Bob Geldof can speak – and does.

At the opening ceremony of the One Young World Summit 2014, held in Dublin in October, Sir Bob Geldof delivered a Keynote Speech.

If you click that link to One Young World you will see that the purpose of it is to address ‘Young Leaders’. My hackles immediately rise, for reasons that I made clear in this posting. I am wearily accustomed to finding such enterprises being vehicles to relay dangerous indoctrination. The first few seconds of this video seem to confirm my fears as one of the organisation’s founders mentions climate change as a ‘systemic challenge’ when in reality it is the most expensive political fraud of this or any age, as well as being a criminal distraction from real problems facing us. The systemic challenge is in the need to stop the nonsense now and then dismantle the appalling damage the scam is inflicting world wide – particularly on the poor. However I am made of stern stuff, and I am here to critique Bob Geldof’s speech, so I stick with it.

Before Geldof we see Kate Robertson beginning his introduction. Leaving aside the climate change nonsense, I can’t believe that Robertson is actually needing to read one little minute of data-light speaking off screens at her feet. She hands over to (I think) her co-founder David Jones. He likewise reads one minute … ditto, ditto, ditto. Come along guys: get a grip. This is pathetic!

Geldof strides purposefully to the lectern, clutching a sheaf of papers. I catch my breath. He mumbles something inconsequential and rather stupid while he fumbles his papers into some order, and then he lifts his face. At that point a transformation happens. It seems his papers are principally there for a light-hearted tour of the celebrities ranged behind him. It’s a good opening, a funny opening, and I forgive him the paper.

Then he launches into the proper part of the speech and that paper is forgotten.

I have been known to tell my trainees that an ounce of passion is worth a ton of technique. Sir Bob has both in abundance. With my rhetor hat on I sit and luxuriate in the quality of his speaking – which even, for heaven’s sake, includes a fleeting use of a Churchillian cadence. This speech, as a masterclass exemplar, could fuel a very long blog posting – and I will almost certainly return to it for that reason when I have more time. For the moment I simply invite you to watch and see how it should be done.

In terms of the content, I may believe him to be profoundly misguided here and there, more in his chosen remedies than in the identity of the problems (some of which are starkly obvious), but I have no doubt of his sincerity – a quality tragically lacking in public life. You can discuss, reason and argue with people who are sincere – and in the process claw your way closer to the truth. You can only walk away in disgust from insincerity.

You have to respect Sir Bob Geldof, both as a speaker and as a man. I cannot begin to tell you how fervently I hope that this forum lived up to the quality that he gave it.

Piers Corbyn drowns us in data

At the Electric Universe  2014 Conference in Albuquerque in March, there was a talk given by Piers Corbyn. He is the Managing Director of WeatherAction whose long-range forecasting accuracy makes the Meteorological Office look like they read tea-leaves.

I have been known in this blog to complain about those in the Climate Debate who fail to show any workings but merely rely on argumenta ad verecundiam, populum or hominem. From what I’ve seen of him before, Piers Corbyn was unlikely to waste our time that way.  Shall we see?

Brits who are old enough will remember Dr Magnus Pyke. He was a scientist who made a name for himself by appearing on TV, breaking all the normal rules for TV presenters, and being compulsive watching. For years I held him up as an example to prove that ultimately there are no rules. To a degree Piers Corbyn is cast in the Pyke mold. He doesn’t wave his arms around in the same manic fashion, but he is manic with data.

He needs someone like me to throw all his appallingly wordy slides into the dustbin. What is that monstrosity that covers his arrival onstage? If I were advising him I would declare roundly to his face that none of his slides are as interesting or informative as the words he utters, so burn the lot. He might disagree, and the consequent argument might conclude with his saving one or two, but we’d have weeded out a lot of crap.

That globe, on the other hand, with its ridiculous piece of plastic piping to represent the jet-stream and with which he gets hilariously entangled, is wonderful. I love it, plastic piping and all

I would also struggle to organize and structure his data in a way that would give a lay audience a remote chance of understanding some of it. Showing your workings is one thing, but this gets close to death-by-data. The stuff gushes out of him in an incontinent flood. There is one beneficial byproduct: you find yourself concentrating fiercely in the hope of catching the occasional morsel that ricochets out of the cascade, and bit by bit you sort-of understand.

And actually that’s all that matters. He gets across his message. He also gets across his contempt for climate alarmism, which we all knew he would – given that he shows his workings.

The speech is as messy as all hell, but it almost works.

Robert Bryce – about as good as they come.

On 9 September, 2014 – about 3 weeks ago – The Institute of Public Affairs hosted a dinner in Melbourne. It was the setting for this year’s H V Mackay lecture which was delivered by Robert Bryce. His specialist subject, both in his books and in this lecture, is energy.

It took very few seconds for me to get excited about Bryce. Seldom does any speaker set out his stall as clearly as this. Seldom does any speaker present such a distinct contents page. Some might expect me to complain that he lacked a pretty opening, and I certainly discuss with trainees the desirability of pretty openings, but pretty openings are garnish. Given the choice between a restaurant serving mediocre food with pretty garnish and a restaurant serving more simple but fabulous food the answer is obvious. Bryce doesn’t fanny about with garnish but he leaves you in no doubt as to what you are supposed to hear.

And he shows his workings. If you are wondering about the significance of that you obviously missed the second paragraph in this posting.

Virtually all my trainees – being business people – are convinced that their work in general, and numbers in particular, are deadly boring to everyone else. Therefore I explore with them a range of ways to make data more interesting. One such is used extensively and to huge effect by Bryce. Try this for size –

In the last decade the increase in global energy demand has been roughly seven Saudi Arabias.

For quite a sustained period in this lecture The Saudi Arabia becomes his unit of energy production, and crystal clear imagery regarding his message is thereby created. A little later, when speaking not about production but consumption he adopts another unit – The Brazil. In global consumption since 1985 a Brazil has been added per year.

He uses paper, but almost entirely for statistics. Nearly all the time he is shooting from the hip, but when it seems to him important that he is seen to be quoting precise data he unashamedly consults his notes. I have absolutely no quarrel with that.

Nor do I quarrel with him when he says at 14:56, “I don’t use PowerPoint, it gives me a rash.” I don’t use it either, though not for dermatological reasons. I don’t disapprove of visuals – a picture can replace a thousand words – but I conduct 2-hour seminars without a single slide simply to demonstrate how seldom a picture is actually needed.

His vocal delivery has two small flaws. He pops his microphone very occasionally and his voice is placed incorrectly in his face. In this lecture he adjusts the mic when he begins, and needs to learn that if the mic is pointing at your mouth never point your mouth at the mic (and vice versa). He speaks with too much use of his throat. This makes his voice work harder than necessary, so he repeatedly needs to sip water. These are quibbles, but I deploy quibbles only when people are as good as this.

At one point, when discussing the current inadequacy of batteries, the subject of electric cars comes up. Here’s a choice quotation –

Electric cars are the next big thing – and they always will be

For his style of speaking Robert Bryce is about as good as they come.

Christopher Monckton’s speaking imperfections

My previous posting dealt with a very good speech by Lord Monckton, and I ended  with a commitment to return to him “very soon”. When someone has worked this hard on a skill he is evidently striving for perfection, so my way of paying homage is to deploy my finest nit-picking tweezers. At the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change, that took place in July of this year, Monckton delivered a keynote speech.

We join just as James Taylor leaves the podium after delivering an introduction that was deliberately over the top. I know this, because I have viewed much longer video material from which this was taken. To give you a flavour, Taylor began with, “AAAAND NOOOOW …” I’m sure you get the idea: unrestrained hilarity was promised. You may also notice that some members of the audience are climbing to their feet before he has even started. It is not given to many to receive standing ovations before their speeches. Monckton, it is fair to say, is among friends.

I mention all that in order to preface a stricture that is well established in showbiz… Do not believe your own publicity.

I shall add some rules of my own shortly, but first let me specifically address what I regard as Monckton’s key weakness. Having a natural flair for humour he has tasted the most seductive fruit known to speakers – it’s called laughter. His throw-away humour is good, and nearly always works. When it doesn’t work it doesn’t matter because he threw it away. Where he starts to fall apart is in trying to give comedy centre stage. That is an activity to be left exclusively to standup comedians, who had to go through an apprenticeship you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Here are some of my rules for humour, and he breaks all of them in the first thirteen and a half minutes of this speech.

  • Don’t repeat a gag: it’s never funny the second time.
  • Always keep humour subservient to your message.
  • With throw-away humour you maintain strength: when it becomes overt, humour begins to beg laughter; and a craving for baksheesh is inherently weak.
  • NEVER try to spoof a famous comedy sketch, least of all one from Monty Python.

It is at 13:30, or very shortly after, that this speech gets going. Humour, now relegated to secondary status, gets funnier and the speech gets very strong. There’s a clear moral. Avoid being seen to be trying to be funny. Make humour seem almost accidental.

One further little observation that is pertinent at 30:10 – instead of asking for a round of applause for yourself, learn some claptrap techniques.

I don’t suppose Monckton has received, for many years, so much criticism on his speaking. It’s his own fault: he shouldn’t be so good.

 

Lord Deben insults the intelligence of his audience.

The Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin hosted a keynote speech in July 2014 by Lord Deben.  The IIEA’s own website tells us that his theme was ‘Energy and Climate Change’.

Having been in his audience on one occasion I can personally vouch that Deben is a skilled speaker. Let’s see how well he does on this occasion.

What sort of opening is this? It can most charitably be described as a stumbling-in. Within a very few seconds I have the impression that, his knowing his own adept capacity for motor-mouthing off the top of his head, he has barely given this speech any thought at all. He is going to have to do better than this with an audience of people who are not only intelligent but too busy to put up with being fed inconsequential burble for the next half-hour. I reckon he has worked out the same thing from the faces in front of him.  Why else would he direct so much of this early guff at the conference chairman beside him? Could it be that this is the nearest he can find to a comfort zone? I hope not, because the chairman doesn’t look overly impressed either.

Deben lards the burble with some rather lame flannel in an attempt to ingratiate himself, but I don’t think it’s working. We can see only the backs of the heads in the audience front row, but I find the angles of some of those heads a little ominous. The chairman is shooting some nervous glances at the front row also.

Five minutes in, and my hands are over my face. He has said nothing that could not have been covered in fifteen seconds. This is pitiful!

He then tells us that the UK Climate Change Committee, which he chairs, is independent. He proceeds patronizingly to explain and explain and explain, with helpful gestures, what independence means. If the members of this audience have IQs above room temperature, and I have every reason to suppose that they do, they already know better than he does what independence means. He seems to have a very strange idea of it, because he tells us he is so independent that he owed his appointment to ministerial patronage.

Next he lists (or rather doesn’t) the committee’s personnel. Deben surely knows the basic rule that proper nouns of all descriptions are hooks that retain the audience’s attention, yet where are the names of his committee members? From 8:16 till 8:45 he wriggles and squirms while trying to remember one of their names. He gives us several details about the gentleman in question, almost down to his inside leg measurement, but no name. An achingly long pause, punctuated by ‘ums’, ‘ers’ and screwed-up eyes staring into the middle distance tell us very eloquently that he has forgotten the name. He attempts to camouflage this appalling faux pas by then describing, but not naming, other committee members as if this was his intention all along. It doesn’t wash!  He has goofed, big time. There are numerous ways to remember such data, including writing them down for God’s sake, but he’s too bloody idle to do any of them.

That I fear is the pattern for the entire speech. He waffles around for half-an-hour with all sorts of ill-considered, misguided and badly expressed nonsense that says nothing and gets no one anywhere. The nearest he comes to any sort of message arrives with his peroration. At around the 26 minute mark he begins to make it very clear what anyone who has peered more than an inch below the surface of the matter already knew, namely that the climate change movement is not about science but politics. It is a device to edge us towards world government. The creed (the best word for it) is political and imperialist and very, very dangerous.

As for the quality of this as a piece of speech-making, what can I say? I see bad speeches by people who haven’t learned how, by people who have all manner of difficulties and problems, but this man can speak. As a result, this disgusts me.  He has insulted his audience. He should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.

Robert Carter frustrates with brilliance.

The Heartland Institute hosted ICCC9 – the ninth International Conference on Climate Change – in Las Vegas from 7–9 July 2014. On 8 July, Prof. Robert Carter delivered a talk entitled Why NIPCC Matters.

As far as I am concerned, NIPCC matters because it shows its workings. If you don’t know what I am talking about, you didn’t read my previous posting.

In my late sixties, I still have a full head of hair. Sometimes I wonder why. Too often I am faced with something that fills me with hair-tearing frustration. This brilliant speech is just such an example.

It is persuasively, authoritatively and articulately argued. He backs up his arguments with chapter and verse. He has structured it all around a beautifully conceived narrative theme of pieces of legendary art, ranging from Salvador Dali to Antony Gormley. He delivers it all with a voice that is clear, expressive and confident. As far as I can establish, he has no paper on that lectern. And yet…

Well, just look at that ‘still’ from the video! That picture shows you two of the three things that have me writhing. In that previous paragraph I very carefully implied – but did not say – that he has no script. He does have a script.

It’s on his bloody slides! 

What is worse he has no slave screen in front of him; so he has to turn away from the audience in order to read all those bloody words off the bloody slides on the bloody wall behind him. Ye Gods!

And the missing thing? – the other irritant that causes me to writhe, the third one that the picture doesn’t show? He is popping. Every so often an explosion detonates as he speaks directly into the microphone. It almost makes me want him to turn his head back towards the wall. And as if that weren’t enough, a hand periodically collides with the microphone to make a still louder noise.

Let us be clear here, and give credit where it is due. This is a brilliant and important speech, delivered by a man who oozes learning, sincerity, charisma and a wealth of obvious speaking ability. The concept of using examples of art to illustrate points is elegant and inspired. The structure of the speech is somewhere between good and very good. The ending perhaps needed something more – and not the final crash from the microphone.

But the staging of this wonderful speech is an abomination! Any trainee of mine watching it would be in hysterics. They have all had paper torn from their hands and verbiage torn from their slides. I know some that have virtually sworn off slides altogether (though Carter definitely needs some slides, if only to show his pieces of art.) They have all experienced the liberation of facing nothing but their audience and breathing the oxygen of that connection.

Getting rid of the microphone problem is slightly more complicated. A clip-on radio mic would have removed the popping; but the unruly hands that sometimes hit the microphone are part of his ebullient personality. An ebullient personality is something you monkey with at your peril. I can’t come up with an answer to that at this distance.

Oh how I’d like an hour alone with him!

Lord Lawson reads what needs to be said.

At the end of April 2014, Lord Lawson of Blaby gave a speech to the Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment at the University of Bath, in England. His being the Chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Lawson’s pronouncements on the subject of climate change usually excite a degree of interest, and this occasion was no exception.

You should not be too alarmed by the indication at the foot of the video that it lasts for nearly an hour and a half. Lawson’s speech ends at 46:30, and the rest is questions – quite robust ones by the way.

At the outset, Lawson asks for his briefcase, which had been placed in the care of someone else. He is duly delivered his script, from which he reads the entire speech. Some might say that he is not making a speech so much as presenting a paper, and I would tend to agree. The process that we witness is in every sense that of a talking head. We would get more out of it if we each were to read that paper to ourselves (till the onset of the questions). That way our minds would process the information at our own pace and rhythm, rather than his, with consequent greater understanding of what is argued. It’s the same phenomenon that makes the film of a book almost invariably inferior to the book.

If you would rather read it yourself, here is a transcript.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I would greatly prefer him not to have used a script. Using paper, even if as skilfully as Lawson, instantly robs your delivery of a substantial part of its persuasiveness.They will also expect me to claim that I could have enabled him to have dispensed with it, though they might not believe it.

One man, who would probably not have believed it last Wednesday, did a course with me on Thursday. He is a senior executive in a well-known British company. On Saturday he sent me an email. I have not sought his permission to identify him so I shall not do so.

What I failed to highlight on Thursday was that on Friday I was hosting an all day workshop with senior members of the xxxxxxxx team.  I had been having kittens for weeks.  Through the time in your course I was mentally whittling down the workshop from 20 slides, to 6, to 2.  That’s what I slept on, and eventually I conducted an 8 hour workshop with no slides and no notes.  I launched the day with a James Bond opening (an icebreaker) followed by a 15 minute speech on why we were there.  A speech with purpose!  What followed was a very lively and interesting workshop. I could not have done it without you.  You switched a light on, and I hope I can keep it alight in future presentations.

He will!