Brandt School Universität Erfurt

Complementing the Seminar “Political Advocacy and Leadership” with Workhop by Mr. Robert Burdy

On November 30 and December 1, Robert Burdy gave a block seminar as part of the seminar “Political Advocacy and Leadership” by Dr. Edgar Aragón at the Willy Brandt School. Robert Burdy is a German TV-presenter and television journalist for the news program “MDR aktuell”. He also works as an executive coach and is a published author. He has previously worked as a correspondent in Washington DC, reporting from the Middle East and Latin America.

The block seminar had a practical approach and therefore in teams the students had to create a political message and record themselves presenting the message. The objective was to learn “how to build a political message”. Once the messages were presented, Mr. Burdy gave feedback to all participants and pointed out common mistakes. On the one hand, he underlined the importance of choosing the right words because they affect people´s perception very clearly. On the other hand, he explained the importance of spending a reasonable amount of time refining a key message. The key message should just be a single sentence that is both memorable and emotive and compounds the main idea. One of the most interesting messages Mr. Burdy transmitted is that, contrary to the current trend of using statistics to validate a statement, “being right is not enough to be convincing”. Statistics only have an impact when translated into everyday language.

Furthermore, Mr. Burdy explained how to defend a message when facing an aggressive counterpart. Again, the recorded videos of the participants were essential for analyzing common mistakes and providing valuable feedback to participants. For instance, “although irony might be a deadly tool in a small group conversation, it is useless in front of a camera when speaking to a large audience because people need to clearly understand the message and require several repetitions to remember it.”

Finally, Mr. Burdy talked about body language and gave general insight into the topic. According to Mr. Burdy, gestures are the same in any part of the world and in any culture, meaning they are universal. One of the most important lessons was that it is necessary to be authentic in front of a camera in order to gain people´s sympathy.