At a time in history when Powerpoint is both ubiquitous and widely despised, when students in classrooms pay increasingly little attention to the education they're paying for because Facebook is more interesting - is there no hope for public communication any more? The internet is so much more interesting than anything that almost anyone has to say these days.
Believe it or not, here comes geekery to the rescue. The same people building the attention-absorbing internet are experimenting with new methods to make public communication engaging again. Below are some of our favorite ways it's happening.
Presentation Tennis: Collaborative Storytelling and Discussion
Though our first example is still happening on the internet, we think it's very cool. The social powerpoint service SlideShare announced a new event today that they are calling "Presentation Tennis." A group of designers and the public at large have been invited to assemble a presentation collaboratively over the next two weeks. "Like one of those collaboratively written stories," the company writes, "each slide is created by a different person and added to the master slideshow at the end of each day for the next two weeks. And so in the end, we hope to come up with this really awesome presentation that has been collaboratively built up from scratch by our users."
The first effort will be kicked off by a handful of professional designers, on the topic "What is Community." After the first five days, SlideShare's active and growing userbase will be invited to take over and build the rest of the presentation.
We think this kind of model could be great for exploring a collective and collaborative explanation of any concept by a defined or open group of people. It can't help but be more interesting than almost any single individual's presentation on a given topic.
Powerpoint Kareoke is a less useful but more humorous strategy. As explained by Heather Schlegel, Director of Community Evangelism at forum 2.0 service Crowdgather, ppt karaoke is a real-world public event where volunteer presenters have 5 minutes to give a mock-talk based on a Powerpoint deck they've never seen before. Schlegel says CreativeCommons content and alcohol are important ingredients.
We suppose that if you must find some tangible benefits to this kind of event, they might include increased comfort with public speaking and a strengthened sense of community built through humor and public but non-threatening vulnerability.
Powerpoint karaoke is big in Germany but is finding its way to tech events all around the world. The Slideshare API has even been used to create a Creative Commons slideshow randomizer for Powerpoint Karaoke. It would be even cooler if the slides were mixed up between presentations, but as it is the little app is useful.
Ignite and Pecha Kucha
Pecha Kucha are and Ignite are two different public presentation formats focused on speeding things up. Presenters at both types of events have a limited number of slides they can show and each slide is limited to 15 or 20 seconds on screen before automatically advancing. It's challenging and can be very entertaining.
According to Wikipedia, the history of Pecha Kucha is as follows:
"It was originally devised by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein-Dytham Architecture (KDa) in Tokyo in 2003 as a place for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public. The format has spread virally to many cities across the world. The name derives from a Japanese term for the sound of conversation ("chit-chat")."
Indeed, PechaKucha.org lists 129 cities around the world where these events are happening.
A related event called Ignite has also begun to spread around the world. Popularized by the O'Reilly publishing group, Ignite is very similar to Pecha Kucha but uses 15 slides for 20 seconds each.
As the website for the wildly popular Ignite Portland event says: "If you had five minutes on stage what would you say? What if you only got 20 slides and they rotated automatically after 15 seconds? Around the world geeks have been putting together Ignite nights to show their answers."
These presentations can range from inspiring to funny. Below are two examples, "Why Deutschland Loves David Hasselhoff" by Mario Schulzke and the awe inspiring "Dare to Go Where You Fear" by Liz Kimmerly.
It Appears There is Hope
Is the internet going to absorb our brains into a private world of websites and online video (not to mention must-read blogs like this one)? Or is there still hope for public, shared communication - even in the real world? We think the examples above are reason to hope that even Powerpoint still has potential.
If you've participated in an event like this where you live, or if you have another favorite model for high-energy public communication - let us know.