Sarah Palin: Preparing for a Make or Break Moment

Last Updated Oct 2, 2008 10:33 AM EDT

Driving into work today I felt sympathy for Sarah Palin, who faces undoubtedly the biggest moment of her political career.

With her debate performance against Joe Biden tonight she can:

  • Deeply hurt Republican chances of continuing in the White House OR again inject new vigor into the McCain campaign.
  • Position herself as a Republican star and power broker for years to come OR drop to a footnote in political history.
  • Define her legacy as either an effective street-smart fighter for the common man/woman OR Peter Principle exemplar of someone in way over their head.
Not much pressure, eh? Have you ever had to make such a high-stakes presentation with so much riding on your career? How did you prepare for it?

Nick Morgan is one of my favorite authors on public speaking, and he gives his thoughts on this very subject in the Harvard Business Publishing post How Sarah Palin Should Prepare ... and How You Should, Too.

Morgan suggests several rehearsals to make sure your body language aligns with your spoken message. "We are all unconscious experts in reading body language, and we'll pick up instantly if you're an amateur at this particular game," he counsels.

Among his other suggestions: rehearse in conditions as close to reality as possible, and make sure you are certain and passionate about your material.

Read his article for more important pointers on acing your crucial presentation.

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.