Be Prepared; Be Very Prepared – (A Lesson from the Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio debate exchange)

The moment of the debate
The moment of the debate

If the news accounts and pundit reflections are any indication, the moment in last night’s Republican debate that most mattered was between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.  (Here’s one account of many from this morning’s debate debriefings). That moment did not go well for Jeb Bush.

I seldom weigh in on politics on this blog. So, I’m not writing about the politics of the exchange.

But, among other things, I am a Speech Teacher at the college level, and I pay careful attention to speaking abilities and practices. And, as I tell my students, speaking is a two-part process:

Have something to say
Say it very well.

So, let’s adjust that just a little: don’t just have something to say; have the right thing to say. The very best thing to say at the moment. The wrong thing, or the irrelevant thing, can leave you coming across as unprepared. And that can be disastrous.

In fact, using Aristotle’s ancient formula of Invention (preparing your speech thoroughly in every aspect), and Delivery (then delivering your speech very effectively), it appears that Jeb Bush was underprepared and Marco Rubio was fully prepared, anticipating that exact moment. (I am referring to Gov. Bush’s criticism of Rubio missing many Senate votes, and Senator Rubio’s comeback that Senator McCain, a favorite of Gov. bush, had missed more, and Bush had never criticized him for that). Senator Rubio had his line ready; Governor Bush seemed caught off guard.

Here’s the lesson for speakers. Always be prepared; fully prepared; almost over-prepared. And, in a debate setting especially, preparation includes anticipating what your opponent might say. And having your next line ready, in advance.

Be ready. Be prepared. Don’t be caught unaware.

This is good advice for any speech or presentation.


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