Presenting with power means PowerPoint must not be a crutch

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We are currently planning the next Social Innovation BarCamp for 6 Nov 2010 in Sydney and I’ve just written a post about it called 4 Principles and 2 Laws of Social Innovation BarCamp.

Thinking about the state of conferences over the past few years I have become enamoured of unconferences. In the case of Social Innovation BarCamp, the sessions are facilitated conversations. That is, there is no speaker at the front of a room in a traditional sense, nor is there an audience per se.

Instead there is a facilitator or session leader who frames and encourages a conversation about the topic that they have proposed. Participants come along ready to get involved and not just sit back as an audience.

This is similar to the process Dave Winer outlines as used at the well-known BloggerCon and updates it here:

“…there is no audience, there are no speakers. There is a discussion leader, a person responsible for the flow of the discussion.”

I have concluded that the old conference model with experts out front and a passive audience is no longer sufficient to grapple with the big ideas that we must confront in business and society today. The old conference model harnesses only a small fraction of the brainpower, passion and intelligence in the room.

Further, I have come to realise that many of us are not focused on communication any longer . Instead we tend to  focus on the presentation itself. This is because the presentation tools we use – things like PowerPoint, Keynote or Prezi – tend to conform our communications to their own patterns.

I realised how much of a communications crutch that PowerPoint had become for me while delivering a talk at Parliament House earlier in the year.  At the last minute I discovered that it was not possible to use my carefully prepared PowerPoint slides.  It was a cathartic experience in many ways.  It also led me to define the following law for the next Social Innovation BarCamp:

“The Law of No PowerPoint, which states simply, we know you’re used to the crutch of PowerPoint (or Keynote or Prezi, etc) but you need to leave it behind for the day. Instead use other forms of communication (perhaps draw a poster or write on a whiteboard?) to help get your message across.”
Source: Kate Carruthers

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens without the comfort of a data projector and slideshow. Now is as good a time as any to re-discover the joys of communication without relying on technology to mediate our ideas.

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