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Collins beats Ardern but room for improvement

23 September 2020

It was a clear win to Judith Collins in the first electoral debate last night, but she will need to improve for the next one as Ardern is likely to come back far stronger.

Why Collins won

A big reason for the win was the use of language. Ardern used too much jargon. For example, she used of the term “double duty” a number of times. This was confusing, particularly since she pronounces the letter “T” like a “D”, meaning it sounded like “double Judy.” Few people would have understood what this meant. She also used other Jargon regularly like ‘infrastructure deficit.’ These terms aren’t understood by many in a general audience.

In contract, Collins was very clear. She used simple language and even included a few stories. The one that stuck out was in response to a question when she said how her husband had had to leave school early to support his family. People remember stories.

What could Collins do better?

There are two things she could improve. The first is to refer back to the key points she wants to make more often. She should still answer questions, but incorporate the things she wants to get across into them. For example, when she was asked about Christchurch hospital funding, there was an opportunity at the end of her direct answer to say something like, “If we don’t do things like back business with our new depreciation policy or start allowing more foreign workers in safely, there won’t be any money for any hospitals.”

This is important because people remember very little detail, so you need to hammer home your messages a number of time to get them heard.

The other things she could do is to be a bit more animated. While her energy level was quite good and she matched Ardern in the empathy stakes, there were times when her body was dead still. People need to see movement on screen and hand gestures enhance voice tones and make the person come across as more passionate and credible. This is something Ardern excels at.

It'll be interesting to see how they both follow up these performances.

Written by

Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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