Are Today’s Politicians Too Rehearsed?

Last week’s Channel 4 interview with Ed Miliband and David Cameron was incredibly popular (2.6 million viewers on Channel 4 and #BattleForNumber10 trending on Twitter in both the UK and worldwide) – but how did you respond to the ‘performance’?

Did you believe what they were saying? Or did they come across too rehearsed in the studio environment? Is it all just political karaoke as Russell Brand said?

What can business leaders like you learn from this first big event and apply to your own communications?

Ed Miliband

It is obvious that Ed Miliband has been thoroughly coached on what to say, right down to which words to use (fighting, passionate).  He’s certainly improved.

But the over rehearsed, stiff behaviour of both the leaders can disengage the audience and makes it hard for them to trust.  The real skill is to have strong messages and be on strategy while looking like it’s an authentic conversation.  Ironically this takes rehearsal and skilled mind management.

When questioned by Paxman he looks awkward, his pace is too fast and his voice goes into a high pitch – all of which can make him seem less in control and not really ‘tough enough’ to be our next PM.  I wonder if the strategy was to come across with passion but it just went too far.

Where he scores is on the human touch during the audience debates.  This is a real vulnerability for Cameron.  And last night’s party political broadcast with Hobbit Star Martin Freeman hit hard on values and hope for the whole country (click here to watch the video on YouTube).  So you can start to see where this is going.

David Cameron

In the big interview, Cameron certainly knows his stats and is good at responding with short, punchy statements. His upright posture and eye contact also make him look confident and believable. Even though he evaded some of Paxman’s tricky questions, he spoke most of the time with authority and decision.  He’s going for the statesman positioning. He just needs to be careful he doesn’t alienate people.

During the questions from the public he walked away from the lectern towards the audience, making him seem more approachable and trustworthy. Compare that with Ed walking backwards to ‘check in’ with the podium.  David’s stance was strong and centred, with his hands resting in front which makes him look at ease and in command. He also talks naturally about his children which does help him appear more ‘down to earth’.

Believe me, I admire both men for having the courage to do this. It’s tough.  Business leaders too need this balance of warm authority, authenticity and emotional connection every day to lead their people.  It can be learned but it takes skill to coach the skills and find an authentic and flexible style for each individual.  So keep watching and learning.

What was your verdict on the interview?  54% of viewers in a poll for the Guardian thought Cameron ‘won’ – did you?

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