Sunday, October 18, 2009

Am I a Presentation Snob?


The topic of presentations is on my mind lately because I've sat through a series of them recently.

I've given a few presentations over the years. I'd say I've improved a lot, but I'm definitely not great at it and I've got a long way to go before I'm where I want to be "when I grow up." We all have our insecurities and one of mine is my reaching for vocabulary when I'm trying to say something. I've got it in my head, but my mind is already farther along then my mouth. The word I'm searching for as since jogged along a different path and my brain is not looking back.

The other insecurity is that I always want to engage the participants and I know one of the ways to do that is with good visuals on the slides.

I wish I could create presentations as simple and as powerful as this one. A Teacher's Guide to Web 2.0 at School by Sacha Chua.




The whole stick-figure thing just appeals to me which is probably why I love the CommonCraft videos so much.

My presentations are definitely image-driven. If there are words, there are really just a few. The words come from me, the presenter in the room; which is why I usually don't mind sharing my presentations online. (You can't steal my presentation by stealing my slideshow.) It's just that it takes so long to find just the right image and then to tweak it and all. If I could be as creative as Sacha or the folks at CommonCraft, life in PresentationVille would be so much better. I guess.

This all comes to mind because over the last few weeks, our faculty has sat through a series of workshops. Each one has merit and I don't blame the presenters because as the "One Size Fits All" mandate filters through our district, it has not only hit the classrooms, but has also hit the departments that are presenting workshops. They are handed the slideshows from which to present.

These slideshows have so many words on the slides, that nobody, not even the presenters can read them. Unfortunately, the presenters seem to need to read them as well, because when you don't create them yourself, you don't own them and are therefore uncomfortable with either the content or sequence. It's sort of like following someone else's lesson plans.

And yet, I wonder if the folks who are presenting to us, here in my district, are struggling with these issues at all!

Does this make me a Presentation Snob?

15 comments:

Ann Oro said...

The best thing about presenting many times is that each new one can become more engaging than the last.

The more presentations you see, the more critical you become of what you have to sit through. As you find great presentations, tuck the ideas away.

Thank you for posting the Slideshare. I had seen another presentation done by Sacha. This one is an improvement on the first one I saw. I love her style.

Cathy Nelson said...

Lee I must be one too! When Im at conferences and i cant find a topic Im interested in learning (and havent decided to hit a bloggers cafe or whatnot)I pick sessions where I might hone my presentation style. When Im forced to sit through PD (like at school or district meetings) I tend to sit back (so mean, I know) and critique the presentation. I have a saved text message I use with friends on my cell phone that reads like this, "oh no anthr KMN!" and it means Im sitting through another boring, dull "kill me now" bullet ridden powerpoint. When classes come to the library to work on Powerpoints, I make them sit through a few really bad ones before beginning and then challenge them to NOT create a KMN unless they truly want to make their teacher and classmates suffer.

M Coleman said...

So true! I just had a conversation with a new teacher the other day about Creative Commons - invited her to set up some time to collaborate with English classes before they embarked on a digital book trailer and schedule classes in for my preso on the topic. She informed me that she knew all about copyright and she just needed my preso on CC so she could incorporate. She requested my preso which I was happy to share but I said she would have difficulty using since I used primarily images and not bullet points, etc. She was expecting a 'canned' presentation and wasn't interested in my other invitation, so I just shared links to CC (especially since she thought I was saying Creative Comments, i.e., had no idea about CC). Ah, well - sometimes we miss the boat while focused on the *wrong* things....

Jennifer said...

I don't think you are a presentation snob but I do feel we have become presentation saturated and expect more -- give more -- than the average attendee.

But also -- I don't want all our presentations to look the same, to be delivered the same, or to all use the same "zen", "prezi", "image only" issues.

If we all start duplicating each other, than we become clones, and lose our uniqueness.

I do think -- and after reading Cathy jo's thoughts -- I think what I have become is not a slob but perhaps a bit more of a "prove yourself to me" mentality -- which saddens me....because that would freak me if I knew people thought that of me.

Jen

Miguel said...

Ok, how much is enough? I know we're supposed to be constantly improving, striving for perfection, but I have to come clean. I can't draw stick figures worth a darn, and it gets difficult.

While I see the value of images in presentations, and text placement, aren't we all still just following what it is in vogue? What's popular for a presentation to be?

As a text-oriented person, I'm just stressed out!

;->

Miguel Guhlin
Around the Corner-MGuhlin.org
http://mguhlin.org

P.S. Sacha's preso is awesome.

Moturoa said...

I am going to go to Pecha Kuchu presentation for the first time on Wednesday night.

I hadn't heard of it before but it sounds fun.

Pecha Kucha

Allanah K

Cathy Nelson said...

Lee in most of my presentations now, I dont necessarily strive for zen, but I do strive for ENGAGEMENT. The time has come to end being the sage on the stage. I fully expect to be an interactive part in my presentations, and build on learning from the audience as well. For the first time ever this summer a friend and I copresented on collaborative tools. We had planned to break into groups for small discussions that would be shared as well as hands on in wikis, Google docs, and Google pres. But the group insisted on everyone playing with the Google pres tool. Perfect example of the audience's engagement guiding the direction of the preso.

As for @Jen's comments about my going to presentations to critique, once you've stood up in audiences at the local, state, and national level, it just cannot be helped (critiquing.) So I consider it really helpful to critique. I also have had big presenters attend my sessions (and somehow knew they were probably doing the same thing I do--critique style, look for new ways to present , etc.) I will never forget last spring when Doug Johnson (the Blue Skunk Blog) came to my session at our library conference. Talk about pressure! He ditched when we got to the interactive group part, but came back just before it ended (talk about feeling deflated to a degree-he ditched!!--but he did return.) He shared afterwards that he loved the presentation plan and style and had just then decided he was revamping a gig he had coming up in Bangkok to model it in the same approach. Now THAT my friends was the ultimate compliment. And now I also know one of my favorite presenters does the same thing. Afterall, what could "The Blue Skunk" possibly learn from me?

Jennifer said...

@cathyjo --
in no way, please know, I was not criticizing you --

I was criticizing me that I am not as generous with people who present as I wish them to be with me.

I tend to sit back and say "okay, impress me" when I need to sit back and think "wow, this person probably has something to teach me" if I get my ego out of the way.

:)
Jen

Lee Kolbert said...

@Ana and Cathy,
I agree with tucking away great presentation tips and ideas. I think many times when I'm in a session, I take away presentation tips more than I do the content from the session (and that's ok with me).

I also agree with @Jennifer that it's hard not to critique and yet I don't want others to be as hard on me as I am on them. I don't want anyone like me sitting in my sessions. :) It is tough not to do that. As a few of you said, we've come to expect more. We've seen so much of the same old, same old, that if we are paying good money to attend a conference, it should be expected that we receive some fresh information.

@M_Coleman,
I think that's another example of people just not getting it.

@Miguel,
Yes, we are definitely following what's in vogue. It's in vogue because it's engaging and it's tough to be the trendsetter, but like @Jennifer said, we shouldn't become clones of each other. I wasn't saying that I wanted to be just like Sacha or CommonCraft, but what I like about their styles is the simplicity that relies on the presenter to convey the message almost completely.

Thanks for commenting!

kaurukamiya said...

I don't think so. It's just that we became more critical as we view and listen to more presentation, we do then to compare one to another. Especially if the presentation you are trying to listen and understand is something too long (which tends to get boring).

To catch the audience attention, more is less. Too much words is annoying to read, especially if they are not in handouts and they expect you to remember them. Too much pictures and animation is distracting.

I really like the insert presentation by the way. Straight-to-the-point, simple and informative. It doesn't intimidate the audience

Sacha Chua said...

Thanks for checking out my presentation! =)

I'm totally right there with you on taking notes on other people's presentation styles. Most of my conference notes have more to do with idea organization and delivery than with content. ;) In some sessions, I keep myself interested and engaged by thinking about how I might do the same talk.

M Coleman: I've had those moments too! <laugh> We do a lot of slide reuse within IBM. Some of my more general presentations are easy for people to reuse (except for the slides with full-page images that sometimes confuse people who haven't listened to me giving the actual talk), but most are distinctively me. Because people can't just copy-and-paste the slides and reformat them using a template, they end up thinking about which points they want to copy, and they usually just link to my presentations instead of copying. Which is okay, because I try to accompany presentations with blog posts that explain more. =)

Jennifer and Miguel: Right, the Slideshare.net aesthetic is going towards PresentationZen-style full-bleed images. Many are done well, and many look, well, shoehorned in. I don't particularly like using stock photos--they look too stock, you know? Too polished. Not real life. I like using Flickr Creative Commons, if anything.

I'd love to learn more about the way people structure the verbal part of their presentations (although many Slideshare presentations are designed as slide-only talks). Infographics are cool, too, and not explored nearly as much.

As for stick figures: I can't really draw either, but I can make some rough chickenscratches using the free Inkscape vector-drawing program, and then I can tweak it until it looks kinda like what I want. =) I should make a screencast sometime to encourage other people who think they can't draw, either! <grin>

Lee Kolbert said...

@Sacha
I would love a screencast of how you design your presentations. As for how you might give the same talk; I find myself doing the same thing all the time. As a matter of fact, I'd bet many of the folks who commented here and who read this blog do the same. We tend to visit the same conferences and have similar skill sets, so it's probably one of those things we find ourselves doing while in a session. Cherry-picking from the best is one of my favorite things to do.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Sacha Chua said...

Quick screencast of how I draw, and how you can too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWuVJqDv3E0

Lee Kolbert said...

@Sacha
Thanks so much for creating that screencast. What fun to watch you create your drawing. I'm downloading Inkscape right now and I'm looking forward to trying it.
Thanks again for sharing your talent.

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