Monday, November 19, 2012

First Debate: Ryan Meili

I'm going to use this as a standard disclaimer for the posts in this series: Also, I'm worried some of this might sounder harsher than I mean it to. I want to assure you all that I am by no means belittling or attacking any of the candidates; rather, I'm offering my perceived take and ways to address what I see as problems from the first debate. If I offend anyone, I offer my apologies ahead of time, and assure you that my intention was not to offend; I suppose it is hard to discuss legitimate criticism, but I feel that we need to in order to really get the best out of our candidates.

Positives:

1.) The first positive I can think of for Ryan is the fact that he's very good at engaging with the audience, especially in terms of using humour.

2.) In general, Ryan has a sort of "hopeful atmosphere" around him; by which, I mean that when he speaks about generalities and an overall vision for the province, he tends to do with a sense of wonder and in a way that tends to win a lot of people over. Whether you can chalk it up to just natural charisma, or just being passionate about the issues, Ryan's speaking style serves him well.

3.) Ryan is well-read, and he likes to get that across; as he is quick to mention authors, researchers, studies, and a myriad of other references that underscore his general commitment to social democracy; it might not make him an authority on a particular issue, but it highlights that he is reading what the authorities have to say.

4.) This one might be phrased poorly, but in many ways Ryan comes across as the most humble of the leadership candidates. Even though he came in second in the last leadership contest, Ryan has managed to avoid any sense of entitlement to lead the party based on the past result, and is always quick to acknowledge the other candidates, and his campaign staff, ahead of himself.

Negatives:

1.) Ryan suffers a bit from some underdeveloped policy planks. And while he has brought forward some interesting policy suggestions, like the creation of a Bank of Saskatchewan, there are still a lot of potential policy planks that haven't been fleshed out and could cause some friction in future debates.

2.) I think Ryan comes across as personable, but there is always some room for improvement. For the most part, and I'm judging by web-footage so if I'm wrong please correct me, it seems like Ryan tends to answer questions directly back to the moderator. I think he would benefit from trying to directly address the crowd, as opposed to responding to the moderator or glances at his notes. Sir Ian McKellen explained that when he acts in a stage play, his goal is to look out into the audience and try to make eye contact with every single person in the house before the play is over; I think that's great advice, and it's something that could help Ryan connect a little more with the audience.

3.) Perhaps its just his soft-spoken tone, but there are times when Ryan doesn't always come across as particularly confident. With a slate of strong spoken candidates, I think Ryan needs to work at making sure the important points are hammered home in a more forceful (but still gentle) tone.

Areas for Growth

As mentioned in the negatives, I think Ryan has some room to grow in developing a more forceful personality during the debates. He doesn't have to lose his soft-spoken nature, and I think many people would be surprised or horrified if he did, but he does have to work on ensuring that the points he really wants to get across are delivered in a strong way. I can think of his mentioning of homelessness during his closing statement; it's a great point, but it gets lost through along the other issues mentioned.

Final Thoughts

Like Cam, I think Ryan's first debate performance was pretty much average. His passion for the issues, and his willingness to show that he's learning as much as he can from experts and from the average person, is his strongest suit and will continue to serve him well throughout the campaign. We know, given his past history (the last leadership, his book tour, a TED Talk, and other speaking engagements) that his speaking skills are there, and hopefully, they'll be a bit more fine tuned for the next debate. 

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