Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Debate: A Posture Critique

In my workshops on presentation skills, I caution against posture sins. There were plenty of presentation sins in the GOP debate (put down that water bottle, Senator Rubio and stop staring at the camera, Senator Cruz)) but with fewer candidates in the Democratic debate it is easier to identify the main types and the above photo is a great one for illustrating the issue of posture.

From left to right, the candidates are Jim Webb, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley, and Lincoln Chafee. Alas. there is only one who has the proper posture.

Jim Webb and Martin O'Malley are exhibiting variations of The Male Fig Leaf posture. It is unattractive. It makes them look uncomfortable and as if they are in a Fruit of the Loom commercial.

Bernie Sanders has the Duke of Edinburgh posture; the hands-behind one often used by members of the British royal family but not recommended for others. You want your audience to see your hands. [I sympathize, Bernie. This is one I have to fight.]

Hillary Clinton is completely off-the-rails. That may be endearing to many but it can also look undisciplined. It is more "First Day at School" than "World Leader."

So the winner for Best Posture goes to: 

Lincoln Chafee who keeps his arms at his side. It is very uncomfortable for the person but it produces a better image and better photos. Chafee's debate performance was less impressive. He also made an unfortunate necktie choice. The photo doesn't show this but it looked like a dead lizard.


Kurt Harden said...

You mentioned Rubio and the water bottle. If it had been a glass of water, I don't think the effect would have been so strong. Sort of like the difference between seeing someone look down at a newspaper on their smart phone versus seeing someone with a paper stretched open in front of them. I noticed the Rubio water bottle display and instantly thought "he should have a glass of water."

Michael Wade said...


Good point. There is a different connotation.

I also think Rubio's presentations were excellent in both GOP debates.


Dan in Philly said...

Hill has obviously been coached to point out people in the audience as if greeting old friends. "Hi! There you are! I see you too!" She does it so regularly and automatically it can't be because she's seeing people she actually knows, but it probably is supposed to make her more relatable to ordinary folks.

Michael Wade said...


You're right. She does that frequently and it is becoming a noticeable quirk.

I'm not sure if it achieves what she hopes it will achieve.


Eclecticity said...

And those gosh darn almighty coached hand gestures. Fire the coach. Webb's were particularly bad. E.