Clear Comm Consulting

You’re always on — even when you’re not; just ask Biden and Boehner

Jan 25, 2012

Just watching the State of the Union speech reminded me of that uncomfortable place for the people who are on, but not on. We’ve actually all been there — and there are right and wrong ways to handle it. Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner know all about it. The President is there, front and center for all to see — and then there is the Vice President and Speaker — also fully visible, but not the main attraction. Just think of the times you’ve been in a wedding party but were not the bride or groom — or sitting on the stage but not the speaker — or a hundred other situations where you can do yourself some serious damage if you make the wrong move because you are so close to the main spotlight.

(It’s almost comical to watch how the Vice President and Speaker have handled it over the years; if either is in the same party as the President they are clapping wildly and showing their approval, while if they are in the opposition they show mild support on only the most obvious items.)

If you are a leader or play any public communication role, this serves as a great reminder that we are all often “on” even when we are not thinking about it. Use this as a reminder for yourself and your team to be thinking of that fact. Here are some examples:

A Camera in the Room: Perhaps the question should be when is there NOT a camera in the room? For the sake of this discussion, we’ll look at the obvious situations. If a camera is around — for a media interview or a company video or any other reason, assume you are on! One of the greatest examples of this gone completely haywire came during Rudy Giuliani’s first swearing-in ceremony as his young son stole the show in all the wrong ways!

Check it out:

On Any Stage: Here is the simple rule: “If you are in the front of the room, assume people could, at any point, be looking at you!” The numbers of times I’ve seen City Council members or Lawmakers yawn, fall asleep, argue, carry on in a cell phone call or otherwise distract from the actual proceedings are too many to count!

Visitors on the Premises: You may be giving a tour to a small group, hoping to impress them in some way, but that impression could go right down the tubes if colleagues are shouting at each other as the tour passes a conference room. Oops!

The point is this — a quick reminder that we are all on — maybe not like John Boehner and Joe Biden were this week — but still it happens all the time. It is part of being a professional and understanding that people judge us when we are thinking about it — and when we are not.

Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting,, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: [email protected].

Follow along with Cary on Twitter @CaryPfeffer

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