This is the tenth and final lesson for our plucky contestants as they face up to the three-part reality show series starting on Thursday. It may be stating the obvious but being yourself can easily get lost in the deluge of ‘debate-prep’, the dry-run rehearsals and the gaggle of Obama consultants.
Imagine absorbing advice from someone who:
“Showed Obama how to look smart without looking smug, how to look compassionate without being condescending, how to shed the appearance of being self-involved and arrogant and how to knit his brows and look as if he was concentrating intently as a question was asked before changing his facial expression and relaxing the slight frown into a smile as he came up with the answer”.
Then imagine endless rehearsals in front of cameras with, for example Alistair Cambell playing the part of David Cameron or a Jeremy Hunt, rumoured to be better than the real thing, playing the part of Nick Clegg.
Then imagine the ‘relentless revision’ on argument, counter argument and rebuff all against the research-led concept of not merely having to perform well against your rivals but having to perform against expectations. Cameron apparently will be judged by a higher standard than his fellow debators.
Then throw in the nerves that will be jangling, even for these well prepared and seasoned tv performers, as they meet in open combat for the first time and where one slip-up can lead to the fatal thumbs down from the baying viewers. Now try being yourself.
Yet this is what will count. Not the words but the ease and the naturalness of the body language. As veteran American broadcaster Jim Lehrer said in the Observer:
“A person is a person is a person. You are who you are and that comes out in debates.”