With the Coalition honeymoon well and truly over, the election battleground is a fading memory and it is easy to forget that three formidable competitors, Cameron, Brown (remember him) and Clegg, fought the pitches of their lives, climaxing with the television debates. There was much to admire and lessons to be learnt!
Mastery of content.
You cannot perform well in any pitch if you have not prepared to the nth degree- studied, questioned, listened, researched- to be rock-solid over your content. Agree with them or not, you had to admire the levels of preparation by all three. All were impressively fluent in articulating their policies, responding strongly to anticipated but genuine questions.
First impressions really do count and Clegg knew this. With the element of surprise on his side, his ease in front of the camera and his clever opening statement, he set out his different positioning and paved the way for his successful performance, raising viewer expectation and undermining his rivals. Some opening!
Rehearse, and then some
Despite having to run the country (Gordon), their parties, develop policy, door-step marginals, kiss babies, handle countless interviews, take every photo opportunity, sleep occasionally they all found time to rehearse. And rehearse… (Brown even got Alistair Campbell to play Cameron). Non- rehearsal is the biggest sin.
A common error when caught in pitch fever is to think that an amazing video or visual demonstration will create the winning theatre forgetting that people buy people, not their props. The ‘vampire video’ distracts. Both Brown and Cameron over-played holding vampish wife hands!
Power of the pause.
As adrenaline flows, there is the temptation to show how clever you are, how much work you have done and to fill all the available space. This must be even more so when talking against the clock. Only Clegg resisted. He took his time, saying less and pausing more. He looked confident.
Theatre of likeability
In any pitch the deciding factor is so often down to making an emotional connection. “Do I like these people?” Clegg came across as more likeable. This did not influence polling but if he had not been ‘liked’, forming the Coalition would have been much harder.
He and Cameron played the likeability card when it really mattered at their first appearance together. “The extraordinary press conference in Downing Street’s rose garden could have been directed by Richard Curtis, a light romantic comedy with male leads played by Hugh Grant and Colin Firth.”(Sunday Times)
These lessons were developed as an article for www.gorkanapr.com