"Optics" is the current term meaning that what we see is what we believe; people base many judgments on how a speaker looks and behaves. If we consider the debates, while one contender is speaking, too often the opponent doesn't pay attention to the probability that a camera is on him or her. Examples of this can be found beginning with the 1960 debates, one candidate looking tanned and cool while the other appeared sallow and sweaty. More recently, one debater seemed disinterested enough to check his watch as if he were late for an appointment. This year, we had a repeat performance of one candidate's intrusion upon the personal space of another.
We're not being evaluated just when it's our turn to speak. We're being evaluated constantly—on the speaking platform, listening to others, how we sit and comport ourselves in meetings, even how we walk through the corridors of the buildings we work in.
Don't underestimate the importance of your demeanor, your sitting and standing posture, your facial expressions, your projection of both strength and ease. The camera is always on you. Make sure that those you encounter in every circumstance are receiving the right pictures.
Often, a campaign staff will create a "stump" speech for a candidate, one speech that can be used repeatedly. Many of us, too, are required to deliver the same presentation to multiple audiences, often very diverse audiences. The challenge is how to adjust that "fixed" message for each group of listeners. The adjustments may seem minor but can be significant—a change of examples; the use of different stories, metaphors, or anecdotes; or even how a presentation opens. However, while you must rework your message to meet the needs of various groups, you must always maintain message discipline—your adaptations must not put your key objective at risk nor weaken your key points.
A good message must be clear, focused, and objective-driven. It must make the salient points immediately clear; it shouldn't overwhelm listeners with too much detail or include side comments that distract from the objective. Before you begin drafting what you will say in any speech or presentation, determine your purpose in saying it and what key points must be heard and understood for your objective to be achieved.
While what your listeners see as they look at you and the clarity of your message contribute to—or detract from—your effectiveness, your delivery also plays a vital part. With the 2016 campaign having begun almost two years ago, chances are that you've watched deliveries filled with shouting and ranting, pounding and pointing, faces scrunched with disgust or puzzlement or anger. Effective? Hard to say, but some delivery techniques certainly seemed out of proportion to the tenor of accompanying messages.
In your own speeches and presentations, make sure that there is no disconnect between what you say and how you say it, that your words and physical projection of emotional intent are congruent. What is the tone of your message—excitement, hopeful, fearful, cautious? Properly express that tone in your voice and augment it with appropriate body language and facial expressions. Do remember that varying your vocal quality, body language, and facial expression helps you emphasize and delineate some points over others, a help that benefits listeners greatly.
As you prepare and rehearse your next speech or presentation, plan ways of adeptly managing your optics, message and delivery. You can't lose.