Start with context, create a knowledge gap, introduce the required concepts one at a time, use metaphors where possible and give examples.
Step 1. He started right where we were. Both literally, “When you have 21 minutes to speak…,” and conceptually, without daunting assumptions about our knowledge of psychology or neuroscience.
Step 2. He lit a fire called curiosity. Curiosity is what makes people ask why? and how? It’s the feeling that something doesn’t quite make sense. That there’s a knowledge gap that has to be closed. This happened right at the start and then was dialled up dramatically with his unexpected data about paraplegics and lottery winners.
Step 3. He brought in concepts one by one. You can’t understand the main concept without first being introduced to the pieces on which it depends, in this case prefrontal cortex, experience simulator, and impact bias.
Step 4. He used metaphors. It took metaphors like the flight simulator and the psychological immune system to make clear what he was talking about. For an explanation to be satisfying it has to take puzzling facts and build a connection from them to someone’s existing mental model of the world. Metaphors and analogies are the key tools needed to do this. They help shape the explanation until finally it snaps into place with a satisfying aha!
Step 5. He used examples. Little stories, like that of Pete Best, help lock the explanation into place. This is like saying to the brain: You think you understand this idea? Then apply it to these facts. If it fits, you’ve got this figured out.