Presenting in a sprint

Presenting a set of slides can be nerve-wracking; watching them boring, yet as my OUBS colleague says here, “We live in a presentation culture” and indeed, when I started my adult life, no-one presented their notes to you in the way that they now do with a set of slides, each with several bullet points.  In fact, I can’t remember much visual presentation at all when I was at teacher training college in the seventies, and now I almost wonder how we managed to learn let alone remember anything given that we saw no PowerPoint.

However, I fit in with today’s culture and obey expectations, so I dutifully prepared a set of slides for the UKAIS conference in Oxford recently, where I’d had a paper on my PhD research accepted.  I had a half hour slot, on the second day, just before lunch.  Do you think anyone is going to be that interested after having already watched three other presentations each with around 30 slides? NO, I thought.  They are going to want their lunch.  But what I want from them is for them to know about my research and to tell me how to tweak it and where to publish it.  So instead of rabbiting on for thirty minutes (one chair allowed 22 minutes and five minutes for questions, with the remaining time for turnaround between speakers), I planned to speak to twenty slides for six minutes 40 seconds.  Why so precise a timing?  Because this format, known as a pecha kucha, requires timed presentation of exactly 20 seconds for each slide, i.e. 400 seconds.  You have to know exactly what you want to say to each slide and how to say it – whether there’s a lot to say so you speed up,or vice versa.

I explained what I was going to do, what I wanted from my audience after the presentation, and that I couldn’t take questions during the presentation.  Then I set off.  Doing a pecha kucha is a bit like a sprinting race, and indeed one of the failures of my presentation I suspect, was that people were watching to see if I could speak to time with each slide rather than listening to the content that the slide illustrated.  But it was fun, for me and for them.

I got what I needed – suggestions for publication in for example the project management journals,or the International Journal of Project Management  or the European Journal of Information Systems, or interestingly because I hadn’t thought of it, the journal of Information Technology and People, and I was given a name of a couple of editors to contact.  It’s worth contacting the editors to check that you’re writing the right papers for them, that your proposed approach fits, and they might know if there’s a special edition coming up.  Rowena Murray advises this approach in her “Writing for Academic Journals” but this was the first time anyone had actually suggested it and given me names.  Now to do – I should read the possible journals and see what they already publish and how those published papers are written.

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About Positive post doc

Researching reflective performance in order to understand the relationship between engagement and performance in STEM videos. Researched engaged relationships between public sector clients and consultants on IT projects, so have research knowledge of public sector, project management, consultants, IT, and use of social media for research

2 responses to “Presenting in a sprint”

  1. John Hodgkins says :

    Many believe that PowerPoint was created so that speakers would no longer have to circulate a summary of their paper to delegates – but in reality, no-one manages to capture everything that appears on screen, so speakers now circulate copies of PowerPoint slides instead!

    There is nothing more tedious than listening to a speaker who’s trying to capture every bullet point that they have carefully documented for their presentation….. and the inevitable outcome is an audience that has missed some of the important facts that you wanted to get across either through tedium, sleep or hunger!

    A captivating speaker is one who uses PowerPoint to capture a theme through visual or graphical images that make the audience want to listen to the speaker’s oral development or analysis of that theme. A captivating PowerPoint (if such an beast exists) is purely visual, leaving the audience wanting to listen to the speaker …. and ensuring a speaker who is free to deliver a presentation in their own words without the distraction of trying to follow screen text.

    Anyone who can press buttons can deliver a PowerPoint presentation; the measure of a speaker is their ability to engage the audience with the spoken word. A skill that is not easy to attain – as one who has endured many hours of spotting spelling mistakes as they fly incessantly in, out and around a screen can affirm – and restricting my time for doing so to a mere 20 seconds becomes yet one more distraction from my ability to leave better informed than I arrived.

    So PowerPoint lives on. And those of us who have scoured each new release to find new ways of invoking tedium in our audience are starting to conclude that maybe, just maybe, there is a better way?

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