Ignite Lewes, or Powerpoint is not dead
Last night was the inaugural Ignite event in Lewes, organised by two lovely Matts (only one of whom is married to me), one lovely Louise, and several others. The Ignite tagline is ‘enlighten us, but make it quick’ and to that end each speaker is allowed 5 minutes (strictly timed) and 20 slides (strictly counted) which are automatically advanced after 15 seconds (again, strictly timed).
Last night there were 14 speakers covering an astonishing array of topics from nuclear fusion to the anarchic history of tea – I won’t go into details of every talk (hopefully there will be videos available soon). Instead I’ve been thinking about what worked well, and not so well, in terms of slide content and design (and stealing the successful approaches for myself). The format means you really can’t waste a single slide, so it’s an ideal test of imaginative Powerpoint wrangling. All the cool (a relative term) kids (ditto) seem to be using Prezi these days, but can you still wow if you’re not in the cloud? Some things I learned:
1. Use striking images. It doesn’t even matter if they’re only tenuously connected to what you’re saying. Your ideas will be absorbed better if they’re linked to a strong image (as with the link method for remembering items in a list).
2. Keep text to a minimum. How much can you read in 15 seconds while also trying to concentrate on what a speaker is saying? Hardly anything, so take out even more words than you think you need to. (Two of the best presentations last night used no words at all.)
3. Number-crunching? Use a pretty infographic or at least some kind of visual representation of data for maximum impact and fast understanding.
And some tips on verbal delivery:
1. Less is more. It’s better to include less information and speak slowly than to rush through a lot of stuff people won’t be able to follow.
2. It’s fine to read from/refer to written notes (better than drying up from nerves), but be aware that you are reading aloud – make an extra effort to bring the words to life and avoid a monotone.
3. Move around a bit, but not too much. Aim for a happy medium between catatonic and manic.