Why do politicians fumble Q & A sessions?

Senator Hillary Clinton does it. Senator Barack Obama does it. Many people – not just politicians – do it.

What do they do? They stumble and fumble their answers during debates and Question & Answer (Q & A) sessions.

Why? Well, one easy answer is that they fail to make time to:

  1. Anticipate the questions that they will be asked.
  2. Formulate their answers to these questions – especially the “sticky” ones – the ones that will be repeatedly played on the 24-hour cable news stations and on the Social Media internet channels.
  3. Practice their answers – articulate them – speak them – master them – comunicate them.

As I write this, I have been packing my suitcase and listening to MSNBC repeatedly replaying Sen. Clinton’s crude, clumsy, possibly inflammatory response, ina USA Today interview, as to why she appeals to a broad-based coalition of voters. I lost count of the number of “Ahs,” “Ers,” and “Uhs” in her response.  (Click here to read the interview and also access the audio portion.) Why? Is this the image she really wants to project?

And, Sen. Obama also deserves criticism – why doesn’t he put more time into preparing for his debate performance? Why does he come across as “defensive” or “offended” when he is questioned about his core beliefs? Why does he find it so difficult to articulate his response to difficult questions? (Click here for a linkto an excellent video analysis of Sen. Obama’s weak spots during questioning.)

Surely, Sen. Obama knows that these questions are coming. Why doesn’t he put more time into preparing for them?

Surely, Sen. Clinton must know that her answers will be replayed constantly on TV, on YouTube, on the radio. Why doesn’t she put more time into crafting her response?

Why do they continue to fumble and stumble with their answers during Q & A?

It makes me uncomfortable when I listen to their answers. I have to turn away from the “train-wreck” that is about to occur during the debates – I see their blank stares forming, I feel their cold sweat soaking their shirts and blouses… Why? Why? Why?

Why do they make me feel so uncomfortable during their Q & A sessions? Why do I doubt what they say? Why do I question their core beliefs?

Which candidate am I to believe? The candidate who masterfully delivers their stump speech? Or the candidate who appears completely lost and confused when answering a direct question?

It’s the stumbling and fumbling that they go through trying to get the words out that causes me to feel so uncomfortable. And… I do not think that I am the only one who feels this way. How do you react?

Why don’t their trusted advisors take them aside and say, “Senator, it is time to prepare your responses. It’s time to rehearse. It’s time to practice voicing your answers- forming the words and speaking them out loud.”

Don’t fall into this trap! 

  • Anticipate the questions that you expect to be asked; especially the difficult ones!
  • Gather your thoughts and formulate your response. Put it in writing first if necessary.
  • Practice articulating your response. Say the words – speak them aloud. Record your response if at all possible.
  • Ensure that you have reserved enough time for these practice sessions.
  • Work with a speech coach or a trusted advisor.

Q & A usually comes at the end of a presentation. Make your last impression a favorable one. You never get a second chance to re-do your LAST impression. Make your LAST impression a positive, LASTING impression!


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  1. […] I planned this post as a follow-up to my previous one – “Why do politicians fumble Q & A sessions?  But then, I thought about this in a broader sense. I am constantly amazed to observe the number […]

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