Scenes From A Conference

Scenes from a Conference – Part 1

Speaker: I hate PowerPoint. That’s why I’m using Prezi for my presentation today. Who (asks audience) uses Prezi? (a few hands go up).

Speaker: Yeah! (fist pump) Prezi is so cool.

Speaker’s first slide: Two bullet points. Speaker proceeds to talk over first slide for five minutes with no additional Prezi action.

Speaker’s second slide: Four bullet points. Speaker reads them off the slide. Wait. There was a really cool transition between slides one and two. Looks like a circle rotating. Impressive.

Speaker’s third slide: A screenshot that is impossible to read from anywhere in the room. But the transition from slide two to slide three was amazing – looks like slide three came out of nowhere.

Speaker’s fourth slide: Another impossible to see/interpret visual. Oh wait. It’s a graph. Speaker proceeds to explain it in detail while talking to the slide.

Speaker’s remaining slides: You get the idea.

Yes sir Mr. Cool Speaker. Using Prezi instead of PowerPoint certainly did make for a rockin’ presentation.

Point: It really doesn’t matter if you use PowerPoint or Prezi or no visuals at all. If you fail to put preparation, passion and practice into your presentation it’s going to be a bad experience for the audience. Remember that your presentation is about the audience and giving them a great experience, not showing them cool presentation technology. If you do want to try new presentation technology – go for it – but only if it serves the goal of enhancing the experience for the audience and the technology plays only a supporting role. Done well, the audience should hardly even notice it. They should be too engaged with your message and delivery.

Scenes from a Conference – Part 2

Speaker One: Thanks for attending my session. However, I’m sorry that I don’t have a PowerPoint (one person claps). I hope that won’t be a problem for you. I’ll do the best I can without them.

Speaker Two: Thanks for attending my session. The first thing I want to tell you is that I don’t have any PowerPoint slides. Then again, I don’t use it. PowerPoint is bad.

There’s no rule dictating that as a conference presenter you must use visuals, whether it’s PowerPoint, Prezi or anything else. So if you opt to just talk to the audience without visuals, that’s fine. What’s not so great is when presenters without visuals do one of the following:

(a) Apologize for not having visuals
(b) Proudly assert that there are no visuals

In the case of (a) the speaker feels that he or she is somehow disappointing the audience by failing to offer visuals. The speaker may not realize that the audience really isn’t all that concerned about the lack of visuals – unless the speaker’s topic could be better understood with some visual evidence.

In the case of (b) the speaker appears to be reveling in their choice to not use slides. He or she seems intent on letting the audience know he or she is a rebel who is bucking the trend by just talking without visuals. He or she wants everyone to know how different they are.

Point: No matter what the situation is, visuals or none, just don’t mention it at all. It’s not a good way to start a presentation. The audience really doesn’t care if you have visuals or not, nor do they need to hear you apologize or boast – whatever the case may be. The audience came to your session to hear what you have to say about the topic – to hear your message – not to hear you make pronouncements unrelated to the topic. So just get right to your talk. The audience will figure out pretty quickly that you don’t have visuals, and as long as the presentation succeeds at communicating the message, the audience will leave having had a good learning experience.

Bonus Tip: Avoid the impulse to start your presentation by giving an overview of your institution (e.g. student profile, number of books in the library, etc) and accompanying photos. I still encounter far too much of this at library conferences. The urge to do so is understandable because it’s something all speakers are comfortable with, and having something you’ll easily remember, and which is easy to present, is a way to get over the “start of the presentation jitters”. Again, the presentation is not about you and your comfort level – it’s about the audience and what they came to hear.

For your next presentation consider challenging yourself by starting with the most important piece of information the audience should hear (e.g., the results of your study, what you learned from your new student orientation program, etc), and if possible present it as a personal story – which is just as easy for a presenter to remember. If you want to talk about your library or institution you should be able to find multiple points throughout the presentation to slip those things in. For example: “So I was telling you about our new student orientation program. Big State U enrolls 10,000 freshmen each year – and that brings our total enrollment up to 50,000 FTEs.”

If you need to hear this from another source take a look at this blog post over at The Eloquent Woman – which is actually a pretty good blog for presentation tips and ideas.