Sunday, October 12, 2008

Approaches To Master’s Team Presentations

What is the most informative and engaging style of presentation my MA team can come up with? A few questions spring to mind (and a few answers as well).

Do we use PowerPoint or not?
That is: do we just talk, from memory if we can do it, or with cue-cards, or whatever works for each team member? I have no problem with using PowerPoint, but only as a backdrop to our speaker(s). I have a strong preference for the Presentation Zen approach and that works for me. It is important to avoid the ‘death by PowerPoint’ presentation with too much text on each slide and speakers merely restating their contents.

It is worth having a look at this presentation by Gary Vanynerchuk at the Web2.0 conference. So this is a completely different style of presentation and this guy is a unique character and totally in-your-face. But he is compelling and articulate, and more importantly he uses no slides.

Also, my team needs to take on something achievable within our time frame and commitments. The danger here is for the team that decides to showcase their design and animation skills and cannot get their presentation to work on the night because they can only run it off a Mac and the laptop will not talk to the DIT projector, and so on. Nightmare meltdown time. I do not want to be that team. Also, being mostly designers, it is far easier to spend our time fiddling with the look of the slides than knuckling down and tackling the substantial and difficult part: the content.

Coming up with the content will be challenging enough, so the simpler we can make the actual presentation component the better. Also bearing in mind that we have other reading and course-work to be getting on with in parallel with this activity. My suggestion is that we have our presentation deck locked as early as possible so that whomever has to do the speaking gig has enough time to internalise the material. Again, I do not want to be the team where the presenter ends up apologizing to the audience because the slide sequence was rejigged at 4pm on the day and they get muddled up on-stage.

Who gets to present our work?
There are four of my team, so at its simplest we have four approaches. Obviously there is lots of scope for variation within these outlines but you get the idea. Whatever structure is settled on for our content will influence the choice here as well as personal preferences.
The School Play: four people on stage and each one steps forward to give their 3.25 minutes.
The One-Plus-Trio: one lead presenter handles say 70% of the gig and the other three have a minute or so on their specific contribution.
The Two-Hander: if our presentation breaks down into two logical coherent parts this can work well. This does not imply a 50:50 split of face-time.
The Solo Run: put our best presenter on and let her handle all of the delivery; don’t forget that the team always owns the content.

Based on my experience I would to go with one or two speakers maximum. When you have three or four, the audience tends to get distracted by the inevitable natural changes in tone and speaking style, and the message gets lost within the mechanics of on-stage hand-overs and suchlike.