I generally believe that substance is more important than style. However, there are times when style is critical. The recent TV debate between President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney serves as a great example of that.
I have no doubt that Romney’s display of confidence, energy, and “presidential presence” had a greater influence over people’s perception. Probably more than his actual messages. Conversely, Obama was described as looking tired, and un-energized.
Of course, the classic example of the importance of physical appearance is the famous debate between JFK and Richard Nixon. The first-ever televised debate. Those who saw the debate gave the victory to Kennedy. On the other hand, those who heard the debate on radio thought Nixon won.
This is not a surprise when we consider the fact that vision is our most dominant sense. It probably has to do with our evolution and
primal survival needs, such as fight or flee, friend or foe, etc.
The Importance of Visual Perception
Perception is the ability to take in information via the senses, and process it in some way. Vision and hearing are two dominant senses that allow us to perceive the environment. Research estimates that 80-85% of our perception, learning, cognition, and activities are mediated through vision.
The ultimate purpose of the visual process is to arrive at an appropriate motor, and/or cognitive response. This is an important lesson to leaders in all walks of life. We need to remember that our appearance and style are just as important as our content. And, as the recent presidential debate shows at times could overshadow our messages.
In my next post, I will offer some simple and useful tips on how to prepare for that important speech, presentation, or any other important performance you may have.
Of course, style on its own cannot replace lack of substance. However, the right style can enhance your messages and generate the perception you want people to have. As William Shakespeare correctly observed long ago: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”