Thursday’s leaders’ debate was nowhere near as smooth as we might have expected. At the outset, each of the speakers appeared nervous. Non-verbally, I found the interaction between Nick Clegg and David Cameron most interesting. Given greater pressure, I wonder how civil they can remain? Tactically, I’d like to see the LibDems test it.
At 13’50”, Clegg’s visibly relaxed & moves to face Cameron’s question. He’ll repeat this throughout, it shows him as unafraid and respectful of the other two’s words for example at 1:07’50” and 1:15’57”. Contrast the effect it leaves you with to Cameron staying clear of Clegg at 1:18’00”.
Cameron laughs to introduce scorn when putting his question at 14’11”, he repeats this at 33’22” to no greater effect. Clegg’s echo of the initial laugh is forced, he’s leaking disdain. He turns back to the audience and camera to give his answer, cut the others out and build rapport and relationship. Cameron almost scowls at 14’19” when he realises that he’s lost the point and that Clegg won’t be easy to belittle. This is repeated at 54′.
At 1:15” Clegg surprises Cameron with his attack. Cameron’s eye movements suggest he’s processing and trying to imagine a response but instead he attacks Brown.
Clegg picks the wrong competition at 1:20′, bidding against Cameron in an auction to win the cheezefest. It’s a wonder that they don’t start referring to the “Great British Public” save that this would reduce the number of times they can say “care” whilst looking doey eyed into the camera. Both increase the speed and tone of their voices to a similar rate. Notably, at 1:22’04”, Brown contrasts this and sounds poised and authoritative. 1:25’05” is the most interesting point in the debate for me. Clegg can’t acknowledge Cameron by name and contrasts other points in the debate in that he starts a speech following Cameron turned away from him. It’s not only a tactic of not agreeing verbally with your opponent that all the speakers will have been briefed on from watching Kennedy v. Nixon. Clegg chokes slightly rather than acknowledge Cameron. Has he conceded the point that he’s been out schmaltzed or does he find the man loathsome?
When authentic, Gordon Brown is comfortable with his content and could scarcely be more credible. He turns being didactic into a virtue. Stacked on top of this, is his position as Prime Minister, which is the only Gordon Brown we’re afforded. Whilst his predecessor sculpted a public persona to the point of over familiarity; Brown’s personal life, to coin a phrase, “is just that”.
Imagine a scale that runs between credible and approachable. At one end we have Sean Connery playing James Bond, no curves in his posture, hand gestures only to add emphasis and with palms facing down, his breathing low in his body, he pauses between words and has a voice that goes down at the end of words or phrases. The other end is the theme park version of Mickey Mouse, head and body in continuous child like movement, shrugging shoulders, high breathing and a continuous squeeking voice.
On this crude scale Brown has a lot in common with his compatriot. In this clip at NYU he’s at his default. Were it not for the fluidity and range of this hand gesturing, he’d appear overly stern and serious. Continue reading →
Berlusconi behaving badly is a cliché and a proven media tactic that bolsters his domestic poll rating. Skip ahead to 0:30. Queen Elizabeth is sprightly in decapitating balórdo’s irreverance. There are a couple of points of interest, one is her use of the group’s dynamic and the other her uncharacteristic use of non verbals. In the first case, she uses the group – Berlusca’s peers – to sanction him. Speaking to this third point rather than having a two point dialogue allows her to separate the issue from their relationship and doesn’t afford him a reply. At a stretch, it’s very Fisher and Ury. For sure, switching from two point to three point communication is a good tactic when delivering bad news.
Secondly it’s worth noting that she adopts non verbals that contrast her, flagship-brand predictable, default. Typically, the Queen embodies credibility. A straight posture, arms at right angles, stoic expression and a voice that curls down at the end of her phrase. Here she has her palm up, arm curved and her voice goes up at the end of each word. She’s even moving with some fluidity. It’s all very approachable. Subtle but different. When someone departs from a predictable default, that part of their communication or speech gains more attention and will stick in our long term memory. At the end of the day, by 0:39, her guest is blended back into the group.