Business, Let's Talk Business

Debate Debacles: How NOT To Talk To Your Clients

By , September 30, 2016

Amidst the ambiguity of an uninspiring debate, we can learn some important lessons on how to communicate properly.

Amidst the helmeted hairdos, hyperbaric hyperbole and heated harangues, a presidential debate was apparently held this past week.

The Donald on the right. Madame Secretary on the left. And a collective nation of weary voters crammed smack in the middle.

News flash: The presidential debate was anything but presidential.

Pointed questions went pointedly unanswered. Vague claims and misleading statistics and snide references were haphazardly thrown around. And copious sniffles abounded.

This was not America’s finest moment – at least from a business perspective.

I walked away from the very first presidential debate of 2016 with more uncertainty than ever. Frankly, I don’t know who I’ll be voting for when stepping into the polling booth on November 8th.

But, thanks to the lackluster performance of the dueling candidates, I do know what NOT to do the next time I step into the boardroom.

Here goes.

1. Don’t Avoid Questions

A number of questions were presented to both candidates by moderator Lester Holt. Personally, I was pleased with the way Holt handled his role. What bothered me, though, was that both candidates marched to their own beats – dodging some questions along the way, avoiding others entirely.

The people who interact with you in business need to establish a certain level of trust. Tiptoeing around questions will most certainly not help you cement a solid relationship.

If a question truly makes you uncomfortable, you can answer it by rephrasing the question (“I think what you are trying to ask is why there is no Keurig machine in the breakroom.”) or using a transition device (“Good question, Morris. But what we truly need to ask ourselves is whether everybody in the office loves root beer flavored k-cups the same way you do.”)

In other words? Always acknowledge and address the question at hand.

2. Don’t Make Faces

Grimace. Purse lips. Shake head vigorously. Give pretend laugh while grimacing, pursing lips and shaking head vigorously.


Your demeanor speaks volumes. Posture, eye contact, tone, gestures. They are all critical communication tools that can be used to your advantage. Or disadvantage.

Act natural. Look normal. Be yourself. The people who work with you each and every day know when you’re being genuine and authentic – and, more importantly, when you are simply trying to pull a Brad Pitt on them.

3. Don’t Be Vague

Let’s have a quick look at the actual debate transcript for this one.

Sample A: “9 million people lost their jobs. 5 million people lost their homes. And $13 trillion in family wealth was wiped out.”

Sample B: “The companies are leaving. I could name, I mean, there are thousands of them. They’re leaving, and they’re leaving in bigger numbers than ever.”

Which version sounds more captivating? I’ll let you decide.

Clients, workmates, bosses, employees – they want you to tell them specifics.

In fact, you’ll appear more believable when you smoothly rattle off that corporate profits jumped 16% this quarter because of the 9% spending reduction you made in eliminating coffee cups from the breakroom expenditures.

Show numbers, back them up, look smart.

In all, while this unconventional and uninspiring debate may not have us seeing bright stars of red, white and blue, at the very least, we can glean some political-themed insights… to start seeing more green.


Note: The opinions expressed above are solely of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ptex Group.



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