Planning an unpresentation


Since my experience at BarCamp RDU earlier this month, I've become a fan of the unconference approach: the spontaneous presentations, the fluid agenda, and—most of all—the conversational tone of the sessions. I plan to use that conversational style in a client meeting this week, and rather than create a set of slides to support it, I'm using something different. I'm calling it an unpresentation.

The unpresentation is a conversation, supported by live demos of relevant web sites. The subject for this one is Social Media 101, with a hefty dose of social media marketing strategy. Rather than show slides with screen shots of relevant sites, we're going to look at the sites live. That way, we can explore more fully when the audience—the client—wants to know more.

I have a basic outline, but most of the time we're going to do something like a user-generated presentation, letting audience interest determine where we spend our time. Once we cover the basics, the stuff they find fascinating or troubling will get the most airtime.

What's different about that?
OK, live demos are riskier than slides, but otherwise, all I've described is a demo. Here's what's different: in place of the usual PowerPoint deck, I've put together a web page with all of the links I need for the session. It's organized in sections that map to the agenda, and the links include sources of the specific cases we'll talk about. My logo is at the top, my contact information is at the bottom, and the internal style sheet makes it look like my web site.

When the meeting is over, I'll leave the HTML file as the handout. Many of the links are specific to this client, and a reference section at the end gives more useful sources to explore.

Benefits for the client:

  • Detailed list of references for later exploration
  • No writing down URLs or typing them later—especially good with long URLs
  • Easy sharing of the HTML document via email or other channels
Benefits for me:
  • Reduce typing and prevent typos during the meeting.
  • Avoid wait for pages to load during the meeting by opening multiple links in tabs.
  • Pass-along copies carry branding with internal style sheet and external link to logo.
  • Links to relevant blog posts leverage prior work.
I've half-slept through too many boring meetings where presenters read their slides. The unpresentation carries the risk of live demos, but the flexibility and richer experience of visiting the real sites is worth it. With the links lined up and ready to go, I can focus on the conversation, rather than on URLs and typing.

This should be fun.




Great way to present. I sometimes let the audience vote as to whether they want powerpoint or whiteboard, but I like your idea even better.

Tom O'B

Thanks, Tom. We'll see how it works tomorrow.

Nathan - anything that makes a presentation far more engaging gets my vote! My most recent presentation (earlier today) was a mini-keynote (ala Lawrence Lessig et al), meets an interactive panel. Seemed to work quite well, although we ran out of time just as conversations were starting flow.

As a tweak, I called my panelists the "Un-usual Suspects" - there's definitely some "un" in the air lately!


Running out of time was our problem, too. The client was happy with the meeting, but my take-away was that social media 101 is a minimum of a half day. We had two hours, and it just wasn't enough to get through the basic orientation with time for the strategic issues we needed to cover.

I'm working on an unconference of my own, but at the moment, it's still mostly unorganized and unconfirmed.

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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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