Brett was rewarded for his contribution to the 2014 Al Gore’s Climate Reality Training Corps with a seat at a below-the-radar gig by the former US Vice President last Sunday afternoon.
Along with 150 or so rain-streaked true believers Brett sat and listened to a man who is no stranger to the stage.
The world’s leading climate change campaigner was upbeat when asked to assess the status quo ahead of the big shindig in Paris. Mr Gore brought to the presentation a sense of optimism which he said was based on political momentum he is witnessing and as he explained because he’s just plain decided to be positive because it’s easier that way. Content aside, here are Brett’s takeaways for public speakers as inspired by Al Gore
Notes – it is extremely impressive when a speaker speaks without them.
Structure – a simple structure always helps. Mr Gore used three rhetorical questions which he proceeded to answer.
Humour – especially of the self-deprecating kind works a treat. The bigger the deal you are the more this works. FYI – Al Gore is very funny.
Broad references impress an audience and connect with different people within that audience. Mr Gore was educated at Harvard. Perhaps that’s why he made comfortable reference to Sisyphus, the old Testament, philosophers, political pundits, his own books, recent articles on the Guardian’s website and his own interactions with people around the globe. He quoted philosophers, scientists, local heroes and people who have been dead a very long time.
Shout outs. Mr Gore referred to several people within the room that he knew. This not only makes those people feel good, it makes him look comfortable and ‘present’.
Displays of humanity work a treat. References to his own waistline, his thwarted political aspirations and his own state of mind made him very human and relatable – for a former US VP who sits on the board of Apple, is the son of US Senator, visits Antarctica with Richard Branson and elicits a quasi-religious fervour among his followers.
Stories shift the focus from you to the subject of your story. They illuminate, adding colour and movement. Mr Gore used swag of stories long and short to bring home his points.
Constantly assess your performance. When one of his answers to a question run a little long Mr Gore acknowledged this to the room in real time. Audiences appreciate this and it shows that while he was genuinely considering his answer, he was also aware that he is performing.
Be visible. Though he stood behind the lectern this was only due to a handheld microphone not working(!) He clearly would have preferred to have stood less formally centre stage for this small-scale, intimate and informal occasion. If you want to connect to your audiences don’t hide yourself like a bank teller.
Thoughtfulness. Though Mr Gore has no doubt presented to similar groups hundreds of times in dozens of countries he seemed to genuinely be pondering his thoughts for us on the night.
Conclusion: Of course everything Mr Gore does everything gets a warm reception less lights would not. That said, he would not be in the position he’s in today if he could not bring authenticity, passion and knowledge to every audience.
Here are some other ways to be a better speaker.