Monday, August 3, 2015

Debate Preparation

By Joel Leyden

New York, NY ... Of the many professional, communications services that Joel Leyden offers - Debate Preparation is among the most critical.

The distinction between a debate and a regular argument, is that the debate is a formal procedure.
One must know and respect the rules to win.

1. Where does debate preparation begin?
  • Learn the issues.
  • Learn your competitors take on the issues.
  • Be prepared to state your message in a few seconds and respond to attacks in a few seconds.
  • Get your soundbites down - and repeat them!

2. Dress and makeup
  • Your dress must be conservative - dark blue suit, blue shirt, red tie.
  • Dressing conservative demands respect. You would rather be feared and listened to than loved and ignored.

Appearing on TV? 
Get that haircut and TV makeup. In the Kennedy vs. Nixon debate of the early 1960's, Nixon was good on substance but refused to wear TV makeup. As a result he appeared drawn, evil, untrustworthy. He lost that debate on not wearing makeup.

3. Smile
  • You want your messages to be warmly accepted.
  • Your smile opens the door to a human heart and allows your messages to reach all those with ears.
  • Your smile represents confidence. You don't need to be mean, to be respected.

4. Practice the debate in a TV studio
  • Simulate the environment of the real debate. 
  • Employ cameras, lights, microphones, audience and many distractions. 
  • Get used to the conditions and work with them. 
5. Opening Statement

  • Defines who you are.
  • How you are different.
  • Why the voters should vote for you.
  • Opportunity to discredit your competition.

6. Actors
  • Have friends take the place of the debate hosts and your competitors. 
  • Use rapid fire questions and attacks as you respond with a smile, with confidence, with knowledgeable soundbites. 
  • Acknowledge counter-arguments to explain your positions.

7. Pace of speech
  • Speak slowly. 
  • This will give you time to articulate each and every word with accuracy and confidence.

8. Cue cards
  • Use index cards labeled to address various issues and your competitors record.
  • Keep the print large and easy to read.

9. Eye contact
  • Look at your competitors as they speak. 
  • Show respect but do take time to review your index cards.
10. Hands
  • When not speaking keep your hands silent on the table.
  • When speaking use your hands gently to make points. Animation equals attention.
  • Never touch your face or mouth. Human animals do this when they are nervous.
11. Microphones
  • Your mic may always be on. Don't speak to yourself, let alone call your competitor something that you will regret later.

12. Walk softly, carry a big stick
  • Avoid name calling and personal attacks. This will only weaken your credibility. 
  • Attack issues, not people (unless no one knows who you are and need a headline).

13. A good laugh travels far
  • Inject humor. 
  • Nothing wins over people than a good joke.

14. Breaking the tape!
  • When summarizing, don't attack your competitor. 
  • Look at the camera and bond with the TV audience. 
  • Tell them that you understand the problems they face and you will provide solutions to those problems. 
  • Speak slowly, smile, be confident.
15. Closing statement
  • Focus on who you are. Your accomplishments.
  • Do not address other candidates by name.
  • Articulate how you can help those watching.
  • Articulate how you can help America.
16. Pre-Debate relaxation techniques
  • Stay in bed, sleep an hour longer. Kiss your partner
  • Go for a 30 minute walk or run.
  • Swimming pool in your hotel - use it for an hour - great place to discuss ideas.
  • Listen to inspirational music - Rocky is a favorite. 
  • Eat a light meal before the debate. No alcohol. One cup of coffee.
  • Make sure you have a Tums in your pocket.
  • Make sure to go to the bathroom.
  • Look at yourself in mirror, smile and say: "YES"! 
  • Keep smiling. Keep your staff smiling.
  • Hug your family.
  • Just before the debate read the paper or check out Google News.
  • Have fun!


What color tie should you wear?
When do you attack your competitor and what and what not to say?
What do you say to the hosts?
Use of water, tea and coffee?
When do you point at your competitor?
If the hosts cut you off or begin to editorialize, how do you respond?
What is the most important non-verbal behavior to employ and to avoid?

To answer these and a hundred other questions on debate preparation - contact Joel Leyden at LeydenDigital @

Over 25 Years of Professional Debate and Public Affairs Communications.

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