Unless you have been hiding under a pebble in the United Kingdom, you will have seen something about the most recent Tory leadership debates. For those outside the UK who are reading this, we have a massive anomaly in that only a select number of people can actually vote in the next Tory leader – who will also happen to be the next Prime Minister. Who hasn’t been selected by the UK public!
So as you can imagine, any leadership debate has massive implications for all involved. As I speak, there have been two debates, and following a complicated voting process with only the Tory MPs, there are now only two candidates left, who will be voted by 160,000 Tory members.
But the two debates that took place were interesting. The first one didn’t have the favourite front runner, Boris Johnson who refused to appear. The second one was with all five remaining candidates and questions being asked remotely by selected members of the general public.
I am interested in what we can learn from watching such a spectacle. Not the personalities, but how we can manage and perform in either discussion panels, meetings or presenting. Here are my tips.
- This is a cat fight. Yes, I said it right: contrary to Western Cultural ideas, men fight like cats in these situations. There is a lot at stake and people aren’t polite. I see this at senior levels where everyone has their own agendas in meetings (particularly board room meetings). You have to be prepared to fight to be heard and consider how you are going to manage others talking over you.
- I conveniently segue into the second point: that of any meeting or discussion panel being managed. This is made or broken by the moderator. The moderator sets the standards; manages who speaks; moves a discussion on if necessary. You can see from the video that the journalist, Emily Maitlis, whom I admire, lost control of the debate. It was chaos.
- If you are managing a discussion panel, or chairing a meeting, managing the time people speak, and ensuring everyone has their turn without being interrupted is essential for both the people on the panel and also for the audience.
- Remembering to listen to what the questions are and also the response from other panellists. I was aware of some of the politicians repeating their pre-planned answers (Boris Johnson) and quite frankly it shows a lack of trustworthiness.
- Remember that you are visible to TV and live audiences, so even if you feel you are not in view, you are. People who have attended my Superstar Communicator™ speeches know I include images of discussion panels, and the body language they are using, which often contradicts what they are saying. And if you decide to do some Pilates style stretching and removing your tie live on TV, even if you believe you are off camera, you will be surprised!
Remember, a discussion panel or meeting is a performance; being prepared and, dare I say it, expecting the worst from other people, prepares you for any eventuality.