Practice Like a Politician

Every time I watch political debat­­­­es, I think about how many hours of practice it took for politicians to present a polished opening speech and to respond to the numerous questions fired at them by the moderator.

So how do politicians prepare for debates? First of all, they know their subject matter. But we have seen numerous smart individuals perform poorly in public debates.

So I looked at a Wall Street Journal blog that cited recommendations for candidates as they prepare for debates.

  • They study what opponents have said in days ahead of debate to know what to expect during the debate.
  • They listen carefully – to their staff, to the questions, to the responses, to everything.
  • They prepare how they will say their most important points in the beginning of the conversation and in every response they provide.
  • They interact with stand-in opponents to practice the real-time interaction that naturally occurs during debates.

Personally, participating in a political debate is not on by bucket list. In fact, it might be in my funnel list. (Is that a thing? It should be.) However, responding to hard conversations is a part of my daily reality, as it is for most professionals in leadership roles.

What lessons can we learn from politicians? I promise there are some:

  • Pay attention to your competitors – they can teach you something about the competitive landscape and can drive you to deliver a stronger product.
  • Listen to your employees – they’re sharing their concerns with the organization in daily interaction with you and their peers.
  • Identify the key points you want to make in your conversations. Mention them early and often.
  • Practice conversations when you know they will be hard. If you know an employee is coming in to talk about resources, draft a response ahead of time. If you know a VP at your organization wants your feedback on a recent presentation (that he bombed), construct some helpful feedback before the conversation.

One of the key components of the SkillStore app is that it allows you to practice critical conversations before they actually happen. You grab your mobile device, access the SkillStore app, select a topic that you need practice in, and then… you practice! You video record yourself delivering your message, you review the recording to evaluate your content and communication style, and then you make improvements and do it again. And what’s better, your practice opportunity is shared with the community so that you can receive feedback on your performance.

With that said, we know that practicing in front of your mobile device can be intimidating. But it sure is less intimidating than being unprepared in the actual conversation as your employee lists the resources she doesn’t have to do her job. And it’s definitely less intimidating than providing someone in senior management with hard feedback on a presentation. It goes without saying that it’s less intimidating than participating in a political debate.

Want to see how practicing can help offer meaningful feedback, improve engagement, and boost performance?


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