Presentations 2.0

Last week I taught a class (eight times, in fact) which kicked off with a short presentation modeled after Dick Hardt’s OSCON talk on “identity 2.0”; I told my students that I had stolen the idea from one person (Hardt) who had stolen it from another (Lessig) and that they in turn should feel free to steal it should the need arise. The style is rapid, visually rich, and fun; watch Dick’s performance to get a feel for it.

On the last day of teaching the class I discovered, thanks to a post on David’s blog, that this Lessig/Hardt presentation style was being featured at Garr Reynolds' Presentation Zen site. I wrote a longish comment there which I’ve decided to edit and post here as well, mostly so I can find it again later when I go looking for it.

I saw Dick’s talk at OSCON this past summer and came away impressed. For those who are considering trying this style of presentation, here are three things to keep in mind about the style and about Dick’s presentation in particular:

  • First, as simple as they are, notice that his slides have a very high level of polish. No visual element is more complex than it needs to be. Everything is easily readable and identifiable. Pay attention to this. It’s the antithesis of crufty backgrounds and clip art.

  • Second, a key element of this style for me is the “refrain” – certain elements are repeated periodically. These often serve as a sort of punchline, but they also offer a pause in the otherwise relentless flow of images and words.

  • Third, if you decide to try this, and you generally give the type of presentation where you talk a couple minutes per slide, give yourself more preparation time than usual! There’s the obvious challenge of more slides, and the subtle but equally important challenge of making sure they mesh well and that the visuals communicate instantaneously. I gave my Hardt/Lessig-style talk eight times and after each one I found some part of the sequence to tweak.

David Gammel commented on Fri Oct 14 16:32:36 2005:

One thing about the Lessig method I’ve come to realize as I thought about it the past few days: it makes for a very engrossing online presentation.

A lot of presentations are so boring online b/c you have 5-10 minutes of talk per slide. Lessig, with the rapid slide changes paralleling a rapid coversational tone, is great for maintaining attention. I think the presenters cover a lot of ground in a short time as well, which is conducive to online viewing.