A Superficial, Yet Accurate Way to Determine Who Wins

In a perfect world, we’d all like to believe substance trumps style in something as important as determining the leader of the free world, but it doesn’t,  and it won’t in Tuesday night’s Presidential Debate.

Romney v Obama Debate - How to Tell Who Wins

It’s estimated 80 percent of communication is visual, which is why how a candidate presents him or herself visually can mean the difference between winning or losing.

Think of President George H. W. Bush glancing at his watch, Richard Nixon looking pale and sweaty while John F. Kennedy appeared as if he were sitting in his own living room, Paul Ryan gulping water like he’d been in the desert for three weeks or President Obama looking detached and disinterested.  They’re all examples of visual communication that trumped what was being said.

So during Tuesday night’s debate, look for these three key visual keys:

1-Who “looks more presidential”?

This is a term is bandied about all the time and I’m not sure anyone would agree exactly how it’s defined.  Still, how a candidate carries himself is everything.  Does he look flustered by attacks or does he appear to be above the fray?

2-Who’s in charge?

The greatest balancing act for a candidate in a debate is walking the fine line between being authoritative and being obnoxious.  If one candidate interrupts or interjects too often, it could work against him.  However, if one of them lets the other run roughshod over him, he risks being seen as weak or unprepared.

3-Who speaks with conviction?

If a candidate simply rattles off talking points without appearing to care about what he’s saying, the content will be lost in translation.  There has to be apparent passion and conviction behind what’s being said.  The first rule of debate is sincerity, and if you can fake that, you’ll be very successful.

So there is the superficial, yet accurate gauge for tonight’s debate.  And if you don’t believe me, listen to the post-debate analysis among the pundits and your friends.  The visual components of communication will be discussed much more than what is actually said.

Kendall Tenney is a four-time Emmy-Award winning journalist who now runs 10e Media, a full service marketing and public relations firm specializing in media training.