Online Information Conference 2008 – Clay Shirky Keynote Preview

online-08-logoAs a first-time speaker at the Online Information Conference in London in a couple of weeks, I was intrigued to see the organisers have posted up a preview video of the keynote speaker on YouTube.

Clay Shirky , Author of ‘Here Comes Everybody‘ and thought leader on the social and economic effects of internet technologies will open the 2008 conference with a keynote address that examines ‘Every piece of information is a latent community.’

One of the absolutes of information is that people don’t just like to have it, they like to share it, discuss it, argue about it. In the digital world, we now have media that can both transmit information and coordinate people at the same time; one potent side-effect is that published information can call a topic-specific community into being, by linking together the people who gather around it.”

It sounds like it will be an interesting and controversial topic.

Ways to prevent ‘Death by PowerPoint’

I have had a great interest in presentations, the good, the bad and the ugly, for many years now.

This is partly a result of having to overcome a phobia of public speaking. I know you are going to say that no one enjoys standing in front of an audience. And that many people have trouble sleeping the night before, and some are even physically sick before going on stage. However my fear of presenting used to take the form of insomnia and panic attacks beginning up to four months before, and building up as the big day approached.

Also, fairly early in my career, my job including producing and presentations for senior managers within my company. I remember spending much time reducing overly numerous and wordy sets of slides down to something digestible and attractive, only have the managers revert to their original slides minutes before the presentation. One classic example involved our Economist who was asked to present on the tricky topic of Stock Futures and Options to our trustees. As I watched him lose his audience due to his ‘killer’ slides I wanted to to ask him if he had ever wondered why he was being asked to present on this topic for the third year in a row to the same audience.

I also remember attending a conference in which the speaker tried, and failed, to get through 120 detailed slides in 45 minutes. It was an incredibly stressful experience as an observer, and goodness knows what it was like for the presenter.

Yesterday I attended a one day training course aimed at improving the presentation skills of the Business & IP Centre team, and wanted to pass on a few key learnings from the day:

1. Engage your audience – and in order to do so you need to understand who they are, what they want and what you want to communicate to them. Don’t just churn out the same presentation each time. Tailor it to each audience.

2. Ditch the; tell ’em what you’re going to say tell ’em tell ’em what you said, approach. Instead jump straight in with some kind, such as a powerful story, example or anecdote in order to ‘hook’ your audience from the start.

3. Keep you audience’s attention throughout using: the power of the pause (the longer the Death by PowerPointbetter), questions (rhetorical or actual), engaging examples or stories.

4. Get rid of all of your PowerPoint slides that don’t explain or illustrate a point. How many times have you seen presenters simply reading their bullet points out?

For more details on this point have a look at this presentation on

slideshare and my presentation

Last Thursday I gave a presentation during the Aerospace & Defence Librarians Group seminar organised by Ben Chan at the Cilip HQ

The title of the day was the Library Information Survival Guide and there were some interesting sessions.

I was starting to panic the day before as half of my PowerPoint slides seem to have got damaged between home and work. So as well as using multiple memory sticks I also posted a copy of the presentation onto slideshare. This free service is like YouTube for presentations and includes my least favourite word of the Web 2.0 era ‘favorited’. The currently most favorited presentation on the site has had over 800,000 views which is impressive by any standards.

However what I liked about the service is that you can not only download presentations from the site as well as view them in medium size on the web, you can also run them in full screen mode. So all you need is a decent internet connection to provide a backup to the presenters worst nightmare of their memory stick failing.

Here is the link to my presentation about the Business & IP Centre.

Dilbert does(n’t) do PowerPoint

I was rather surprised to see Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) using old fashioned view-foils and an overhead projector for his talk at the recent SLA Annual Conference in Denver.

Scott Adams at SLA Denver 2007

When he was asked about this during the Q&A session he explained how he wanted to control the way the audience read the cartoons, so we didn’t all rush to the final slide.

This reminded me of my first training course in public speaking many years ago. Our trainer insisted that only by using view-foils could we control the content of the presentation on the fly. In other words you could add or remove content without your audience being aware of changes you were making. This is crucial if your timing starts going out due to interruptions or other factors outside your control.

How many PowerPoint presentations have you been to where the speaker starts rushing through their slides, and you sit there wondering what you are missing as they whiz by?