Presentations post-Covid?

Since I gave a version of one of my talks via MS Team a couple of weeks ago I’ve been thinking about how that classic, narrative lecture, slide heavy presentation will work in a world where large physical group gatherings become rare and are replaced by more and more online events. Partly spurred because nobody took me up on my offer.

A lot of the way I prepare and design my talks was inspired by the things Russell and Giles write about – mainly captured here these days. I tend to be a little loose in how I interpret some of their advice but for the most part I’ve followed it in these recent years where I’ve done quite a bit of public speaking but now some of it feels a little bit out of time…maybe.

I’m not really thinking about the broader change in what events might look like – smarter people will explore that…but what the kind of presentations I’ve tended to do for ‘fun’ or ‘work’ this last decade.

Slides that are at least partly designed to be on big screens and to be photo’d and maybe shared doesn’t feel relevant when you are screen sharing. 

Live blogposts basically – exploring ideas based on real examples and experiences. Professional but personal.

Does the linear narrative style work when people can so easily join and leave at different times than in a physical location (actually this is wrong – you can always come in late/leave early from talks but the social contract – even at unconferences – limits this and maybe this breaks more online..)

I’ve always leaned on humour in my talks but when you cannot see or hear the audience this is pretty painful and more generally how do you tell if you have the attention of your audience?

Does this mean even more of a shift to asynchronous, pre-recorded presentations? At that point are you just doing a podcast?  I can kind of see an event like Service Design in Government making a shift to a model like that – shifting from a carefully curated conference to a series of talks you can subscribe to. 

Or is the model emerging from streamers at platforms like Twitch? I’m a bit old for this world but have been trying to get up to speed. Maybe streaming pure show and tells – with demos etc – is the sweet spot to hold attention?

The length of these presentations needs rethinking as well for online – TED Talks are 18 minutes or less and basically explore a single idea. Is this a model?

The interview or ‘fireside’ chat approach that again feels a little podcast-y is nice but it requires a different kind of preparation and collaboration.

Maybe this plenary presentation is a format which is ready for retirement? The cries of ‘death by PowerPoint’ are hardly new.

Would I even miss it? Professionally I suspect I would. My speaking opened doors and helped me meet a lot of great people I would never have otherwise approached. Personally I probably won’t miss the stress and the pressure. I always preferred blogging and social media.

Thanks to Matt and Lou for chatting to be a bit about this on Twitter which led to this post.


One response to “Presentations post-Covid?”

  1. “I can kind of see an event like Service Design in Government making a shift to a model like that – shifting from a carefully curated conference to a series of talks you can subscribe to.”

    Just wanted to say I really like this idea Matt! A subscription means organisers and speakers could still get paid, and makes it feel like you’re getting something something more than you would just trawling Youtube for older versions of the same talk. I agree organisers would do well not to view conferences as just a day (or days) of lectures – SD in Gov’s approach of offering workshops could translate well, maybe with the organiser or the speaker facilitating an activity or discussion once after a talk. And again if you paid to attend something like that you’d feel you were getting something by being there in the moment, rather than just finding it free online later 🙂

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