Can Clinton & Trump’s Appearance on Video Change the Election?


By Greg Ball, President of Ball Media Innovations

Can the appearance of the candidates on video and TV influence the election outcome? Yes, it can. Of course it’s not the only thing that matters, but it can have a big part in forming impressions.

First I’ll discuss this issue, and the way we’re seeing it play out with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Then I’ll talk about what that can teach you when it comes to your business.

Here’s some evidence that appearance on TV can change election outcomes.

Consider this. Kennedy and Nixon held this country’s first TV televised debate in 1960. Kennedy beat the daylights out of Nixon although they had very similar views on many issues. Here’s what happened:

Nixon was running a fever and sweating, dealing with a knee injury that kept him shifting when he stood, and had spent the day campaigning hard. He looked run down.

Kennedy had rested, spent the entire weekend preparing, and used eye contact with the camera. He came off as calm, cool and well prepared.

It’s a commonly held belief that these things played a big role in getting Kennedy elected, and that those who watched on TV rather than listening on radio perceived Kennedy as more presidential and qualified. It moved them to go out and vote for Kennedy.

Take a look at the Nixon/Kennedy debate here:

The same could be said of the Obama and McCain debate. Visually there were some differences between the two that were widely talked about, and which may have impacted voters. Obama smiled, showed confidence, and even shook his head at McCain’s comments. McCain paced back and forth and was seen several times in the background wandering around the stage. In fact this was spoofed on Saturday Night live.

So how about Trump and Clinton?

Let’s start with Hillary. She’s gotten criticized by the public for seeming harsh and unapproachable. Her campaign team has given her a lot of feedback and direction, and she’s trying to apply it. For her facial expressions, she’s tried to smile much more. She’s also toned down her volume and changed some of her vocal inflections.

Regardless, some of this may have backfired somewhat, since many people perceive this as less than sincere. She’s also frequently referred to as robotic, measured, and rehearsed. In fact according to the Political Insider she’s actually goofed when she’s tried to apply changes by reading the prompt to sigh, rather than just sighing. Here’s a look what happened:

Donald Trump had visual issues during his first debate. He pursed his lips a lot, and seemed to be watching someone in the audience rather than looking at the camera. During the second debate he changed his approach and utilized his strengths more. First, he’s about 6’2”. During this go-round he stood and walked the floor. He pointed at Hillary more than once when he made his point. He appeared more authoritative this time.

The downside of this for Donald is that Hillary’s camp has used the media to spin that as Donald trying to intimidate the smaller Hillary.

There’s so much more going on here (behind the scenes and in front of the camera) than we can cover in this article, but how this is all being percieved remains to be seen in the final vote.

What’s the lesson here for your business?

All the audio and visual signals you give on your business videos can make a huge impact on outcomes. It can leave a lasting impression which can help you, or hurt you. It can sway potential customers to support your business and buy from you, or they can be totally turned off.

So whether you, one of your employees or a professional actor/actress is on camera, it’s important to project the type of image you want representing your company. Your producer/director should be able to optimize your appearance and help you make a great impression. Being on camera is not for everyone, but a good director can take the time to help draw out your best performance. Even when working with professional talent, it’s essential to have a director who is effective and can help the actor project the image your company wants to present.

There are many tricks of the trade that a good director will use to increase the effectiveness of the video.

For example, here are a couple of basic rules:

To project trustworthiness, the speaker should appear calm and confident.

If they come off as anything else such as smug, rehearsed, nervous or robotic, you may do more harm then good with your video. However an experienced director can help put the person on camera at ease, and can help them to help tweak the performance.

Shot angles can change your appearance:

  • Eye level shooting can translate to trustworthiness.
  • When the camera looks up at someone, they can appear larger than life. It can be a positive thing under the right circumstances.
  • When the camera looks down on someone the impression can mean a loss of trustworthiness.

Of course there are many other tricks of the trade that can contribute towards having your spokesperson create a positive impression. This can help improve the effectiveness of your business videos.

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About Author

Greg Ball is the President and owner of Ball Media Innovations. Before starting this company in 2002, he ran the Burger King World Headquarters video operation for many years. Greg has produced videos for major corporations and small businesses on a local and global basis.