Against Powerpoint – Animated Talks

Watching several of the sessions at #ili2010 earlier this week, I was struck by how many presenters are now using what I think of as a Presentation Zen style of slide, where full screen photographs are overlaid with a half a dozen or so words…

…and over the summer, I attended two consecutive events, the JISC Innovation Forum:

JIF2010 session cartoon capture

and the European Journalism Centre’s Data Driven Journalism event:

EJC DDJ session cartoon capture

where the organisers had arranged for a “doodler” to visually record the keypoints from each session in a cartoon like way to provide a “live capture” overview of the presentation.

Reviewing these visual captures post hoc is different to seeing them being constructed, of course, because the way the argument was developed over time is missing; the dynamic aspect of presentation isn’t there, so it’s hard to see how an argument was constructed. (The same is true of looking at a flip chart record of a brainstorming session, or a mindmap of a topic.) Yes, you might be able to take the static capture and try to organise it and develop insight based on things that seem to go together, but you miss out on the dynamic way in which the story was constructed, or told.

However, it is possible to use video to capture in an animated way the construction of the visual record of a spoken word event, as the RSA Animate videos do:

If you ever have access to an OHP, you can dynamically construct your own slides of course, as many lecturers and school teachers used to so, and possibly still do. One of my favorite and fondly remembered exponents of this approach, from watching Sunday morning TV as a child, was Edward de Bono:

An advantage of this approach, of course, is that it helps with pacing…

PS @herrdoktorc reminded me that Prezi can provide animated direction to a presentation and that is not a million miles away from the experience you might get from watching an RSA Animate video, at least on those occasions when the violent Prezi swirls don’t induce nausea and a feeling of seasickness in the audience;-) For a good example of Prezi in use, see Scott Leslie’s Open Educator as DJ.

PPS I’m also reminded of the sketchcast site, which I guess is to de Bono what Prezi is to RSA Animate?! I guess you could achieve a similar effect by screencapturing an online whiteboard session, for example…

PPPS While on the topic of alternative presentation styles, here’s a link to the Cooliris 2D slide grid style presentation I saw @cogdog deliver at Ed-Media 2009 in Hawaii last year.

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

7 thoughts on “Against Powerpoint – Animated Talks”

  1. Yes I’ve changed my style of presenting dramatically over the past few years and now time my speaking gigs precisely so that:
    (a) I’m forced to think clearly about what needs to be said, and put a lot more time and thought into my preparation; and
    (b) I don’t show a lack of respect to other presenters and the audience by going over time or reading off screen.

    I find those animations of visual presentations excellent after the event, as a means of clarifying the content of a recording, but I find them distracting and even irritating when I want to listen to a decent speaker. They might work very well when the speaker is, shall we say, a little less dynamic in themselves. But a live doodler is essentially a second presenter. Unless you happen to gel together well, it can be an irritating experience for you both, and as an audience member I can just as easily develop my own doodles, thanks very much.

    I still feel the best presenters are those who need no visual aid at all. Someone who can stand up on stage and tell a compelling story or two, whilst also getting an argument or way of thinking across, is someone who is truly inspiring. I find when such people get up to speak and *do* use visual aids, then those visual aids are eyecandy for what is still a fantastic *speaker*.

    And as someone who taught for some years with OHP and even chalkboards, I can say happily that dynamism comes at a cost – either £$s for projection film, or chalkdust cough for the blackboard!

  2. @joanne Well said:-) Maybe things like RSA Animate work to provide the dynamism of the speaker, and maybe also something of the atmosphere in the room, for people watching the presentation after the event?

    There has been a lot of talk recently (in some parts of the web, at least!), about “amplified events”, where eg a backchannel can be used to engage a remote audience in a live event. What I think is equally useful is event amplification/extension in time, and keeping activity around the event going for newcomers, as well as longstanding participants, through the use of recordings. The TED events are a great example of this, and I think RSA Animate has a similar sort of potential?

    Something I’ve started wondering about is the extent to which a VJ experience might enhance a presentation, although as you point out the best speakers need no visual aids and visuals can sometimes be distracting at best, distracting and irrelevant at worst. (I’m just chasing ideas around what the technology supports, I guess…?! That said, I can also see a VJ channel being used to live capture an animated performance around the spoken content and used as the legacy video, which may reach new audiences because of its visual component, as well as “traditional” audiences for such events who are happy with a podcast video or watching a podium speaker video?_

  3. Nothing beats a presenter who can talk unaided; which points to the key of a good talk being a thorough knowledge and passion for the subject matter, coupled with good public speaking skills(although not always necessary). In fact I would almost always say passion for the subject matter trumps most other qualities.

    However, graphical representations can provide useful context, underline key points etc. It’s just a very fine line between underlining and massively distracting. I think many people would do better presentations if they concentrated on perfecting the verbal delivery of the subject matter first and then using remaining time for additional elements, if they seem necessary.

    Given that I can draw reasonably well, I have tried in the past to do presentations where I sketch out a mind-map of the subject in front of the audience; my main problem with that was it resulted in me having my back to the audience too much. I think it’s really important to speak directly to the audience. I’d never considered using an OHP, but I really like how simple it is.

  4. @sam The overhead projector route could be achieved with a web cam on a stand, I guess, plugged in to laptop which is itself connected to the projector.

    I had a quick look to see if I could find a “portable OHP with VGA out”, (eg with a camera mounted by the reflector, and a video to VGA converter bundled in somewhere, that would allow the thing to be plugged straight in to a standard data projector), but didn’t find anything offhand?

    Another approach would be to use a drawing app and a graphic tablet input?

    1. @Tony @Sam I’ve been experimenting with using a graphics tablet and Evernote. The reasoning was to develop an approach that was more dynamic and interactive with the audience, but also that generates a searchable result at the end (hence Evernote).

    2. I used to print (or pre-draw on) transparencies, and then do some “live doodling” on the OHP for the dynamic aspects. If I wanted to reuse the original slide, I would do this by overlaying it with a second, blank transparency which I could then discard.

      I can replicate this now with PowerPoint. Each slide is like the pre-printed transparency, and the built in drawing and annotation feature allows the addition of the dynamic aspects. A graphics tablet or, better still, touch-screen laptop makes this easier (though not cheaper).

      Another alternative (an expensive version of a web cam on a stand) is the visualiser…

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: