I taught a "Presentation Zen" Workshop the other day that was very well received & probably was the most popular of my workshops this year. I was surprised about the continuing obsession with PowerPoint & the crutch that it gives us all as speakers. In creating this workshop I went through the various styles of presenting that I have experimented with & what worked & what didn't.
In 2007 I saw Wil Richardson present for the first time at NECC in San Diego. Not only was I impressed with what he said - it was how he said it. He was using the Lessig method of black background with one word in white text & it just totally threw me for a loop. It was powerful, it was simple - it was brilliant! It took me a while, but I finally got the guts to make it and presented at NCaect - now NCTies. I had a really difficult time presenting this way - I think I made it too simple & I kept going off topic. That was the when I realized that this presenting method required many more slides that I normally would create. In fact each bullet point became their own slide.
Then I watched this amazing presentation online by Dick Hart about Identity 2.0. Now this is a much more scripted lecture than I could ever give - but I really like it and wanted to do something that evoked that.
I'm trying to remember where and when I first came across Presentation Zen & how that changed everything. I think it was when David Warlick came to a MEGA meeting and talked about blogging. He was such a great speaker, and his presentation slides enhanced the experience. So I started to see what others were doing and ended up creating my own presentations in this presentation zenlike style.
I found these presentation rather time consuming. I really had to think about what I was presenting - I found myself outlining on a good old notebook before I started. What was even more challenging was trying to find images that represented my words. A few tools helped along the way like Flickr Storm & http://www.flickr.com/ but it was still challenging to think of the right keyword to search. I also needed to make sure that these images were Creative Common Liscenced, which thankfully Flickr has added as an advanced search feature. Yet the process of finding the perfect feature helped me hone down what I was really talking about and has made me a better presenter. One of my favorites is this one I did on PLNs.
Of course in the middle of all this I see that the edublogger world storm around using stock images. Dan Meyer started it :) but I think it got a good deal of people including Darren Draper & Dean Shareski thinking about image use. As much as Dan claims that stock images are so typical - I remember back to my old public speaking teacher - remember your audience. There are some times that stock images appeal to your audience & times when they don't. I though that when presenting on my thesis at SITE this year I should be more formal and go back to the black slide with white writing & yeah it was OK - but the reaction my friend Lisa Hervey got when using stock images was just much better received. I wish I hadn't been scared to be different in an academic setting.
My goal when I present is to be memorable (hopefully in a good way) & I find that using good and effective images is the key to that. Personally I prefer flickr to istockphoto, but it is hard to find good images - I say use what you can. Any step that we can take to make presenting a more enjoyable experience is worth it.