Bush Needs Visual Aids to Sell Bailout Plan

There have been many important speeches from presidents of the United States throughout my career as an executive speech coach.   But I’ve never watched one like tonight’s speech by President Bush.

It was one of the only presidential speeches that I would categorize as a speech which needed to educate us. Only by educating us, could the president PERSUADE us that his plan was the right one for these dire economic circumstances.

Our individual and collective financial futures are at stake and most of us couldn’t tell what a mortgage backed security was if it was Fed Ex-ed to our front door.   But mortgage-backed securities, as well as other complex financial terms and issues, needed to be explained to us in simple terms. It could have been done much better.

Let’s analyze the speech from the 3 questions I always use with my clients:

1.  Has the speaker given us a good road map, so we know where the speech is going?

On the whole, Bush’s speech was well organized.   He began with a brief overview of the problem and then acknowledged that we citizens wanted to know the answers to 3 questions:

  • How did the US reach this point?
  • How will the proposed financial bailout work?
  • What does it mean to my financial future?

Good questions that were repeated each time he got to that section.

2.    Are there appropriate “speech landmarks” along the road, so that we can comprehend the information in a way that is memorable?

In this case, no.   Although it was well written, it screamed for visual aids.   This information is way too complex to rely only on words to tell the story.

This wasn’t a radio speech.  It was a television speech.   So how could his speechwriters forget to use visuals?

You don’t see a TV news anchor explain complex financial information without some graphs.

Most people rely on visuals to absorb and process information.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get that option this evening.

3.    Is the auditory trip filled with interesting highs and lows, twists and turns, to make the voice easy to follow?

In this case, yes.  BUT…and a big BUT it is…President Bush spoke very quickly, which was unusual in itself.  BUT when the information is complex, it doesn’t hurt to slow down or repeat information.

Recommendation to the White House: If you want to persuade American citizens, you might want to sharpen your PowerPoint skills.   For a $700 billion dollar bailout, there must be a few extra bucks to hire a graphic designer.

If you want some PowerPoint tips, visit my website and check out “Easy Ideas for the PowerPoint-Impaired.” I may send an extra copy of it to the president.

Jean Palmer Heck

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