last Saturday I gave my first micropresentation. Micropresentations, also known as Pecha Kucha
(Japanese for "chit-chat"), are presentations of exactly 20 slides of exactly 20 seconds each. PowerPoint is set to automatically advance each slide so once you start the presentation going you have 6 minutes and 40 seconds to give your presentation and then you’re finished. I watched various members of the UK community give some very impressive micropresentations at MIX:UK 07
in London in September and thought I’d like to give it a go. I got my chance at the lunchtime slot at DDD6 where Zi Makki
organises the grok talks presented by anyone who wants to have a go (BTW if you’d like to give grok talks or micropresentations a go I can thoroughly recommend it - contact your local user group or look out for DDD7).
If you’d like to see how I got on Craig Murphy
video’ed all of the grok talks and my micropresentation and when these get posted on either Craig’s site
or the DDD site
I will post another message. But if you can’t stand the wait and you really must see how I got on I cobbled together a recording of the PowerPoint deck and a sound recording I took and made a quick video (personally I would wait for Craig’s video because you get to see some wild man excitedly gesticulating and pointing frantically at the screen). You can download the video here
and if you only want the slides you can get them here
So what did I learn from my first attempt at a micropresentation ?
- The preparation time for a micropresentation is completely disproportionate to the length of time of the presentation. The presentation is obviously 6 minutes and 40 seconds but I spent many hours preparing it.
- As you only have 20 seconds to show each point it really forces you to nail your demonstrations. I found it very interesting to take any demonstration that I wanted to give and reduce it to its constituent screen shots and add animations and graphics to highlight the essential pieces of information that I wanted to show. I am very grateful for having gone through this procedure because it really focuses the mind on being able to get to the point in the minimum amount of time, an approach which transfers to more traditional presentations very nicely.
- I used animations to simulate drawing on the screen. I like to use ZoomIt to draw on the screen to focus the audience’s attention on a particular point but obviously not only would it be not Pecha Kucha to interfere with the slides whilst they are running but also it takes valuable seconds to annotate the slide. So I added the annotations to the slides and animated their arrival on the slides after a given number of seconds that I just guessed at. Seemed to work ok though.
- I found it difficult to find 20 separate pieces of information about my subject until I started spreading subjects over slides. Pecha Kucha purists will probably be annoyed at my abuse of the format (e.g. repeating slides only changing them by the animations to illustrate new points, revisiting slides that have already be shown in order to consolidate a point).
- In the previous micropresentations that I had watched it seemed to me that one of the difficult parts of this format was in timing your speech so that it ended exactly as the slide moved on to the next point. If you ended before then there was a few seconds where the speaker is clearly waiting for the slide to move on (you can see this on at least 2 of the slides in my presentation). I thought I had a cunning plan to solve this problem. First I started looking for a digital egg timer that would count down in seconds and would reset back to 20 seconds after it hit zero. I couldn’t find one. Then Jesse Liberty suggested using a digital chess timer. I wasn’t able to find a timer that would count down and reset back to 20 seconds without a player having to press the "done" button so I simply set my timer to 6 minutes and 40 seconds. I reasoned that if I needed to look at the timer then it didn’t matter what the minutes digit showed or indeed what the tens of seconds digit showed because it would be very obvious to me whether I was in the first 10 seconds or a slide or the second 10 seconds of a slide. What I needed was the very last digit and seeing that it was, say, 3 or 4 seconds would tell me how close I was. I liked the theory. I practised using the digital chess timer and found it to be very helpful. Come the live presentation I set the timer on the desk and started it going as I started the presentation. I didn’t look at it once. Apart from the fact that I didn’t want the distraction the presence of the audience made me realise that I had to be looking at them and not at the timer. Tried it, didn’t like it, moved on.
- Something that I desperately wanted to get right was the ending of the presentation. I wanted to end exactly on the 6 minutes and 40 seconds mark. I didn’t. I ran over by 4 seconds. I was disappointed with myself for this. The presentation had ended and there was this black screen and I was still talking. Admittedly it was only 4 seconds in a presentation of 6 minutes and 40 seconds but I think ending your final word on the final second of the presentation is very impressive and I will strive to get this right next time.
So what do I conclude from this ? It was fun. It was a lot of work for such a tiny amount of time. I thought people enjoyed watching the spectacle of someone being put under real pressure (I didn’t mind it either). I also thought people appreciated the basic point of Pecha Kucha: you have to make your points clearly and move on; there is no messing about and there is no delay and there is no digressing - you make your points and you get off. If you’re up for the challenge I have to say that I can recommend it.
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