To use or not to use slides at technical conferences?

Just came back from Oracle’s JavaOne and in three weeks will attend Adobe MAX conference. The quality of technical presentations at these events is pretty high. But being a speaker myself, I pay attention not only to the content, but also to the style of the presenters.

In particular, one of the JavaOne presenters have used 95(!) slides. This is clearly too many. The rule of thumb says that you should have about one slide for each two minutes of the talk. But there was another presenter who showed one slide in the beginning and then announced, “This was my last slide”. This sounded cool. The audiences like cool effects. Then the speaker delivered an excellent interactive hands-on presentation. The presentation has finished with well deserved round of applauds to the speaker.

The morning after

I got 95 slides from the first preso and one from the second one. This makes is 48 on average. It’s about the right number. The average temperature in the hospital is 98.6 °F. But if I need to study these two covered subjects, I have lots of reference materials about the first one and none about the other.

Of course, you may say that conferences are about getting ideas, seeing “concept cars”, partying, and networking. Google has abundance of technical facts and figures on any subject. But still… I really liked that second preso and wanted to repeat it at home. Tough luck.

Maybe slides are not evil? They can be helpful not only for the audience, but also for the presenters (especially for rookies) to keep them stay focused on the topic.

Some people go to Jennifer Lopez concert just to see her. She doesn’t even have to sing. Let her just walk on the stage. To the left. To the right. Turn around. Just stay like this for a minute, will you!

But geek presenters are not glamorous music or Hollywood stars. Geeks should leave something to the audience. As a matter of fact Jeniffer Lopez is also selling her CD’s at the show so you can enjoy repeat performance at home…if you have good imagination.

So here’s my humble suggestion to the technical presenters: you must hand something out to the audience after your walking on the water is over. This can be a slide deck, the code, your article, blog, or a book. A little something tangible to remember your performance. How did it go? To the left. To the right. No need to turn around. Ain’t no Jennifer here.

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