Tag Archives: Gordon Brown

The TV debate. (3) How to get emotional

Over this past week many tears have been publicly shed. All, no doubt, reflected genuine private grief. But all with political gain in mind.


 The belligerent Alastair Campbell shed his over harsh words aimed at  Tony Blair, hoping one assumes to dilute criticism at the Iraq enquiry. Jacques Rogge’s tears at the opening ceremony were followed by assigning all blame to the athlete who died and none to the Canadian organisers (who later did make the run safer).

Then, we had an interview with David Cameron getting his tears out just ahead of the week’s  main cri de coeur with Gordon Brown talking to Piers Morgan. Genuine expressions of emotion, but in response to questions publicly orchestrated.

As the live TV debate looms, both appreciate that it is not their policies which will determine the viewers’ response. It is their personalities, or rather their public personae that will strike an emotional chord, or not.


Of the three  contestants Nick Clegg has more natural empathy and nothing to lose so will probably perform best.  Cameron is the polished communicator but  has never reached the heights of his leadership winning speech in Backpool. He needs to offset his ‘slick salesmen’ image (56% agree) with  real warmth.

Brown until now has not attempted to let his more human side interfere with getting his convictions across. In the three way debate, with the benefit of the warm-up with Piers, it will be interesting to see  if he lets his emotions show.

If any of them sheds a tear then, as a woman interviewee on the One Show said about men who cry, “…. sweet, it brings out the mothering instincts!”

Gordon Brown. Better heard than seen? Discuss.

Gordon Brown has survived a hellish week  riding on the sympathy  wave following The Sun’s brutal and misjudged attack over that letter. One interview during the week showed him at his best. It was on radio.

In this television age, when would-be politicians are assessed on camera before getting the candidacy, Brown is not a natural. When looks count – his clumsy body language (think Despatch box), jaw movement, fatigued expression – he has little going for him. You almost feel sorry.

POLL Brown 182845

His voice, however, even when under pressure, remains strong, reassuring, warm even, and authorative. More like a confident leader. If there was a choice he would surely opt for the up-coming TV debate with Cameron to be on radio only.

He will no doubt be aware of the outcome of the first ever televised Presidential debate, in 1960,  when Nixon confronted Kennedy.  A Gallup poll among viewers revealed that Kennedy came out on top. However, in the same poll among those who only heard the debate on radio Nixon was preferred.

Brown does not look as shifty as Nixon but nor does the camera favour him as it does Cameron.

In business pitches the importance of voice and tone is often overlooked. Changing one’s voice is seen as too tough (although Margaret Thatcher did it to good effect).  What will help, and can be  rehearsed, is change of ‘pitch and pace’, with deliberate pauses …….. to punctuate and command attention.

Try it , pause………and sound more confident!

Presence on the world stage.

In the Pitchcoach Awards for 2008, posted here in January, Gordon Brown received the accolade of Most Improved Performer. He has moved on!

Whatever G20 eventually achieves right now it is a success. It is a triumph for Brown.  His standing on the world stage is enhanced, he demonstrated leadership in chairing the meeting and was, according to the Dutch prime minister “inspiring”. How has he managed to do this?

Basically, in two ways.  Firstly, he prepared like hell.  The world trips, the intense negotiations in advance, all meant that the ‘content’ of G20, the ‘what they would say’ had been sorted before the event.  Second, on the day he  focussed his energy on the ‘way’ he performed.

His was the commanding presence, not easy to achieve given the company he was in.  As Simon Carr says in The Independent, “Also the PM looks good: earlier he had a face like an old dish cloth but yesterday he was smooth and tanned…..he carried the day. He’s had a wonderful time-and its hard to dislike anyone enjoying themselves that much.”

Interestingly, the book Winning Auditions. 101 Strategies for Actors, discussed in two earlier posts, talks about  how to Cultivate Presence.

 It says ” Fame is a result of presence… This appealing quality amounts to not much more than a serene temperament born out of ample self-assurance…  Approach your role with a sense of ownership…  Back up your belief of ownership with a supreme sense of conviction…”

Gordon Brown’s  presence carried the day and he achieved almost as many plaudits as the  amazing Michelle.  Her presence lent humanity to the G20 show.