Presentation styles

I was asked to speak at the Hungarian Web Conference in Budapest last week-end. That conference brings together about 500 Web aficionados at a conference center in Budapest’s tenth district. Most of the conference was in Hungarian; talks are given…

I was asked to speak at the Hungarian Web Conference in Budapest last week-end. That conference brings together about 500 Web aficionados at a conference center in Budapest’s tenth district. Most of the conference was in Hungarian; talks are given in four tracks throughout all Saturday. Kudos, first of all, to W3C’s Hungarian Office which was a co-sponsor of the conference!For my talk on security and usability on the web, I tried a Lessig-like presentation style. The result was, I dare say, a pretty good talk — one of the better ones I’ve given in a while –, and a lesson learned about how I prepare talks.Usually, what I do is ultimately an academic lecture: I prepare some material, I assume that I’ll have slides to serve as a buffer for the audience to hold context (just like we had the blackboard back when I did talks about maths), and then I start explaining things. Of course I rehearse once or twice, readjust some things, make sure there’s some kind of flow to what I tell — but, ultimately, I rely on the written material, and you’ll be able to extract much of the talk’s content from it.In Lessig-like mode (similar to Takahashi style or Hardt style), I found myself preparing a speech. The slides served to underline a point, to hold a quote, to emphasize — but not to hold context. I found myself in story-telling mode much more than I usually am. I found myself forced to break down my argument more simply and more clearly than I’d usually do. I found myself using more rhetorics than I normally do, and I found myself preparing by giving the speech I was going to hold in little pieces, by iteratively changing the slides, by rehearsing this point or that point over and over.The downside is clear: While the slides are now available for public consumption, you may not easily get some of the points in there; some of the slides really only make sense when they are combined with the spoken word. I hope none of the possible misunderstandings will haunt me later; actually, I was quite reluctant about making these slides public in the first place (though I’d any time make a recording of the speech together with the slides public, if I had one).I’ll try this presentation style again: while it takes more preparation than an off-the-mill “powerpoint” presentation (I’d never dare to prepare a talk like this during the session that leads up to mine, for instance), I find it more fun to prepare and give talks like this.If you haven’t ever tried this style, go try it. It’s worth the effort.