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Things I Hate About Conferences (redux)

Posted by lpearle on 12 March 2011

I know I’ve ranted about this before, but after experiencing TEDxNYED last weekend and in preparation for CIL next week, this bears repeating.

First, there are certain baseline assumptions presenters should make about their audience.  For example, if you’re addressing a group of educators (including librarians) or those involved with the education “business”, it’s safe to assume that we can read.  Reading your PowerPoint to this audience is totally unnecessary.  Of course there are exceptions (a blind audience member, for example) but really, we don’t need your help.  It’s a presentation, not a bedtime story.

Second, anyone who gives a presentation with slides filled with text is just not paying attention.  Not everyone is up to the whole Presentation Zen ideal, and that’s ok.  Sometimes words are important.  But how many is critical – fewer is better (unless you’re showing an article, or e-mail, or something that you don’t expect the others to actually read but functions more as an illustration).  Remember that: fewer is better.

Third, the number of slides. When someone says “we have to move quickly I have [obscene number] of slides to get through” I cringe.  The rule is half as long, twice as nice.

Finally, if you’ve been giving virtually the same talk, with the same message for more than five years – change the talk, change the message.  Either everyone’s heard it already and are sick of it, or it’s just not sinking in.  Particularly in this day and age of blogs, twitter, Nings and all other social media, a message that might have taken years to spread now takes a far shorter time.  Take it to the next level, find a totally new way to say things, show what progress there’s been (using examples from the 90s feels like you’re talking about the 1890s, not 1990s.).  Change, or go home.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Oh, and you think I’m guilty of any of the above, don’t be shy and tell me.  Immediately.


One Response to “Things I Hate About Conferences (redux)”

  1. Oh yeah I have the same issues!!! As rude as it is, if I accidentally get in a session like the ones above, I have decided manners must go out the door with me as I get up and leave. At ALA this past summer I cant tell you how many sessions tried to lull me to sleep. OMG!!

    I just finished up 3 presentations at our state conference. By the 3rd one I was so frustrated with my own problems that I placed a chart on the wall at the front of the room, and wrote at the top “Learn or Re-learn” and poked fun at myself as I went through my presentation. First I wrote NEVER rely on conference wifi. Yes it was so slow and much of my content was in the cloud, that I was having to come up with song and dance while content loaded. Then I went back and wrote “bring your own back-up equipment” when the speakers in the room FAILED. My bookmarks and postcard handout with url, etc didn’t get passed out until halfway through and that was on purpose, but there was not enough! YIKES. So as I explained how to get to the handout wiki I walked back over to my chart and wrote “Anticipate far too many handouts cuz u never know!” It was comical after a while, but honestly I was so mad at myself.

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