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  • Writer's pictureKarla Trippe

"The Worst Debate Ever" - My Quick Reaction to the First 2020 Presidential Debate

I was excited to watch the first presidential debate because, having worked on political campaigns including my own, I know how important these can be. I never miss presidential debates because they can change the direction of a campaign.

As one reporter observed, the first Biden/Trump debate was the worst presidential debate ever. I must say I was appalled. It wasn’t just because of the inability to discuss the candidates’ stances on issues (I’m already well informed about that). It was primarily because of how Trump thoroughly failed to act presidential.

Having spent years in public relations, I have media trained many executives. It is critical for an executive to know how to present in front of a large group and manage interviews, particularly when you are dealing with national press. As my specialty was always startups, I worked with quite a few first time CEO’s. We would work on how to behave presidentially which was critical as many of these CEOs where out raising money from VCs. Whether it’s a VC, analyst or reporter, you have to show presidential qualities to achieve your goals.

The same thing is true if you want to move up the corporate ladder. You need to have good public speaking skills. This was something I had to learn when I started doing product presentations while working for Symantec. At that time, I still suffered from terrible stage fright which is why I preferred working with clients and helping behind the scenes rather than being a spokesperson. But if you want to get to the director-level or above you have to be a good public speaker.

Most companies offer speaker training but often that is reserved for salespeople. If you don’t qualify you can ask who your company uses and see if they offer classes you can attend. Often companies will train you if you have been accepted to present at a professional organization. This also is important for moving up the ladder. You want to be known as a leader in your area of expertise. I have been a member of various organizations such as the Public Relations Society of America and have spoken at their national conference. It’s these types of activities that make you stand out from others.

Another way to get speaking experience is through non-profits. You should always have a non-profit that you are giving time to because not only does this help to make you a better person and make the world a better place but it looks great on your resume. And the more you are involved with an organization, the more opportunity you will have to get a board position. This is another point that looks excellent on a resume and helps whether you are applying for a higher-level position in your existing company or a new one. And if you freelance, this is a great way to get the training that you are missing by not working in a large organization.

And if you ever do get an opportunity to debate an opponent make certain that you are polite and well-prepared. Don’t ever talk over someone, interrupt them continually or refuse to answer any direct questions. If you do, people will say you aren’t being very presidential. And it could cost you an election.


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