After much anticipation, presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump took to the debate stage earlier this week to discuss critical issues facing the American public. Trade, taxes, national security and race relations were just a few of the topics raised by NBC news anchor Lester Holt over the course of 90 commercial-free minutes.
With a record-breaking number of viewers watching at home, and a packed room of staffers and potential voters in the crowd, Clinton and Trump delivered a debate performance that was far from conventional and of great interest to the record breaking 84 million people that watched.
To be sure, the non-verbal cues were as telling as the verbal ones. The candidates were featured on- screen, side-by-side for the duration of the debate, giving audiences a full picture of their first interactions as candidates for elected office. Many of us watched with eyes glued to the television screen as Clinton and Trump battled to secure the confidence of base voters and convert a shrinking margin of undecided voters.
Their meeting was similar in some ways to the nation's first televised presidential debate, where fifty years ago to the day, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy debated one-on-one from a CBS studio in Chicago. To the dismay of then-Vice President Nixon, debate visuals played a significant role in how the candidates were perceived even then. Despite the fact that they were broadcast in black and white, "viewers noticed a pale Nixon -- who was recovering from an injury and reportedly battling the flu -- dabbing sweat from his face, while Kennedy appeared more relaxed. According to historians, "while most radio listeners called the first debate a draw or pronounced Nixon the victor, the senator from Massachusetts won over the 70 million television viewers by a broad margin."
In the years since 1960, face-to-face interactions have continued to play a role in how politicians are viewed by the public -- whether as smart, relatable, out-of-touch, and rehearsed or the ever important "someone you'd like to grab a beer with." To quote an article by CNN: "On a debate stage...candidates have not been able to entirely hide behind huge sums of money, super PACs, or television ads. They have been judged by the voters based on their working knowledge of policy and their ability to think and speak on their feet. It is a good test of presidential mettle -- and character is revealed as well as intellect."
In an election year we are reminded of the importance of face-to-face meetings on the campaign trail and during these types of events. With two presidential debates remaining and a vice presidential debate scheduled for next week, Americans will have ample opportunities to learn about the individuals who will soon be running our nation. And if past is prologue, the way the candidates present themselves in-person and when the pressure is on may be as important as the resumes they've built and the ideas they'll champion while in office...simply put, it's Worth Meeting About!
To learn more about the role that debates and other in-person meetings play during an election year, check out our new infographic and Worth Meeting About campaign.
Source: Meetings Mean Business.
Meetings Mean Business is an industry-wide coalition showcasing the undeniable value that business meetings, trade shows, incentive travel, exhibitions, conferences, and conventions bring to people, businesses, and communities.