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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. George Packer of The New Yorker makes some interesting Christie/Nixon parallels: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2014/01/the-trouble-with-christie.html

    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: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/11/arts/television/imero-fiorentino-master-of-lighting-dies-at-85.html?_r=0

    • 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.

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