Performing in Debates

The decision about whether to attend an all-candidates’ debate (if you are in a political campaign) is
a strategic one, but usually you should do it – voters and media expect it, and it gives you a chance to shine.

During the debate, strive to be the most reasonable person in the studio (or room).

Be courteous with everyone when you arrive – hosts, staff and opponents.

When the debate begins, be crisp and assertive in your remarks, but never angry or rude. Try to use timing to slip in on an opponent (if you interrupt) rather than talking over her.

If you make opening and closing remarks, prepare them carefully and rehearse them. Know what you are going to say.

If you feel must have notes, put code words on cue cards and keep them out of sight. Refer to them
only as a last resort.

Prepare responses and sound bites for questions that you anticipate might arise.

If your research has provided you with information to surprise your opponent, use it early to throw her
off guard.

Talk to the audience, not your opponents. But there may be exceptions, when you are asking a
question of your main opponent or answering an attack.

Don’t get into arguments with the host or audience. If you must point out some shortcoming or failing
to the host, do so quickly and politely.

If two or more candidates in a mutli-candidate forum are having a slagging match, let them go at it. Watch for an opening, and then interject as the voice of reason.

If there is a live audience, make arrangements to have some of your supporters there. This is
especially helpful when you arrive and leave.