Michael Pritchard – workmanlike

I came across a TED talk by inventor Michael Pritchard. I have watched a great many Ted talks, and have often been disappointed, but this one is good. I also see that to date nearly 1.6 million others have seen it since it was posted in 2009. It concerns Lifesaver, a flask that can turn disgustingly dirty water into drinking water in seconds, and I’ll leave you to consider the implications of that.

The first observation I make is that Pritchard is not a natural speaker (though assiduous readers of this blog will know that being a natural speaker is not necessarily all that it’s cracked up to be – here’s an example). There is a slight tautness in his delivery that tells me that Pritchard has worked very hard at getting his speaking to the level it has reached. There is also a tautness about the structure of the content that commands attention.

His visual slides are used very sparingly, and have greater impact for that. Also they are used only to set the scene and highlight the problem. When he reaches his answer to it, all the visual aid comes from his own live demonstration. He gleefully prepares a really revolting solution (I would be specific, but you’ll find it more fun to watch); then he pours some into one of his flasks, and seconds later drinks it. It is very impressive.

The next section of the speech is occupied by apparently reiterating the problem, and at first I felt with regret that we were just going over the same ground. I was wrong: the scenarios he now shows are subtly different now that we have seen his magic flask in action. Now we instantly and instinctively work out for ourselves how disaster relief has always had to carry huge and heavy quantities of stuff that is abundantly lying uselessly around – water. Now that very stuff can be put to use.

It’s a good speech, delivered in a workmanlike and businesslike manner. The structure has a very strong narrative which makes it digestible and compelling.

I would have cut out the final two minutes, which for me did not really hang together with the narrative of the rest; but as an example of how to construct a business pitch this is copy-book stuff.

I was not surprised, when I found elsewhere some footage of him pitching another invention on The Dragons’ Denthat he got himself a deal.

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