Revisiting – When Storytelling rescued me from Death by Powerpoint …

I’d long  backed up my original Posterous blog to Blogger, and then Posterous died … so I’m slowly revisiting my old stories  and saving them over on WordPress. I did try to migrate them from both Posterous and Blogger to WordPress in one go – but the tech just didn’t behave for me. Oh well, maybe just move them one at a time, do a bit of reflection too, with reminders of those old lessons learned – and experiences shared. This post is from one of my favourites – one of those experiences where you wish the floor could just swallow you up … but somehow you get through …

I confess to being one of those hated by Ralph Souleon – using lots of powerpoint slides in conference presentations – comes with the territory in an engineering field. Content. Content. Content.

Several years ago I was asked to email in my presentation for an engineering conference – so I pdf’d it to get the size down for emailing. It was interesting that the conference was  to be held at Sydney’s Royal Randwick Racecourse.  I‘m actually related to the Barden  Horse Racing family, who were around Randwick from the early 20th Century years. But I’m not much into horses after a Shetland pony tried to bite me when I was a child. So usually you don’t see me get too close to horses …

I'm not much into horses - this is as close as I usually get to a horse..

I’m not much into horses – this is as close as I usually get to a horse.. my daughter in the Sunshine Coast hinterland…

But the Conference was held at the time when the Equine Influenza epidemic had shut down horse racing in Sydney – only a lone horse seen out on the track. And that was how I felt at the podium, when my pdf’d powerpoint developed compatibility issues with the venue’s hardware.

Innumerable black rectangles where my witty & informative text box captions were supposed to be. Slides and slides of them. At least the photo’s & images looked good. The session moderator couldn’t help. Gulp.

Time for a deep breath and “wing it”.

At least the subject was a field which I was confident and passionate about. I had to use the images as my prompts as I told their stories.

In fact the moderator commented later that because the text boxes were missing – my audience had to engage with me more. He kindly observed that it had enhanced my presentation overall. I hoped he was right.

The conference was one where participants rated all the speakers – not often done – but in fact a good idea. As a speaker you can appreciate the bouquets and learn from the other comments.

So I was relieved to find that some had rated me as best presentation – which was humbling as there were some very good presentations at the conference.

So I try to make my Forensic Engineering Failure Analysis conference presentations more visual – but content can’t be avoided altogether in an engineering presentation. And never leave home without a memory stick backup – even if the presentation has been already emailed. 

And it all came together for me a year or two later, when David Snowden observed at ACTKM 08 that voluminous stats, facts & numbers don’t convince – but stories do.


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