Yesterday evening was the first TV ‘debate’ on Sky and both politicians had to fine tune their skills in answering questions. As we all know, what was going to be an interesting ‘head to head’ debate, became separate questioning from an independent interviewer.
However, there was still a lot to enjoy and learn from this. The format was that each leader was grilled by Jeremy Paxman and also have questions from a live audience. I got the impression that the questions were rehearsed, but am I being cynical?
David Cameron was first and he was very nervous. He had obviously polished lots of set ‘sound bites’ to say how wonderful his party had performed in the last 5 years. The problem with this approach is that you don’t always listen to the question or answer it. He looked very ill at ease during the grilling from Paxman. His breathing was shallow, body language weak and his voice became high pitched at times. His speaking was staccato and fast; all signs of someone who is nervous and ill at ease. He performed better during the audience questions and was putting on the charm offensive (I’m sure I saw him flickering his eyelashes at one point). He made a point of thanking for questions and acknowledging people who had difficult jobs.
Then Ed Miliband had his section; firstly with the audience. He showed humour and humanity. I was surprised because he hasn’t a good image within the media but his performance really altered my perception of him. It was clear that he was prepared to be very candid with his relationship with his brother David.
However, his interview (grilling) with Jeremy Paxman was awkward at the end. He started very well and was answering questions clearly. He came across strong and more in control than David. It was only at the end when things got nasty. Paxman decided to have personal attacks directed at Ed; including calling him a Nerd and back stabbing his brother. He defended himself and was clearly angry. No doubt if he’d been Clarkson he would have hit Paxman but Ed clearly has more class.
Below is a link to my latest podcast on answering questions. I summarise key points and skills needed to answer questions under pressurised situations such as interviews, presentations and even post project meetings.
And as to the winner of the election answering questions? Ed improved his image to the public Dave needs to think about relaxing. Still a few weeks to go!