An off-the-cuff math question, “How much do you suppose they’re making off this ridiculous spectacle?”…
I’m just back from speaking at two conferences and getting ready to teach at another–and I’m Program chair for the APTinternational Conference this summer. The topic of making handouts valuable to participants is near and dear to my current life.
Part of my viewpoint comes from my methods of running sessions. I’m strongly opposed to “death by PowerPoint,” trying to convey information through dense text on slides that is better conveyed via other mediums. So my slides highlight main points, use images to convey ideas, state key quotes, and occasionally provide specific directions for group activities. A handout of my slide deck isn’t all that useful if you weren’t in the room. So I don’t provide it.
If you aren’t sure what great slides look like, check out the samples at Presentation Zen and at educator Bill Ferriter’s site. Yes, sometimes slides need words, but if your audience is reading, they aren’t listening to what you’re saying. And if you’re simply reading your slides what’s the point of presenting? Just give them the handout!
If you aren’t aware of the true dangers of conveying too much information through slides, check out an analysis of how this behavior fed into (note I didn’t say cause…) the space shuttle Columbia disaster (I wish it weren’t so…)
What I often provide is a summary of my main teachings and the instructions for at least one activity so that participants can try it with their own teams. Sometimes, there’s a chart or a few slides containing key data. Occasionally, I’ll include images of five or six slides rather than duplicate the information in another way. These handouts are pretty much what used to refer to as “proceedings.” I still have books of proceedings from conferences I attended in the 1990’s–before the widespread abuse of PowerPoint–and they’re USEFUL. People wrote actual papers worthy of reading. If you missed a session, you could read the proceedings to understand the main points of the session.
If you’re presenting at a conference, try it. Upload a handout that people can use whether they’re in the room or not. Of course, these tie best to presentations that actively involve the audience. I can generally tell people, “Ignore the handout for now, but all the key information is captured in it. You don’t really have to take notes, other than jotting down questions, connections, what-if’s, aha’s, or “yeah, but….””
Can you abandon printouts of slides and instead provide something that allows your audience to revisit and perhaps pass on the learning experience your session creates?