle one’s opponent.

The purpose of this blog is to talk about some dos and don’ts in a debate whether the debate was about Saudi Arabia or where to go for dinner.

  1. Decide in advance what you want to accomplish. Let’s say you were running for school board. You would want to decide what your #1 priority was: do you want to solidify your base or offer any voter an alternative? Do you want to run on qualifications, heart or policy?
  2. Decide in advance who is your main audience? Are the people in the room, the people those people will talk to, the reading audience, the TV audience, who is your main audience?
  3. Decide in advance what one thing you want to be remembered for and say it a sentence.
  4. Decide in advance to be flexible. This is a killer. You want to be flexible enough to take advantage of the moment but not so flexible to go off on a tangent of no return.
  5. Decide in advance to master the “riposte”. David Gergen said ripostes can be the key to debating. Defined as a quick, clever reply to criticism, Reagan’s response in the Reagan – Mondale debate about age stands as an example. Asked if he had the stamina to be president, Reagan replied that he would not hold his opponent’s age or lack of experience against him.

No one came out of the womb with great debating skills. Obama was thought of as a great speaker but lost the first debate to Romney, even as a sitting president.

Debating is a learned skill like a formal speech or an elevator speech. These five tips can help you debate the merits of your next restaurant selection.

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