Image over substance—Governor Kristi Noem does it, so I think I’m allowed the same privilege in reporting on her budget address.
As a speech coach, I can make a couple general observations:
First, if you are adding visual aids to your speech, you usually don’t need to include photos of yourself, since you will be there, at the podium, in sight of everyone, making the speech. You are your own visual aid; photos of yourself in your slides are mostly redundant.
Second, visual aids should provide visuals that aid the speech. More specifically, if you feel compelled to show people things like pictures while you are speaking, the things your audience sees should reinforce the words your audience hears. Many of the images featuring Noem do not really reflect what she is saying.
- The (strangely repeated) “Keeping South Dakota Healthy” slide does not show doctors and nurses at work; it shows people apparently dressed in white medical coats who may assume are health care workers smiling for a photo with the Governor at the Capitol. The photo also places all of those apparent health care workers except for one behind the Governor and a row of people in regular business clothes.
- The “Building a Stronger Workforce” slide commits a similar visual error: instead of showing people working, it shows a group of people standing around while the Governor gives a speech behind a slogan.
- The “Educating our Kids” slides (which according every stylebook I’ve ever perused should capitalize the pronoun) show the Governor in a classroom last month promoting pheasant hunting. The Governor is not doing anything the slides reference—not using the science of reading, not training teachers and administrators in the phonics-based approach she mentions in her speech, not presenting vo-tech material to high-risk high-school students in the Jobs for America’s Graduates program, not using TANF funds.
- The “Revenues Are Steady” slide is simply ridiculous. Dressing up as a blue-satin cowgirl and carrying a giant flag doesn’t say anything about the state’s fiscal condition. Riding a horse doesn’t say anything about the steadiness of revenues… unless the intended message is that South Dakota’s revenues are plodding along like a 19th-century mode of transportation.
Visual aids help listeners understand what the speech is about. When a speaker shows pictures of herself as half of her visual aids, listeners may understandably conclude that the speech is about the speaker herself and not… gee, whiz, what was the title of that speech again?