Mitt Romney’s health care PowerPoint slides improved in 5 steps

Mitt Romney has been criticized for using PowerPoint slides to explain his health care plan. His slides are a bit of a mess but I want to demonstrate some principles of slide design by re-doing his slides.

1. Does the audience need text or pictures? Some presentation experts dislike slide text. But it really depends on what the audience wants. In his speech at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, the audience is medical students and doctors keen to understand Romney’s health care plan. They don’t want stock photography. They want text. Romney’s slides contain text but they are visually disorganized, spraying attention all over the place, so we’ll talk about how to improve that next.

2. Use visuals to provide order. Romney’s original slide uses a parchment paper background, a metaphor for the U.S. Constitution which recognizes the states’ rights to make their own decisions – in this case, health care decisions. But the effect is too subtle for an audience sitting 20 feet away.

Instead, Romney should use a template that clearly illustrates his point: the contrast between his plan and Obama’s. For instance, he could use the colors red and blue to represent the political parties (with a white slice between them; red and blue vibrate when they are next to each other) and reinforced by the politicians’ faces. Romney’s plan should be on the left side of the screen, which is the dominant half.

Finally, there’s a lot of distracting elements in the corners of the original slide, which scatters the reader’s attention. These should be cleaned up by reducing the size of the materials at the bottom and placing them in less obtrusive locations. The slide title can be condensed on the left side, rather than split into elements in the left and right corners.

3. Slide title. Every slide makeover begins be rewriting the slide title. On this slide, Romney is contrasting the differences between the health care plan he implemented in Massachusetts and Obama’s federal plan. So make that clear in the slide title.

4. Slide text. Limit the slide to 3-4 major points. In this case, Romney is contrasting 3 benefits of his plan vs 3 weaknesses of Obama’s plan. Rather than put each point on different slides, bring them all together on the same slide. This builds up a mountain of evidence in his favor. Rather than showing this text all at once, he can use sequencing to bring the text in as he elaborates on it. See the video below.

5. Write bullets to sync and launch. When you paraphrase the bullet using different words than are on the slide, the audience is confused about which bullet point you’re covering. So write your slide text to sync and launch: that is, so the speaker can synchronize his spoken text with the slide text and then launch into elaborating his point. See the final slides below. 

When you understand your audience and the power of visual communication, you will learn even politicians can communicate more clearly and persuasively using PowerPoint (However, Romney needs to learn to stop looking over his shoulders at his slides).

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox

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3 Responses to Mitt Romney’s health care PowerPoint slides improved in 5 steps

  1. Jennifer says:

    The other easy win fix would be to position the title in such a way that the vs. in the lead sits immediately over the white line divide. This would have the effect of making Romney’s red side of the slide more clearly ‘For the people’ and the Obama blue side of the slide more clearly ‘Big Government’

    • Hi Jennifer – Yes, I like it. Normally, I advise managers to align their slide title on the left because a center-aligned title doesn’t line up with anything else on the slide.

      In this case, though, centering the title over the dividing white line would reinforce the key message about contrast. So I like the suggestion!

  2. ileighanne says:

    Excellent change in layout. So simple but very effective. And I like Jennifer’s comment as well.

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