What is the mix of presentation versus interaction at your meetings? What should it be?
Traditional meetings focus heavily on presentation. Interaction is limited to a few questions at the end of sessions, plus conversations “outside” the formal sessions. And this has been the norm for hundreds of years.
The written word
Let’s explore the popularity of the written words presentation versus interaction over time. If you do this, using Google Books Ngram Viewer, you’ll notice a curious thing.
In 1804, the earliest year included in the Google Books database, the word interaction barely appears. The word presentation is a hundred times more frequent. Both words slowly become more common over time, but presentation stays predominant. But, in the 1950s, something strange happens. The popularity of interaction abruptly rises. In 1964, interaction becomes more frequently used. It has remained in first place ever since.
Presentation versus interaction at meetings
Society, as reflected by books in English, now talks about interaction about twice as often as presentation. But our meeting designs, in large part, haven’t changed to reflect this shift in cultural awareness. Presenters still rarely incorporate interaction into their sessions, even though there are ample reasons why they should.
Last week, my friend Traci B wrote to me about a workshop that wasn’t.
“You’ll love this…I went to a 4 hour morning workshop at this digital conference. The speaker said, this will be interactive because no one wants to listen to me talk for four hours. He then proceeded to talk for 4 hours!
I did learn stuff and it prompted some ideas, but imagine how much better they might stick if it actually was a workshop. Also, he polled people in the audience and asked who was B2B [business-to-business] and who B2C [business-to-consumer]. 90 percent of the room was B2B…his presentation was almost all B2C.”
Sadly, experiences like this are far too common. Speakers (and the folks that concoct conference programs) decide to jazz up the description of a broadcast-style session by calling it a workshop.
Obviously, the lecture Traci had to endure wasn’t a workshop. Genuine workshops include significant, frequent, and appropriate work by participants, guided by leaders. The leaders typically have significant content-specific experience. However, they also need adequate facilitation skills to guide the group through the session’s activities.
Some workshops are better described as trainings, where the participants are novices and the leader supplies the vast majority of the content and learning environment. However, most workshops I’ve led included professionals with significant skills and experience.
Customizing a workshop
When running such sessions, it’s important to customize the workshop in real time to meet the actual wants and needs of the participants, rather than plowing through a predetermined agenda that may be partially or largely irrelevant.
This did not happen at Traci’s event!
“Also, adapting your presentation isn’t tagging on “it’s the same for B2B” after every example…cause it’s not.”
Skilled leaders know to uncover the wants and needs of participants at the start of the session, and use the information to build a workshop that’s optimized for the attendees.
This sounds more difficult than it usually is. Preparation involves having a broad set of potential content, techniques, and skills to cover. Then, during the session, the leader concentrates on the wants and needs the attendees have initially shared, adjusting the time spent on each area to match the expressed interest.
One final suggestion
If a presenter (like me) is actually running a workshop, please don’t insist on calling them a speaker! In my experience, attendees prefer well-designed workshops to almost any other session format. Tell them the session is a workshop. They’ll appreciate the information (and likely the session too)!
On May 7, 2012 Google opened up Google Hangouts On Air (HOA)—a free service for broadcasting and recording live video with up to 10 participants—to all Google+ users. Six weeks later, the night before edACCESS 2012 started at the Peddie School in New Jersey, I decided to try using Google Hangouts On Air to stream and then archive the conference keynote. A couple of edACCESS old-timers who couldn’t attend in person this year had asked me if there was any way we could stream any of the “public” conference sessions. I had nothing to lose by trying out this new technology.
Here’s what I did, what I learned, and how things turned out.
Google Hangouts On Air preparation
First I created an empty Google+ Circle and went through the process of creating a test Hangout On Air. This allowed me to get familiar with the process and check in advance for any potential problems. I was able to successfully view myself streaming, and see how the stream turned into a YouTube video once I ended the Hangout. This gave me the confidence to announce through social media channels that the stream would be available. (Though I neglected to figure out how to provide a link to the stream in advance).
Peddie’s charming and efficient Director of Academic Technology provided a laptop with a decent external webcam and we circled each other on Google+ so I could add her computer to the hangout on the morning of the keynote. (Important note: you cannot invite people to a hangout unless they’ve added you to one of their circles first.) I decided to use her computer to stream video and audio of the keynote speaker, and my trusty 17″ MacBook Pro with built in webcam to setup the hangout and publicize and monitor the feed.
To broadcast Hangouts on Air you must have a linked and verified YouTube account associated with your Google login. This linked account will be where the broadcast stream, and later the video recording will appear. You only need to set up this linkage once, but I strongly suggest you do so (and test it) before your first HOA. Verification is apparently necessary if you want to save a hangout that lasts longer than fifteen minutes!
Ten minutes before the keynote was due to begin I started a hangout in the usual way by clicking on the START A HANGOUT button on the Google+ hangouts tab. Then I added Emily to the invitee list, named the hangout, checked the option “Enable Hangouts On Air” (and agreed to the warning dialog), and clicked the Hang out button. This led to a normal-looking hangout window, with the addition of an Embed link and a Start Broadcast button at the top right.
Once Emily accepted my invitation, we were nearly good to go. The big picture feed in a hangout is switched to the webcam with the loudest audio. I wanted to avoid having the stream switch away from Emily’s webcam so I muted the microphone on my computer by hovering over my small video window at the bottom and clicking on the microphone icon.
But I still needed to share a link to the stream so that anyone could watch. Clicking the Embed link on the Hangout page I obtained the embed code for the stream and quickly created a blog post with the embedded keynote stream. This embedded a YouTube player onto the page. Visitors could watch the live Hangout On Air directly from the page, as well as on Google+ and my YouTube channel. (Note: once the broadcast is over, this link points automatically to the resulting YouTube video post.) I checked the blog page to ensure the video looked OK before we went live. Then I tweeted the page link to the blog page.
[Later I discovered that when the hangout is starting, if you right-click on the timestamp of the Google+ post that announces the hangout you will also get a link to the stream.]
We were ready!
By this time the speaker was being introduced. I clicked the Start Broadcast button and we went live.
While hosting the hangout on my computer I could watch the broadcast stream, delayed by 5-10 seconds, in another browser window. Pretty cool! I also noticed that an updating count of stream viewers was displayed on the hangout page. Also cool!
After a few minutes I realized that seeing my face at the bottom of the hangout was distracting, so I turned off my camera.
Then I received a tweet from my friend Ruud Janssen in Switzerland(!) who was watching. He asked if I could use my camera to show the slides as the main video, moving the video of the speaker to a small window at the bottom of the screen. This made sense, so I turned my laptop round, pointed it at the slide screen, and clicked on its window to make the slides the main video for the stream. This worked well. (I should have thought of this earlier. Next time I will explore using a tool like CamTwist to pipe presenter slides directly into a hangout feed.)
Unlike a regular hangout, where any participant can override the camera switching that Google normally does, the main window for a Hangout On Air is either determined automatically from the webcam with the loudest audio or by the person streaming the hangout. So I became the camera operator. When the speaker asked for and answered questions, I chose Emily’s webcam. When he began speaking again, I returned to the slides as the main video.
We had no audience microphone, so I asked the speaker to repeat audience questions. That allowed stream followers to hear questions and they’d be included on the final YouTube video. Next time we could add a small netbook webcam to the hangout and have a volunteer run it round as a mike (and video) for audience questions.
When the keynote was over I simply clicked End broadcast. After about ten minutes, a recorded video of the 105 minute hangout automatically posted to my YouTube channel as well as the post on my Google+ Page, and the embed post on my blog. At this point I was able to edit the video information on YouTube. Now it appeared in my YouTube Channel with the same title I had given the hangout. Apparently you can use YouTube’s tools to edit the video itself, but I didn’t do this.
Broadcasting this impromptu stream only required a small amount of preparation. Upon completion the stream automatically turns into a standard permanent YouTube video. The ease and quality of the result pleases me. Sure, it’s not a professional broadcast and recording. But for the cost (free!) and minimal effort required, Google Hangouts On Air provides an attractive solution for streaming and archiving events that will fill many needs. I recommend you try out this approach for a low-profile event.
– You can join a Hangout twice from two different devices. This will let you put up screenshots, videos, etc in another pane.
– Create an intro screen graphic beforehand that introduces the Hangout. Run this in your hangout for the first 5 minutes before you start.
My session Designing Participation Into Your Meetings will, unsurprisingly, include a fair number of interactive exercises: human spectrograms, pair share, The Three Questions, a mild experience of chaos, and others. My goal is to motivate participants to incorporate participant-driven and participation-rich design elements into their meetings.
“Being architects and having been to countless lectures, we knew that once people start to talk about their work and have a mic in their hands they just go on about details forever…”
—Mark and Astrid Klein, the inventors of Pecha Kucha
To recap, a typical Pecha Kucha session at an event consists of around an hour of back-to-back presentations, each 400 seconds long. There’s no time allocated for questions during the session, and (unless people start throwing stuff) no participation during each presenter’s time on stage.
My defense is brevity. Because all presentations are purposefully short, I like to describe Pecha Kucha as speed dating for ideas. The Pecha Kucha design purposely and explicitly excludes formal Q&A during the session, with the clear expectation that presentations will spark dialogue outside the session.
In other words, unlike the claims of many a traditional presentation with an obligatory Q&A session tacked on the end, a Pecha Kucha event doesn’t pretend to provide an interactive experience. Rather, a single Pecha Kucha provides a rapid introduction to a topic, an idea, or an experience that acts as a jumping off place for stimulated viewers to start learning more via engagement after the presentation. A single fifty minute session can expose attendees to multiple powerful, interesting, and entertaining ideas and viewpoints, and leave plenty of time during the rest of the event for captivated individuals to seek out presenters for further discussions.
Short, sweet, and to the point. That’s why PK (Pecha Kucha) is OK.
Want to experience Pecha Kucha as applied to the world of event professionals? Then you owe it yourself to attend EventCamp Twin Cities next month (September 8-9, Minneapolis, MN) for our Pecha Kucha session, moderated by yours truly. Here are the scheduled presentations from a variety of event professionals!
Instead of going after celebrities to present at your next conference, highlight some stars amongst your attendees with a Pecha Kucha session!
Pecha Kucha is a dynamic presentation format that has spread globally since its invention in Japan in 2003. Think of it as a haiku for presentations. Twenty slides automatically advance, each shown for twenty seconds, while the presenter shares his or her passion about a topic. Because each presentation lasts just 6 minutes and 40 seconds, presenters are challenged to be concise, targeted, and creative—and you can pack eight attendee presentations into an hour-long conference session.
So, you have a question? You want to know how to pronounce Pecha Kucha? Don’t be embarrassed, everybody asks. Just watch this short YouTube video:
O.K., glad to have cleared that up. You can also incorporate Pecha Kucha into a social event at your conference by scheduling your presentations during an evening social, with food and drink available while the presentations go on. This is the format used at Pecha Kucha Nights, held in hundreds of cities all over the world four or more times a year.
Pecha Kucha set up
It’s pretty easy to set up a Pecha Kucha session. Before the conference, you’ll need to:
explain the format to your attendees;
promote the session;
solicit presenters; and
send them a presentation template.
Have them send their presentations to you before the session. On the day, you’ll need an appropriately sized location with presentation-friendly lighting, a wireless mike and sound system, a schedule, and a screen, projector and laptop running PowerPoint or Keynote. Add an MC and a staffer for the laptop and you’re ready to go!
I’m a big fan of Pecha Kucha as a way for people to connect and learn in a fun, fast-paced environment. I’ve just signed a contract to run Brattleboro Pecha Kucha Night, and we’re working on holding a Pecha Kucha session at Event Camp Twin Cities this fall.