The Internet is buzzing today with a video clip featuring Florida Senator (and possible Romney running mate) Marco Rubio.
During an important speech this morning to the Brookings Institute, Rubio lost the last page of his speech. Many commentators
used the opportunity to remind their readers that Rubio has repeatedly blasted President Obama for using a teleprompter, and that he once called the president, “The most articulate and talented teleprompter reader in America.”
I’m not sure the teleprompter (or lack thereof) is a significant issue in this case. Sure, a prompter could have helped Rubio avoid that momentary gaffe, but a plastic binder clip could have prevented it as well.
As a presentation trainer, I see three bigger issues here:
1. He’s reading.
Little else is more sleep inducing to an audience than a speaker who reads a prepared text while looking down. If that’s all he planned on doing, he should have simply handed the audience the transcript and let them read it for themselves (people can read an average of five times faster than they can speak, so they would have beaten him to the finish line). Instead of reading, he should have looked down, gotten his next line, and delivered it while making eye contact with the audience.
2. He’s passionless.
OK, “passionless” may be overstating it a bit, but there’s not a whole lot of “oomph” in his delivery. Here’s why that’s a problem: His speech, at least in that clip, suffered from a “message disconnect
.” Listen to his words. His message is important, even generation-defining. But his voice and body language? They’re flat, as if he’s introducing the next speaker at a charity luncheon. And that flat delivery undercuts the vitality of his words.
3. He just keeps going.
Sen. Rubio handled the missing page moment with a smile, but dug right back into his text as if nothing had happened. Since the audience all saw it, I would have preferred to see him adlib something—anything—to demonstrate his grace under pressure. For instance, “Well, since this moment will end up on YouTube, it’s a great chance to tell people about our vision for the 21st Century.”
Brad Phillips is the author of the Mr. Media Training Blog, where a version of this story first appeared. His firm, Phillips Media Relations, specializes in media and presentation training. He tweets at @MrMediaTraining.