Sliding away

A few people have asked me lately if I could send them the slides from presentations I’ve given. I’m more than happy to pass on the slides but I feel I have to add a big caveat: they don’t make much sense out of context. With that said, here are some PDFs exported from Keynote (and despite Joe’s feelings on the matter, all of these presentations are licensed under a Creative Commons attribution license):

I’ve found myself developing a certain style in my presentation slides. I avoid bullet points like the plague. Often the most effective slides are the ones with a single word or image.

Something else that you don’t get from the PDFs is the arrow of the time. I like to gradually layer up my slides rather than presenting everything at once. I like the way that Keynote allows me to introduce words as I’m introducing ideas. I only ever use one transition: dissolve. I find it has a soothing feel to it.

I’ve also found myself using typography to communicate. The position, relative size and colour of the words can really help to explain a concept. Combined with the disolve effect, that’s pretty much all I need. I’ll throw in the occasional image where necessary (usually gleaned from the advanced search on Flickr where I can specify Creative Commons licensed content) but mostly I stick to the same formula: large greyscale tightly-kerned bold Helvetica Neue.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of speaking lately and there’s a fair bit still to come. Whenever I’m asked to speak on a subject that I’ve spoken about in the past, I’m perched on the horns of a dilemma. Should I create an entirely new presentation or should I recycle old material?

I don’t like the idea of giving the same presentation more than once. At the same time, if I know from experience that I can make a point clearly, shouldn’t I go ahead and do that even if it means repeating something from an earlier presentation?

Usually, I compromise. I recycle some tried and tested parts of previous presentations but add something new. It all depends on the circumstances: if I’m being paid well to deliver a presentation, then I feel obligated to come up with something entirely original… though I’ll still end up recycling a good slide or two if I know they’ll work well. But it’s important to remember that the payment for speaking is not just for the 45 or 60 minutes that you’re on stage: it’s for all the preparation time too.

Next week, I’ll be in San Francisco for @media America. The subject of my talk is Bulletproof Ajax—a topic on which I’ve presented many times before. This conference is being run on a fairly tight budget so I don’t feel obliged to come up with an entirely original talk. At the same time, I don’t want to repeat verbatim a talk I’ve given in the past. In this age of podcasts—and I try actively to transcribe as many as I can—I don’t want any audience member to think “Hey, this sounds kinda familiar.” But without the financial renumeration required for an entirely new talk, what’s a speaker to do?

In the end, as always, the final result is compromise. Some of the material I’ll be presenting in San Francisco will be new but some of it will be road-tested. I’m fairly confident that hardly anybody in the audience will have seen me present this stuff before but I still can’t help feel a pang of guilt.

But, y’know, the real reason why I’m out there talking about Ajax or microformats or whatever, is because I want the message to reach as many people as possible. Sometimes that means that I have to repeat myself. I feel bad about that. But even in this connected age, a certain amount of redunancy is probably inevitable.

Anyway, I’ve more or less got my slides ready for @media America. I’ve still got a few days to agonise over them so maybe they will change drastically before the day of the presentation dawns. Right now, I should probably prepare for my trip from England to California. An eleven our flight in the economy class belly of a United Airlines flight awaits. Tomorrow I’ll get the hellbus to Heathrow where I can try asking “I can has bulkhead or exit rowz?” After that, the only decision I’ll have to make is choosing between “I can has chicken” or “I can has beef.”

Do not want!

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