User-generated presentation vs. PowerPoint


You wouldn't think we would need ideas from social media to apply to real-world interactions. "Conversation," after all, is a metaphor online, but in a physical space, it's literal. Unless the room is large, one person is up front and, most likely, the presenter is talking in front of page after page of bullet points. Enter the user-generated presentation, which brings the conversation back into the room and keeps everyone awake.

There's just something about PowerPoint—or at least the way most people misuse it. Garr Reynolds put the topic in my head again with Is it finally time to ditch PowerPoint? His answer: no, but presenters should use slides to support the presentation, not to be the presentation:

If your presentation visuals taken in the aggregate (e.g., your “PowerPoint deck”) can be perfectly and completely understood without your narration, then it begs the question: why are you there?
I subscribe to a few presentation-related blogs, so it's not a surprise to read a critique of PowerPoint and its misuse. But Virginia Miracle, B.L. Ochman, John Windsor and Cord Silverstein have posted on the topic in the last 24 hours. You think a few people are fed up with presenters reading their slides to disengaged audiences?

So it's timely to read about the user-generated presentation given this morning by Maggie Fox at the CapCHI workshop in Ottawa. Rather than a typical stand-up at the lectern with the usual slides, Maggie channeled her inner TV talk show host and let the audience direct the conversation in an open Q&A format.

Rather than standing at the front of the room, I wandered with a wireless mic and passed the hand-held around. There were many times (as I had hoped) that participants answered questions themselves; I liked it best when I passed the mic directly from one person to another—I felt more like a facilitator than a talking head.
When the initial technology platform didn't work as planned, they switched to viewing sites on the screen when they came up in discussion, which worked out well. With the active engagement of the audience, the session covered more information than usual and followed the interests of the people in the room. It's a safe bet that the audience (or is that "the people formerly known as the audience"?) stayed awake, too.



What a wonderful, *encouraging* story! Thanks for posting that (and for the link). Wouldn't it be awesome if more people did that?

Best regards,

No doubt. I'm looking forward to trying it. I imagine there's an interesting tradeoff: you don't have to prepare slides, but you'd better know your subject. I think the live web site projection would be particularly helpful.

Hey Nathan - I've just gotten back from a little post-conference get-together, and word on the street is that the participants liked the format very much. While totally non-conventional, we just covered so much more than we would have been to if I had stood at the front of the room and talked. Not to mention the fact that the content was 100% what the participants wanted to pull from me, rather than what I arbitrarily wanted to push. I hope we've started a whole new trend - death to PowerPoint!

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About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
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