Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Slides in advance?

It's conference season at the moment, and I'm giving 4 talks in the next few weeks. Three of the organisers have asked for my slides in advance, and all have said that they want to make them available before the conference on the web site so that delegates can print them off in advance - presumably to take notes on.

I have a number of issues with this. As my preferred style of time management is the just-in-time variety, I tend to be still making changes to presentations on the way there, or even as I'm waiting to go on. The thought of actually finishing something a week before fills me with horror! Secondly, encouraging delegates to print off slides - particularly when they contain images - isn't very environmentally friendly when most of us are doing all we can to discourage printing. I also like to know that my slides, which contain a lot of images, are going to display exactly as I intend them so I use my own laptop.

But I suppose my main concern is around the concept of what a presentation is. It shouldn't centre around powerpoint slides - death by powerpoint is one of the worst experiences of a conference. It should be as much a performance as a presentation - and I don't want the audience to know what my performance is going to be in advance. I like to keep the element of surprise!

So, I refuse to give conference organisers my slides in advance. I turn up with my trusty macbookpro, my vga adaptor, and just plug in. It's never failed yet. Of course, I'm more than happy to have the performance streamed live, and to make slides available after the event, or to make them available to remote attendees during the event.

I'd be interested to know if anyone agrees, or if conference organisers think I'm being decidedly selfish!


Thomas said...

Trouble is not all presenters are capable of putting on a performance like you!

ukwebfocus said...

Hi Chris
As co-chair of the IWMW 2010 event you are speaking at on Monday I ought to respond :-)
As this year's event we will be live-streaming the plenary talks. We have also made a commitment to treating the remote audience as' first class citizens' who, where possible, have as authentic experience as possible.
Since viewing speakers slides via a video stream doesn't work we are encouraging speakers to provide their slides via Slideshare so that remote audiences can easily view the slides. In order to ensure that the slides are available on time and are embedded in the places where people expect (such as the page containing the abstract of your talk we try to do this in advance. We know that leaving things until; the last moment can cause problems - e.g. in the time it takes slides to be uploaded and processed in Slideshare (I have heard people say this can take hours).
Note also that whilst we aren't keen on people printing off slides in advance, people may wish to have access to the slides on their laptops to help with accessibility (not everyone can easily read slides on the screen).
We do appreciate, however, that there may be reasons why such ideals can't be met. This isn't a problem (I myself will be using Prezi, for example in the workshop conclusions - and for obvious reasons haven't prepared those slide yet :-)
However for those speakers who are using PowerPoint (or similar) in a conventional way, processing the slides as I have described can have many benefits.
I'm looking forward to your talk on Monday.

Brian Kelly, UKOLN

Chris Sexton said...

Hi Brian - was expecting a response, although the post wasn't triggered particularly by IWMW (as the organisers for that event are being very helpful :-) ) - just an accumulation of circumstances.

Also, as the host organisation for the event is also excellent, the speakers slides will be available via the video stream, and they won't need to be viewed through slideshare because of the way we're doing it using lecture capture software that captures the slides via the system. So, they will get a first class experience (providing everything works of course....). So, that leaves the issue of accessibilty during the event. Will think about that one!

I am also looking forward to my talk as I haven't heard it yet.

Phil said...

Of course, it's always possible to put up a brief 'coming soon' slide on Slideshare to get the URL, pass that onto the organisers, and then upload the finished presentation at an appropriate time. Slideshare can sometimes be slow, which is why I also tend to put slideshows on Authorstream and make them available via Google docs.

Leslie Carr said...

...and then there's the issue of those who need the slides in advance to better manage their screen-reading software.

ukwebfocus said...

As Phil Bradley suggests, providing a holding page on Slideshare can be useful - this means that we have a Slideshare URL we can embed in our pages which we won't need to update when the final version of the slides are published.

Note that Slideshare resources can also be embedded easily in Web pages and blogs, such as does not allow arbitrary objects to be embedded, so powerful though your local capturing and streaming software may be I suspect it will not be able to be embedded in my blog, for example.

Thomas said...

There's still the issue of the surprise and performance aspect of presentations which Chris mentioned. I agree with her - I don't like to know what's coming next, and having the slides in front of me often means I'm not concentrating on the presenter.

Phil said...

Just found this, which may be of interest: The 'evidence' shows that students learn better if they are provided the handouts in advance. Not sure I'd agree, but it's an interesting addition to the discussion.

ukwebfocus said...

Note, though, that providing slides in advance does NOT necessarily mean providing access to the slides for the audience - it can mean ensuring that the slides are loaded on the PC and work. I have seen too many examples of speakers slides being uploaded late and not working.

I'm sure that won't happen to Chris, though :-)

Brian Kelly, UKOLN

Chris Sexton said...

Going to look pretty stupid if it does though aren't I?

Mike Nolan said...

I think I mostly agree with Chris on this. Certainly for "keynote" presentations, the talk shouldn't be relying excessively on the contents of the slides - I'd much prefer to be watching the performance from the speaker than reading bullet points from the screen.

I can see some advantages to having slides available as a reference but there's no guarantee how useful they'll be. Slides on their own may show nothing - certainly some of my recent presentations with 80+ slides for a 15 minute talk show show little of interest on their own.

In these situations slides are most useful when combined with a transcript or audio track and I'd be reluctant to release those before a conference.

Tony Brett said...

As the organiser who hasn't asked for slides in advance I am certainly right with you there Chris. I am most definitely a just-in-time person and like to be able to change my talk right to the last minute. This is especially important if speaking late in a conference as the content of previous talks may influence what I say.

See you on Wednesday!

Vince Woodley said...

And as an organiser who has...

Whilst there are obvious advantages to the presenter working on a presentation right up until the last minute using their own laptop, there are also some potential disadvantages to both the presenter and the delegates. For instance:

* The presentation & hardware cannot be checked & be known to be usable on-site.
* Whilst a trusty laptop is great it can still be dropped, flooded with coffee, lost or stolen.
* Swopping in & out presenter's newly arrived laptops does not make for a smooth transition at the lectern and event information slides become effectively unavailable given the time-scale.
* VGA adapters do get forgotten & lost, resulting a last-minute shopping trip at a critical time.
* PDF handouts (e.g. three slides per page which avoids image problems) cannot be made available to any delegates who wish to print out so that can write notes against the relevant slides during the presentation.
* After the event the presentation may not be immediately available so delegates may get frustrated & lose interest.

Of course it's always possible to make up-dates after a presentation has been made available before the event, and at least then there's something as a backup.