Send in the frowns

christieNow that every PR blogger, trade journalist and political pundit has ‘weighed’ in on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s marathon press conference, I thought I’d join a lone Gonzaga University professor in addressing what the embattled pol DIDN’T say.

As you’ll read in The Daily Beast article, Gonzaga’s David B. Givens said Christie’s non-verbals were in direct contrast to the Gov’s ‘mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa’ talkathon.

Givens said Christie never once used his hands to emphasize a point. Nor he did move his highly-scrutinized bulk around as he addressed one painful point after another. So, while his mind and mouth may have been in sync, his other body told a different story.

I’m not an expert in detecting non-verbal clues. But, having media trained countless clients and prepared hundreds of others to perform stand-up comedy, I am very attuned to non-verbal communication.

We work long and hard to help executives understand the importance of connecting the non-verbal to the verbal.

So, if a Fortune 500 executive is trying to impress a CNBC reporter (and his viewing audience) she really needs to use her hands and her arms in just the right way and at just the right time to drive home a point. As we always say to these executives, if you’re not displaying passion and conviction, why should the audience care?

Likewise, when prepping business executives to perform stand-up in front of their peers, we stress how critical it is to make eye contact, use physical humor to illustrate a story and ‘act out’ a particular bit (i.e. I often pretend to be texting on an imaginary iPhone when I speculate how many more people Jesus might have reached if he’d had access to Twitter).

In reviewing the coverage of ChristieGate, I wholeheartedly agree with Professor Givens. Chris may have talked the talk, but his hands, arms and body sure didn’t walk the walk.

12 thoughts on “Send in the frowns

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    • It’s interesting that some of the best reporting on the Christie mess is coming from The Wall Street Journal. With their pro biz/conservative editorial stance, WSJ hardly stands as a bastion of Obamapologia.

  5. George Packer of The New Yorker makes some interesting Christie/Nixon parallels:

    Way back when I was a young pup in the trade magazine racket, I scammed a trip to a furniture trade show in Milan. One of its many pleasures was a long chat with Imero Fiorentino, the lighting designer who staged the 2nd Nixon/Kennedy debate. He told us was that other than powdering his beard, Nixon refused special makeup and treatment for the 1st debate because he’d heard that Kennedy wore nothing, a result of his ruddy, Cape Cod tan. The less-remembered second TV debate came out better, as Fiorentino’s obit from last year details:

  6. Spot on, Peter. As I’m sure you know, those who heard the first Kennedy-Nixon debate on radio thought Nixon had won. Christie said all the right things but, as the academic pointed out, his non-verbals were at odds with his statements.

  7. Interesting as I only heard Christie on the radio and missed the non-verbals. To me he sounded humble and convincing. But as always, the visuals have to match the words to be convincing. I believe Richard Nixon had to learn this the hard way several times and still did himself in.