best presentation of cop26

As I wright this, COP26 isn’t over. I’m hopeful – not happy, but hopeful. My opinion of the best presentation at cop26 might change in the next week or so but to honest it’s going to be a hell of a presentation to beat this.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Sir David Attenbrough

Now, if you don’t know Sir David, there’s something missing in your life. Stop what you’re doing right now and go watch his entire back catalogue of TV documentaries. Come back when you’re done (in about 8 months!) – this post will still be here.

What makes this the best presentation?

There’s lots of things I can pick from but for the sake of brevity, here are a couple of key points. Firstly, and most obviously, despite being 95, Sir David is full of energy, full off life and his voice is beautifully animated. One thing that he has that most of us don’t, of course, is familiarity.

We know him from listening to him on our TVs and with that familiarity comes trust. We trust what we are familiar with. (From an evolutionary point of view, maybe that’s because it hasn’t eaten us yet, so it must be safe!) You can use this in your own presentations by becoming a familiar presenter at work – don’t just do one-and-done… do presentations regularly to become a familiar figure at the front of the room and on people’s screens.

The second thing to draw your attention to are the graphics. Just watch them. It’s like watching a narration and it’s perfectly balanced to support his points. Take, for example, the phrase just before 2:30 “we are already in trouble”. The images are of damaged 1st world scenarios, illustrating to the people who can make a difference that it’s not a problem just for someone else. It could be their car that gets crushed.

Or just listen to the perfect timing at 2:35 where Sir David says “is breaking” and the slides show ice fields literally breaking up. It’s professional presenting perfection.

And how about this for a Wow moment? “We are, after all, the greatest problem solvers ever to have existed on Earth“. Just think about that line. It combines flattery with responsibility.

The use of a single number

Climate change is complicated – bloody complicated… but unless you’re addressing a bunch of research scientists who’re looking at their particular specialist part of the problem, there’s no point in addressing that complexity in our presentation. Indeed it’s counter-productive to do that, because well… it’s just too bloody complicated.

So instead Sir David gives his audience the one key statistic, the single measure, that all the other, complicated things are aiming at. He gives the outcome measure – parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere. It all comes down to reducing that.

That’s something people can understand – not at the detailed gradual level, but at the simple level of “does that number come down”.

Think about your own presentations. Do you give your audience a clear outcome measure they can understand, or do you get bogged down in ‘how’? As a rule of thumb the only person that cares about ‘how’ is likely to be you. (Okay, that’s overstating it, but if you got defensive about it, get a life 😉 )

Cre de Coir

This presentation is full of big moments. It’s got more heavy punches than an Avengers film! Here’s one, at just after 6:30.

“If working apart we are a force powerful enough to destabilise our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it.”

How’s that for a call to action? Right between the eyes… and he goes on to lay a guilt trip after that 😉

The cool bit here is the use of a contrast – and the logical inevitability. He’s bypassing all the “but we can’t” thinking that goes on in people’s heads by pointing out that that they’ve already done half of the work under bad conditions (acting apart). By comparison, the implication goes, it should be technically easy to sort things out because we’ll be working under better technical circumstances (working together).

The implication is clear. This isn’t a technical problem. It’s question of morals and political courage.

And implying cowardice is a powerful motivator! He doesn’t accuse people directly ‘cos that just makes them defensive. This is an example of carefully avoiding challenging someone’s identity variables. The way I recommend doing it in the business presentations my clients usually have to deliver is to use stories…

Let’s get back to the presentation’s slides

Does Sir David look at them? Nope.

Well he probably does, to help with his timing, using a monitor in front of him but it doesn’t look like he does. And that’s critical. It shows that he’s confident in them, confident in his tech and in the delivery. And he’s competent!

And that kind of thing transfers to the subconscious of audiences via something called the Oppenheimer Effect – where people assume competence at one thing implies competence at another. Imagine how much less you’d have trusted Sir David’s data if he’s umm’d and ahh’d and hesitated and look at his slides, perhaps even reading them…

Presentation summary

So is there a single knock-down thing that makes this such a great presentation? No.

There are half a dozen of them. 🙂

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