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Why Romney's Presentation Failed And What He Can Do About It

The political stage is a fascinating study of the power of the presentation. When it comes to public speaking and media training, Romney has two areas to address. Unless he can improve these two areas, he will plummet in the polls.

The first area is language.

Romney's recent remarks which were secretly recorded have been replayed continuously in the media. He stated, "There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what." If Romney had made that one statement his presentation and media image may have been salvaged.

His presentation derailed with this next statement.  "There are 47% who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."

His first statement that 47% will vote for the president is a marketing decision. He's saying that's not his target market. In any campaign, the candidate or marketer will focus time, effort, and money where there will be the greatest return. In other words, he knows they're not his fans.

The second statement felt like an attack and many people reacted negatively. Given that part of the 47% are elderly it sounded callous although that was not the intent.  A good media trainer would advise him to quickly apologize for misspeaking and to reword his statement. The challenge for all politicians and any public speaker in the limelight is that the media can take one soundbite and kill your reputation. Persons in the eye of the media must remember that they are always being recorded and that even speaking one-to-one is public speaking.

Remember when Jessie Jackson was a presidential candidate and made a religious slur in New York City? He was talking to an individual and someone in the crowd overheard him and reported it. Although he wasn't recorded, it had the same effect on his presentation and reputation.

For the non-famous public speakers, once you leave the stage, you're forgotten. But if you're a politician the media will replay and spin your presentation into the stratosphere.

The second area is delivery.

Romney looks and speaks like an executive. But like Al Gore, he appears stiff. When he says he cares about the poor and middle class the message lands as facts rather than warmth. Yet, when he's on a talk show he's more relaxed and his personality comes through. As a public speaker he needs to enhance his presentation with more self disclosure, personal stories, and more effective language. When he speaks with passion and can convey caring he'll increase his ability to connect.

These comments are non-partisan and related to the presentation of the candidate and not policies. What do you think Romney needs to do to improve his presentation in the media?