Candidates Fail to KISS

As the candidates thrust themselves into the debate last evening, their strategies became clear. President Obama’s objective was to remind the public that he is the president and to portray Romney as an inexperienced and uninformed wanna be. Governor Romney sought to come off as presidential and knowledgeable on foreign affairs.

But as the evening wore on each candidate’s position became more and more muddled. Foreign affairs scholars may have followed their respective positions, but for the average person, it was confusing.

That gets us to a basic presentation principle: Don’t tell everything you know. People don’t what to know everything. As with this debate, the vast number of dates, places, people and events was overwhelming.

When we are given too much information, we become confused. Every good sales professional knows that a confused mind is not a decisive mind. Once people become confused, they will not make decisions. Enter the concept known as KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid).

To keep your presentation simple, follow the Rule of 3. We can remember three points. If you use more than three points, the audience will become confused, disinterested and tune out. The candidates would have avoided confusion, increased retention and kept the audience engaged by limiting their answers to three concise points.

Three examples:

1. Moderator Bob Schieffer, “Governor Romney, you said this was an example of an American policy in the Middle East that is unraveling before our very eyes. I’d like to hear each of you give your thoughts on that.”

To his credit, Romney answered with four points. This is one more than three, but close enough. Obama, on the other hand, made four points, one of which included three sub-points, then concluded with an attack on Romney. Too much information.

2. Schieffer, “Should we reassess our policy and see if we can find a better way to influence events there?”

Obama answered with four points. Close enough. Romney answered with two points, followed up with three more points and then another three points. Again, too much information.  

3. Schieffer, “Gentlemen, thank you so much for a very vigorous debate. We have come to the end. It is time for closing statements.”

Obama answered with five points, one of which had four points. Romney was better with five points. Had both candidates followed The Rule of 3, their closing statements would have been much more profound and memorable.

My guess is that if you were to list the foreign policies of each of the candidates, you would be hard pressed. Think how easy it would be had they followed The Rule of 3.

I found this third debate to be the least interesting of all, primarily due to information overload. KISS would have made a big difference. 

That’s my view. What’s yours?

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