Election night was fascinating. Watching how our political leaders and candidates handled media interviews throughout the night was a study in the best and worst of communications. Some were gracious in victory and defeat. Some were able to combine being ‘on script’ with being real and authentic. Some were irreverent and some were downright strange (Kelvin Davis springs to mind – for a blessedly abridged version click here).
I particularly enjoyed the communication skills on display when Dr Nick Smith arrived to concede to Labour’s Rachel Boyack here in Nelson. Ms Boyack’s campaign manager asked those present to treat Dr Smith with respect when he arrived and they did just that. Dr Smith’s concessionary remarks were appropriate and well expressed. Rachel Boyack’s welcome and remarks to Dr Smith were honest and gracious, boding well for how she will conduct herself as Nelson’s member of parliament.
It was clear that Ms Boyack is ready for her role. Her victory speech outlined her key priorities and made a commitment to her supporters and to those who may not have voted for her but are now represented by her nonetheless. Her timing was impeccable, her speech was neither too long nor too short, her voice was clear, and her poise was evident.
Surprisingly some other candidates seemed utterly overwhelmed by the occasion. “I’m stoked” is a phrase that has its place in a conversation with some mates, but broadcast to the nation, not so much. There was even some swearing from candidates during media interviews.
Some candidates who are normally known for their willingness to speak fulsomely had little to offer. It was a shame not to hear more from Winston Peters, for example, on what must have been an extremely difficult night for him. Mr Peters is an eloquent speaker, even if it’s not the kind of content you necessarily agree with or want to hear, but he was perhaps too crushed by the result to give more.
The best communicator of the night for me was not a politician, however, but rather political commentator Emma Espiner. Well prepared, on point, insightful, and unafraid to express a distinct view, she was a breath of fresh air. Ms Espiner is a regular contributor to Newsroom and other channels so if you haven’t yet read anything she has written please do seek her out.
The TV1 election night team as a whole were outstanding and thoroughly deserved the ratings they achieved (1.4 million viewers in 5+ according to a tweet from Hilary Barry). Handling live television for that length of time is no easy feat but they made it look effortless and even fun.
One of my all-time favourite moments of live television came when Hilary Barry refused to read the sexist and outdated copy on the autocue introducing the Prime Minister’s partner Clarke Gayford. For an entertaining highlights reel of TV1’s election night coverage have a look at this.
This was the first election night coverage my two daughters have watched and it set a high bar. They were surprised by the laughter and the pointed commentary, and the rolling coverage prompted plenty of healthy discussion about our electoral system and the two referenda, hopefully sowing the seeds for a lifetime of voter participation for them both. One of them even expressed an interest in getting more directly involved in politics.
With examples of eloquent young people around them engaged in party organisation and standing for representative roles it must feel more within their reach than for any previous generation. That’s got to be exciting for our democracy and for our nation. I’d almost go so far as to say I’m stoked about that.
What were your election night communication highlights?