Mark McKinnon, in his Sept. 24 column in The Daily Beast, expresses astonishment at Rick Perry's lack of preparation for not one but all three of the presidential debates. By way of contrast, McKinnon notes:
"In 1999, George W. Bush started practicing for debates six months ahead of time. Dick Cheney was maniacal in his debate preparation, and it showed. Even rehearsing at the same time the debate would be held and at a similar room temperature."
Rick Perry's weak presentation is baffling, and we're left wondering why no one from his campaign has stepped forward to explain his poor performance. Perhaps there isn't enough at stake for Perry, or he has gotten away with answering in generalities for so long that he doesn't consider serious debate drill necessary?
But running for President of the United States is on a different landscape than debating and defeating Kay Bailey Hutchison to be re-elected for a third term as Governor of Texas.
In my work I have trained many CEOs who exhibit the same personality characteristics as Perry. They are highly successful at running a company and very articulate, which is usually the result of lots of public speaking. Unfortunately, they often fall short on specifics.
When I coach a company's management team, usually the CEO and CFO engaged in the process of taking their company public (IPO). I spend half the training time on Question & Answer preparation. I always impress upon them that they can give a great presentation and then destroy it by being ill-prepared for what is often a grueling question and answer session. Potential investors, who have done their due diligence, will ask the team questions – and they had better be prepared to give a convincing and articulate answer.
I start by asking the management team to list every question that could be asked about the company, and that includes what I call the Achilles heel questions: the ones you don't want asked but know they will be. With the questions at hand, we begin to craft answers that give the facts and usually bridge to giving additional information that wasn't asked for but gives positive information about the company. Most people naively believe they're good at answering questions. Perhaps good, but not great – and the more you work with an answer, the more focused and convincing it will become.
Rehearsing can be tedious but is absolutely necessary, as the team should never get hit with a question it didn't expect to have to answer. It's unfortunate but true that even the most experienced presenter can rarely bluff his way out of an answer if he doesn't have the facts. And without the facts, facial expression, tone of voice or lack of eye contact will all contribute to a shaky delivery.
Unlike Rick Perry (who has had three chances on the American stage), you will probably only have one chance to win a potential investor!