A short post on preparing short presentations (for short time-slots)

This is a good question, something I've answered a lot in workshops but never blogged about. So here's what I think is really important about prepping short talks with PowerPoint presentations:

  1. Create the number of slides you think you need, then get rid of a couple! The time just rushes past in short presentations, so when it comes to your PPT (or whatever else you're using) you almost always need less than you think. Five slides for a 15 minute presentation may often be enough.
  2. Simplicity is never more important. Simple slides are better anwyay (image-rich, a little text as possible, no bullets) but are especially vital when you only have a very short window in which to convey your information. The messages need to stick, so make them easy to understand and support them with relevant images.
  3. Signpost to more detailed information. Have a blog-post already published which goes into more detail than your 15 minutes will allow, and use a customised bit.ly URL to share the post in an easy-to-remember link at the end of your talk.
  4. Structure is still important. Audiences find structured presentations easier to remember and understand, even for very short talks. So try to have a beginning, a middle, and an end clearly signalled (both in what you're saying and in your slides)
  5. Consider doing a 20:20. A 20:20 (also known as Pecha Kucha) technique involves having 20 slides, each of which automatically moves on after 20 seconds. These are acually really fun to do (the trick is to keep talking rather than stopping to wait for the slides to catch up) and force a real discipline in terms of the economy of your delivery. A 20:20 takes just under 7 minutes and it's amazing how much you can cover in that time if you practice. (I know point 5 directly contradicts point 1, but the approach is SO different with Pecha Kucha it's a whole different ball-game...) 

How to build 5 libraries in 2 weeks

Last week I gave a 20:20, or Pecha Kucha, presentation. Basically this means 20 slides, set to run automatically for 20 seconds each - it makes for quick and punchy presentations with none of the filler that can make PowerPoint sessions drag on. We use them at York to keep each other up to date within the Information Directorate (our converged Library and IT service) with what's going on and what we're interested in. I really recommend this, it's a great way to bring people together across an organisation and communicate ideas. Anyway, normally I'd choose something more relevant to my work but this time I decided to do something different, and present on the Buy India a Library Project, which ran at the start of this year. Here are the slides:

View more presentations from Ned Potter
It was really fun to revisit this, and reflect on what an extraordinary thing it was that Buyalib was able to crowd-source nearly $4000 from librarians, in two weeks, for a charitable cause! Everyone who donated or spread the word - you are amazing. We have literally created something out of nothing.
I had a letter from GoodGifts the other day, saying that work had started on building the library in India and would likely be completed by April next year. Justin, Jan, Andromeda and I were invited to the opening but, frankly, if we had enough cash knocking around to afford those air-fares, we wouldn't have needed to crowd-source the cash to begin with. :)
For people who think Twitter is 'just people talking about what they had for lunch', this kind of project - which would have been all but impossible to achieve pre-Twitter, certainly in that amount of time - is the ultimate riposte, I think. If you're new to this story, you can catch up via the Buyalib blog.
- thewikiman
p.s Did I mention that 5 libraries now exist or are being created in impoverished areas with no other access to books - libraries which otherwise wouldn't have existed? That's absolutely amazing!