How to Prepare for a Candidate Forum
Forums offer you an unmatched opportunity to connect with voters and deliver key messages while engaging in dialogue in a polished manner. It’s normal to be nervous before a forum. While being fully prepared can go a long way in instilling confidence and reducing nerves, there are a few tips to manage jitters:
- Arrive early to get accustomed to the surroundings.
- Think positively and visualize a successful outcome.
- Focus on the forum as a conversation with the moderator.
- Reflect on the preparation. This will help you maintain control and make it an interview as much as the moderated forum.
- Create compelling messages and practice so that your presence is calm and professional.
- Wear contact lenses, instead of glasses. If you wear glasses, non-reflective lenses are best. Avoid light-sensitive glasses.
- Speak naturally, and avoid brushing your hand or clothing against the microphone if mic’d.
- If seated, sit erect but not ramrod-straight, and slightly forward or toward the moderator.
- If standing, do so with arms at the side or one hand in a pocket. Planting one foot slightly in front of the other will help you avoid swaying.
- Should you gesture, do so naturally, not expansively. Keep gestures small and in front of you, and avoid sudden body movement.
- Make your expression match your words. Smile if appropriate. Keep a mildly pleasant expression at all times; an expression that looks neutral may seem unhappy or angry in photos or video. A pleasant face might feel unnaturally smiley so practice in a mirror.
- Lean forward slightly. Modulate your voice when making key points.
- Avoid obvious signs of discomfort or nervousness, e.g., foot tapping, clenched fists, shifting back and forth.
- Make concise statements; put your most important message up front; talk to the moderator and guests, breaking eye contact by staring off into space or looking at the ground will make you appear shifty; stay attentive when others are speaking; wait until the question is finished to begin your answer/ask the question be repeated is necessary; hold your forum attitude until the forum is over.
Nothing beats practice to prepare for a forum. Run through all possible questions and refine the answers until you are comfortable with the responses.