Gautam Kalghatgi can’t talk.

Professor Gautam Kalghatgi is one of those rare people whose letters after their name use more ink than the name itself. You could say that he’s been wearing himself down by degrees.

Gautam Kalghatgi, FREng, FSAE, FIMechE, CEng (YouTube adds FISEES, and you can also add B.Tech and Ph.D. if you want) is a visiting professor at … you name it; and on 4 February this year he addressed the Global Warming Policy Foundation with a talk entitled Is it Really the End of the Internal Combustion Engine?

Since he appears to know everything about everything else, you’d expect him to know about Public Speaking. You’d be wrong. He hasn’t the first clue, which is sad because he has important information to impart.

In the first few seconds Kalghatgi tells us that he has been delivering this talk for about a year and a half. This forty two minute video feels longer than that. The term “bogged down in detail” could have been invented for him. For a sample, I suggest you click to 16:50, and read through all of the slide you find there. There are sixteen of those.

In my training to business leaders I offer a great deal of advice about presenting reports like this. That advice can be summed up thus –

  • Don’t try to recount, précis or summarise it.
  • Trail it.

When there is a wealth of data (and there always is), attempting to précis it is futile and the closer you get to succeeding the more counterproductive it becomes. Offer hard copy of the report and devote the talk to persuading the audience to read it. Then they can mark, learn, and inwardly digest at their own speed.

I talk of trailing it – like a movie. We’ve all seen movie trailers: they don’t tell the story, otherwise we wouldn’t bother to see the film. Instead they cherrypick the sexiest shots and leave us wanting more … so we buy our tickets and see the film. I’m sure you follow the point.

So stand, don’t sit like he does, never stare at a screen, still less at paper, but look at your audience and seduce them into being eager to read your report. Use broad brush strokes, the sooner to reach your conclusion, making assertions without justifying them but declaring that all justifications and references are to be found in the hard copy. Yes it’s slightly easier said than done, but not much if you have the right guidance.

Kalghatgi tries to précis, or rather he tries to recount all, the detail on those sixteen slides. He stumbles, loses the next slide, loses his place on slides, careers all over the place. He is a VoiceOver for his own slideshow, playing second fiddle. It is disastrous.

There are three ways to get benefit from this video. Kill the sound, pause on each slide, read it at your own pace, and then spin the video on to the next slide; or turn away, look at the wall, and merely listen; and the third way is to note his email address (he gives it at 00:57) and send for the hard copy. Otherwise you are likely to be asleep in minutes, knocked over by data overload – I’m serious.

But now here’s the killer! It’s worth doing. The information he has amassed, with his wealth of learning and research is immensely important. That’s the only reason I can conceive for anyone wanting him to come and talk. The trouble is that it’s quite a good one.

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