Obama v. Romney: 5 Debating Tips for Office Politics

Immediately following the presidential debate in Denver two nights ago I flipped between local news stations, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, etc. Each talking head was declaring Governor Romney a winner.

So how did Romney sweep the networks? It was fairly simple. Unlike any other night there was a consensus that Governor Romney came out swinging and President Obama looked like he wanted to be anywhere but where he was.

So other than whom you may vote for, what is there to learn from this debate? And why should it matter to you? Are you running for political office?

It’s important because every office has politics and you want to win your next pitch to colleagues, supervisors, or the board.

Here are 5 tips that you can take away to win your next “debate”:

Know Your Goal

This is the most important step in your preparation. What is your goal? Who are you trying win over? What is your desired outcome? Should you be directing your responses to someone other than your opponent? Maybe another co-worker? Know who you want to influence and what you want from them. President Obama appeared to forget that he should focus on speaking to the viewers at home and not the moderator or auditorium audience. This approach early in the broadcast meant he was not winning over any viewers that might be moved to vote for him while Governor Romney hammered single points home again and again to home viewers. It’s worth repeating: know your goal.

Be Prepared and Stay Calm

Knowing your subject matter inside and out as well as understanding the working relationships in your office can help you keep a level head. Knowledge breeds confidence, calms nerves, and helps you keep your cool. Being passionate about your proposal for a new marketing strategy is expected however your colleagues will notice if you appear frazzled or distracted by the presence of your office nemesis. Much of the media agreed that President Obama seemed testy for the first half of the debate. Stay calm and think of appropriate responses based on your goal and the audience.

Presentation Matters

Look the part. Usually this would refer to clothes but let’s assume that at work you dress the part. Your body language plays a huge factor in any debate. Eye contact is key. As evidence, consider that many of the first reactions to the presidential debate centered on Governor Romney’s gaze, which he held on President Obama when he answered questions and put forth challenges. In comparison, the President looked down throughout much of the debate, choosing to otherwise focus on the moderator and only occasionally at his rival. Keep the decision makers in your sites and let them know you believe that your plan is best.

Stay Focused

No meandering in your answers or getting sidetracked. Objections may come at you following a presentation or at a working lunch. It is your job to keep the conversation on your talking points. Governor Romney effectively did this throughout the debate, at times seeming to lead both the moderator and the president wherever he wanted to take them. If you are making a presentation do not let questions or interruptions derail you from your goal.


Connecting to people can be difficult. Think back to when you were moved by a speech. What gave you goose bumps? Was it the passion in delivery or the bold physical stance? Was it a moment of shared understanding or a defiant cry to take action? Most likely it was an honest truth. As we saw in the debate, both candidates worked in stories of personal interactions from the campaign trail. Briefly, relaying real life events or sharing a personal anecdote can be hard for people however it can be the difference between making a connection and coming off as cold.

What tactics do you use when trying to win over your work colleagues? Share you tips in the comments section below.


One thought on “Obama v. Romney: 5 Debating Tips for Office Politics

  1. This is a great piece. Everyone should keep these tips in mind when pitching an idea or presenting in the workplace. The only downfall is that you don’t want to share this with your coworkers, unless of course you want to lose your edge over them!

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