Speaking at National Geographic in Washington DC last year
Speaking at National Geographic in Washington DC last October

I’ve got some big important presentations coming up – three for National Geographic and one for TED’s Mission Blue, and I’m determined to do a good job. Apart from a bit of rowing, these are possibly the biggest events in my 2010.

But I’m having a quandary about which way to go with my visuals. Yesterday I watched these two TED videos in search of inspiration:

Ben Saunders skis to the North Pole

Lewis Pugh swims the North Pole

They have two very different styles, and I’m not sure which one works best.

Lewis’s style is more like what I’ve done in the past, keeping the speaking and the video as two very separate components. This is how I’ve always used video – as an opportunity to take a break in the presentation, and allow the video to do the speaking for me.

But National Geographic have suggested that they want me to do their presentation more Ben-style, with me commentating over short clips of video, and keeping the video fairly raw, without captions or music.

In favour of the Lewis approach is that at the moment it is more like what I am used to.

But in favour of the Ben approach is that it is more similar to what National Geographic want, so I will be rehearsing that style more over the coming weeks, and it may be less confusing for my brain if I use a similar style for both presentations.

Another factor is that the National Geographic presentation is significantly longer – around 60 minutes – compared with a strict limit of 18 minutes at TED. So you could argue that different approaches would work better in the different contexts.

So I’m opening this for comments. Which you think is more effective? If you were coming to either of the presentations, and I hope that some of you are), which would you prefer to see?

P.S. I hear that the National Geographic presentations in Seattle are nearly sold out – 2,500 tickets per performance. So move quickly if you plan on coming!


  • I like Ben’s style of dove tailing the speech into the video clips. Lewis’s video style tends to take over the entire talk.

    One idea is, Since you know the video clips you have you can speak to them, or if possible have the clips speak back to you. In that way the clips would be woven into your speech.

    I hope this idea gave you something to work with.

    What is Roz’s style? Humorous, Serious, Playful, Thoughtful…….

  • Your updated Eco-Adventurer is very compact and gets a lot of information across very neatly. You should definitely consider playing that in its entirety for the long National Geographic program, or break it up and play some of the longer segments interspersed to underscore a particular points of your talk.

    For the short TED talk, I would suggest keeping extracting portions of the videos … there are a few with stormy seas, climbing over the roof of your cabin, and Boobie birds, most of them don’t need music … the string of videos of you talking into the camera would be nice … still photos or videos playing silently behind you as you speak would be very effective. Mix it up … both can be used effectively.

    Thanks for introducing us to both Lewis and Ben.

  • Here you go, Roz: Practise both “styles” and adapt them to your comfort. You know better than to attempt to mimic someone else’s so just try them out in front of the invisible audience outside your window. It’s a very old Speaker’s trick and works very well. You have all your material in memory and will soon be able to deliver it in whatever situation is sprung on you at a moment’s notice. You have a lot more material and experience to draw on now than when you started. Don’t forget, either, that you have a natural charm in front of an audience, so don’t do anything to supress that!

    Best. John.

  • hmmm. just watched both. both were inspiring. I think I actually liked the skier’s best. but both were very suspenseful.

    go get em!!! I’m sure whatever you do will be great.
    And don’t forget to ask for sponsors. What an audience you’ll have!!!

    Laurey in Asheville

  • Roz,

    Follow your heart and let your inner guidance lead you.

    Thanks for sharing your light.

    Best all-ways,

  • Hi Roz: First of all CONGRATULATIONS for speaking at Nat Geo and TED! I prefer Ben’s format – let video clips and photography run in the background WHILE you talk. This is what I do and I think based on my experience, it works better to give the audience something rich and compelling to watch while they listen to your story. I don’t like the way Ben stops and looks up at his screen and then clicks his controller.

  • I can tell you from feedback from our conferences (educational presentations in front of 2,000 plus) that if you play a standalone video, especially one that’s more than a few minutes long, the audience takes it as kind of a cheat on the speaker’s part. They feel like they could have watched that online and that’s not what they paid to see in person. They want the speaker’s direct attention and presentation the whole time. Don’t have time to watch the vids you gave as example this morning, but I would venture to say that a live narrative over video will be better accepted. Plus it gives you the chance to really get your personality across as you describe what’s going on in the vid with real passion, expressing the feeling of what it was like to be in that moment and winning them over with your warm humor.

  • Greg, thanks for sharing — learning something new here every day! I agree that’s an excellent model to emulate. Just let the images run in the background. Minimize or eliminate slides with text, charts, graphs — focus on the message and telling the story.

  • Roz, thanks again for introducing Ben and Lewis to us! Ditch the music! However and whatever you do will be Roz inspired! Both videos were educational, funny and inspiring. You have your own style and humor, Roz, let her rip! I wish I could be in Seattle to see and hear you (tho the photos of the seas on your Atlantic trip made me seasick!) Good Luck and thanks for the vicarious memories. Bev

  • Roz,

    As one of the non-exclusive club that has to watch TED talks on the Interwebs and not in person, I’ve got to side with the “Ben” method. I’ve watched many TED videos in the past, and have seen both styles.

    I want to watch a video of you talking, not a video of a video of you.

    Whatever you decide is right for you, congrats on both of these gigs!

  • I too vote for the Ben method. You’ve got plenty of video and still photos that you can speak to and/or have running in the background while you talk. Perhaps in your longer talk, you can let some longer clips of video play without stopping the presentation entirely. Break a leg!

  • Ben’s approach succeeds for a number of reason: (1) he is palpably “humble”, and that humility comes through as a breath of fresh air in a world of egomaniacs, (2) he has an interesting storyline that draws in the audience and keeps them captivated for the duration of the presentation, and (3) his use of videos is a complement to, but does not overshadow, his personal connection with the audience. But above all it’s his humility. The “I should have died, but, for some reason, the gods wanted me to live” approach, that makes you feel that you’re listening to an extremely-gifted yet genuinely-modest person, who has something interesting to say.

    A similar approach is used by Elizabeth Gilbert, in discussing creativity and her book “Eat Pray Love”. Even without the use of graphics, she establishes that intangible connection with the audience.


  • Roz, Regarding the books you are posting, yes I care! Many fine books here. I noticed the several books by O’Brian. If you like that type, you may also like Bernard Cornwell. I like him much more than O’Brian. AND, Cornwell has enough audio books to get you from Tarawa and across the Indian Ocean. However, they may be too swashbuckling for your tastes? Maybe a male thing. Best, Steve

  • I prefer the Ben Style. In that format the listener gets a better feel for the speaker. And, as is implied by NGS’s wish for raw clips, it produces a much less contrived presentation. When I see a video with a music or voice over background I wonder what else in the video was “fixed.”

    Using the Lewis style ma be ok for the time limited presentation though because you can rely on a few well timed clips to do the work. Giving yourself only a few minutes to intro the clips and give background can be a real asset when time is tight.

    Sorry I won’t be able to make Seattle.

    Liked your pic of the gorge. The whole length of the Columbia is like that at the right time of day. If you get to Banff it’s worth the side trip to BC to see the headwaters. It’s only about 2 hours away from Banff. I’d be glad to be your guide.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *