Al Gore: another presenter extraordinaire?
May 25, 2006
The prospect of watching a former Vice-President of the United States give a "PowerPoint presentation" probably does not sound too exciting. If I told you that the VP was Al Gore and his presentation was on (yawn) global warming, that may not help peak your excitement much. "Sounds boring" you'd say. But you'd be wrong. From everything I've read and seen -- and from what people keep telling me for months now -- Al Gore's touring "PowerPoint presentation" on global warming is not to be missed. A serious presentation that's got the three key elements: (1) A crucially important (and controversial) topic, (2) an engaging delivery, and (3) visuals that are compelling, stunning and backup, and enhance the message.
"I have PowerPoint envy"
After witnessing Al Gore's live presentation in Seattle earlier this spring (not the movie), Eric de Place from Northwest Environment Watch exclaimed: "I have PowerPoint Envy." Mr. de Place, like so many other people who first see slideware used without bullet points was amazed.
"[Al Gore's] slideshow was easily the best slideshow I've ever seen on this, or any other, subject, but Gore himself was a study in mastery--at once funny and earnest, erudite and thundering. (Where was this guy during the 2000 campaign?)"
-- Eric de Place
Al Gore's presentation is so good, so compelling, that they made a movie about it. A movie that is essentially an Al Gore presentation with solid, simple use of multimedia. What a concept -- who the heck thought *that* would be interesting? But it is.
"A movie about Al Gore giving a PowerPoint presentation about global warming doesn’t sound all that exciting, but if you liked “March of the Penguins,” you’ll love “An Inconvenient Truth.”
-- Eleanor Clift, Newsweek
Al Gore's presentation style
Newsweek's Eleanor Clift says Gore's style is much different than the stiff speech-maker we saw in 2000. "He seems more approachable, and he’s a first-rate teacher as he explains in “An Inconvenient Truth” about the inescapable march of global warming, along with its consequences, that first captured his imagination as a college student."
Commenting on Gore's presentation, master presenter Lawerance Lessig sums it up this way: "Facts, reason and a bit of persuasion." Three important ingredients for any successful presentation. Based on this older video of Al Gore's global warming presentation, the only thing I'd like to see him do better is to not look back at the screen so much. But I assume he has gotten better at this since he has been presenting nonstop for the past couple of years.
Three things stand out about Al Gore's presentation:
(1) He looks relaxed, like he's in his realm. It's a serious issue, and he is serious, yet he's a pleasure to watch and listen to. Where was this guy in 2000 indeed.
(2) The technology is transparent to the audience, as it should be. He's got to be the only 50-something politician (former politician?) who can actually use slideware without stinking up the place.
(3) His slide images are photographic imagery of high quality. The design of the visuals are powerful yet complementary and subordinate to Gore and his message (though in many ways, the visuals are the message in this instance; certainly the visuals are crucial to his case).
Above: Al Gore gets naked, front and center and makes a connection with the audience. The large screen behind him is impressive and the images are important, but it is the person and the message that take center stage.
Above: Al Gore makes good use of visuals to help him make his points and tell his story.
"It is one freaking incredible PowerPoint presentation, let us tell you. We've never seen better. Gore claims to have given his "slideshow" over 1,000 times, and the way he handles the remote, it shows." -- Michael van Baker, Seattlest.com
Spreading the idea virus
Seth Godin says that the more people who know about your idea, the more powerful it becomes (See Seth's slides here, here and here on this issue). So, I would like to see Gore put together a presentation kit which includes video, high-quality images, etc. that individuals and community groups can obtain (preferably via the web) so that they may give similar presentations themselves in schools, associations, etc. All slides would contain a script or key points in the notes view and the kit should contain an updated takeaway. Sure, they can sell the DVD of the movie and people can show that, but it's more effective if people can interact with a real person in a live presentation setting. Come on Al, unleash this presentation to the masses and let others get out there and make the presentation too. (Note: I have just heard that Gore may be training 1000 people to make similar presentations. True? I'd offer my services for free to help train a group of scientists to do something similar to what Al Gore,a lay person, has done.)
"Even if you want to reject the argument, understand it first."
-- Lawrence Lessig on "An Inconvenient Truth"
See this film ASAP and spread the word
This is important. Look, I know you may not agree with Al Gore's beliefs, but this is not a political issue (at least it shouldn't be). And even if you want to refute the contents of the presentation/film, shouldn't you see it first? If you are in agreement with Gore on this issue, then spread the word -- wake the kids and call the neighbors -- this is an important film. See this film and you get to see a well designed and delivered presentation sans bullet points, and you may just learn a thing or two about how to save the planet as well. What could be more important?
• Inconvenient Truth website, Climate Crisis.net
• See the trailer on Apple's site
• Al Gore takes Cannes by storm
• 2004 Al Gore global warming presentation
• Nike teaches kids about Earth being a closed system. Yet, why can't FoxNews get an expert who knows Earth is a closed system?
• So much for this being a non-political issue. The Competitive Enterprise Institute made TV spots that would make Saturday Night Live proud -- except they are not kidding. "Carbon Dioxide: They call it pollution. We call it life" they say. How's that for a non sequitur? The 60-second spot on glaciers has been rebuked by the same scientist they used to support their claims that the ice sheets are actually increasing, not decreasing. What would these people have told the crew of Apollo 13? "Relax guys, that CO2 building up is not smoke or pollution, in fact, we call it life." Whoa.
• Gore, who is a long-time Mac user and sits on the Apple Board, uses a PowerBook for his presentations and is probably using Keynote, but it doesn't really matter. The only advantage to Keynote is the lower cost, ease of use, smoother dissolves and fades, real drop shadows, etc. PowerPoint or other software would work fine as well.
• The trailer for "Inconvenient Truth" (and the website too) is just a bit over the top and may smack of "fear mongering" to some, or at least overly hyped. This is after all a documentary, not Hollywood fiction. Maybe that's what it takes to get people to see a film these days. But surely some will see the trailer and dismiss the documentary as hyperbole. The Gore presentations themselves appear to be impassioned, but also reasonable, logical and persuasive without the hype.