Be Prepared – Thoughts on the Presidential Debate, with insight from Chris Anderson’s TED Talks

Clinton Trump DebateI’ve got some accomplished brothers. Among them, one is a retired research scientist and research facility director; one is a retired Air Force Colonel, now training pilots for a major airline; and one just sold his company after a remarkable run, building it from scratch into one of the premiere companies in its industry in the region.

And, the one who sold his company once told me this simple truth:

“If you will just work really hard, you will accomplish something. And, I see too many people who are just not willing to work hard…”

I thought of his observation during one particular portion of last night’s Presidential candidates debate. (Please don’t read this as a political thought – although, I guess that’s pretty impossible these days, isn’t it?!).

Here’s the section, from the transcript, from that moment in the debate:

I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And, yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing.

In his book, TED Talks, Chris Anderson has quite a section on “scripting: to memorize or not to memorize.” It weighs the TED Talkspros and cons of writing and learning a full manuscript. But, though he acknowledges that different speakers have different approaches, there is little doubt that he believes in serious rehearsal time. In other words, he believes in, and praises, very thorough preparation. A couple of excerpts from this section of the book:

Know the talk so well that it doesn’t for a moment sound scripted. 

But here’s a surprise. Even speakers who don’t believe in scripting and memorizing their talks have still made a big point of rehearsing.

Debate observers seemed to agree that Hillary Clinton came in to the debate very well prepared, which means: she rehearsed. She rehearsed answers; she rehearsed while standing, working on body language, facial expressions, key phrases. And, the observers seemed to think that Donald Trump did not put in that time for preparation and rehearsal.

And, it helped Ms. Clinton, and hurt Mr. Trump.

Imagine that. In what may be the most important communication moment in the campaign, one person appeared to work much, much harder to get ready than the other person.

What does this say about our own approach to work?

And, when our work includes giving presentations, how foolish is it to “wing it” when we speak? Especially if it is a particularly important presentation? (Are there any unimportant presentations?) Very foolish, I think.

In other words, working hard is really important, even when, especially when, preparing to speak before an important audience.

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