Public Speaking and Presidential Elections

In the heat of the Presidential race, I’ve found it inevitable that the topic would reach its hands into my blog. It’s not by choice that I discuss this, but by association. The ability of the candidate to speak fluently, connect to the audience, and convey his/her message through the manner in which he/she speaks and manages image is the definition of successful public speaking. As the Presidential debates continue, it is important to understand just how significant a candidate’s public speaking abilities are to their success or failure in the realm of politics and public opinion.

I’m sure you’re reading this understanding the importance of public speaking in politics, but you are wondering, “Has public speaking really made a difference in the victor of a Presidential race?” The answer is yes. While it was also broadcasted on the radio, the 1960 Presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon was the first to ever be aired on television. After the debate, according to the majority of the radio listeners, Nixon was declared the victor. On the contrary, Kennedy was crowned with the win by a vast majority of the 70 million television viewers. Why was this? Kennedy stared directly into the camera while “Tricky Dick” Nixon often shifted his gaze to the reporters in the room which seemed as if he was attempting to avoid eye-contact with the television viewers. The next month a record number of Americans took to the voting booths. Kennedy ended up winning by .2 percent of the vote. After the election, polls uncovered that over half of the voters were influenced by the televised debates, which legitimately could have been the extra push Kennedy needed over Nixon. Ever since, Presidential debates on television have become a norm and public speaking skills a necessity for voter support.

View the video below for a glimpse of what people saw when they watched the Presidential debate in 1960.

Resources: http://www.museum.tv/eotvsection.php?entrycode=kennedy-nixon

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