I thought I would share this video about the presidential elections, which I’ve been showing at the beginning of my in-class Business Policy workshops. It’s well-edited and there are many comments about communication that are directly relevant to the students’ upcoming presentations. In addition, it’s a fascinating little history lesson of televised presidential debates since Nixon/Kennedy (1960). One of the commentators is Candy Crowley, who moderated last week’s debate. It’s a great conversation starter with highly topical political content to boot.
After the video, I ask students what they can “steal” from it that is relevant to their own presentations. We talk about gestures, eye contact, use of space, facial expressions, attitude, and what (not) to do while someone else is speaking. I remind them of the following quote from the video, one among several that explicitly addresses communication.
What I think Kennedy and Nixon discovered … was that it didn’t matter just what you said, it mattered how you said it and how you looked saying it.
– Gerald F. Seib, The Wall Street Journal
We also talk about the issue that comes up towards the end of the video, namely a sense of frustration and ethical concern about how many people decide their vote based on “little things” rather than on substantial differences in policy or knowledge. We talk about the relationship between content and communication.
Next I split the students up into their teams and ask them to create, in ten minutes, “mini-presentations” that answer the following questions:
- What is your assignment?
- To whom are you presenting?
- How will you keep the audience engaged?
- How will you work together as a team?
Each group makes this impromptu presentation in front of the class, receiving feedback from me and from their peers on all the aspects of communication we discussed previously with regard to the video. This seems like a good way also to give each team and each student a chance to feel the heat of standing at the front of the room with all eyes turned upon them. In the discussion that follows each team’s presentation, many other communications points arise, from physical style to lighting choices.
I end by talking about how the same issues of clarity and engagement apply to powerpoint slides. I show them some egregiously bad slides and ask for their comments. This is the first semester I’ve done such in-class workshops, so I can’t say for sure that they will have an impact on the group rehearsals to come. But my sense is that they will.