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Q: At our next annual conference we’d like to improve on last year by using a multimedia presentation. We’d also like to avoid death by powerpoint when our speakers address the audience using a teleprompt. How should we go about this?

Social housing group

A: The first thing to do is to define a specification for your multimedia conference presentation.

The following calculation will help you calculate exactly how much multimedia you need. By how much, I mean how many graphic and animated slides.

Then by having a specification, you and your multimedia producer can arrive at a spec and a price.

You say the main conference address will be an hour, then followed by workgroups.

I use the following calculation method:

> Allow 100 words per minute, so a 1 hour address is 6,000 words

> Allow 25-35 spoken words per bullet point, though this can be a lot more, depending on your style. We arrive at 200 bullet points for the 1 hour

> Then allow, say, 3 bullets per slide so that slides don’t look too packed. This gives around 65 slides in total

65 slides will probably be the most slides you need for your presentation.

Speaking more words over each bullet point, or speaking faster, or having some slides show 4-5 points instead of 3 may well reduce your slide requirement to 50 slides, but it unlikely to be less.

Having defined a presentation requirement for 50-60 slides, you should also consider how many sections there are to the conference address.

Each section should have a brief animated intro. Why? Well consider:

Your audience of managers and executives are sitting there watching you speaking using a teleprompt (or autocue – same thing), while animated multimedia slides with bullet points and pictures appear in sync on the screen.

Every 10 minutes or so, you need a slight break. And it’s likely that every 10 minutes your topic content will change, or another speaker or VIP guest or social housing expert, may take the stage, so there are lots of reasons for a slight break (we’re talking maybe 15 seconds here)

This break needs to be accompanied by a short animation set to a music jingle – a sequence of high-impact animated text and pictures and titles. If your conference venue has the appropriate music licence, you could use a top ten hit or movie theme for your music jingle.

An animated intro title break will delight the audience. So instead of them thinking oh no – not more they’ll be more likely to be thinking mmm … there’s more … I wonder what this is

It’s by using techniques like this that you tackle the death by powerpoint syndrome

There’s a chart here that looks at the precise differences between powerpoint and multimedia conferences

But for now let’s take a moment to examine precisely what death by powerpoint actually is.

Computers are repetitive. And whenever the body sees, hears, smells, touches or tastes a repetitive thing, it starts to switch it out.

Consider: We don’t hear background traffic noise, we don’t taste out own spit, we don’t see Adsense boxes on websites, we find computer music less interesting, and so on.

It’s all about repetition and how the senses ignore repetition.

So while a powerpoint may have a cool template design, we know it’s basically going to be the same thing for the next hour. The audience quickly catch on to this, and will start to yawn, unless your content is particularly riveting.

Multimedia conference presentations avoid by this by regularly introducing variety.

This variety may take the form of:

> Frequent slide design changes. We’re talking meaningful graphic change here, not just change for change’s sake

> Using a variety of animation styles. We mean animation that fits into the visual style and graphic layout of the slide, not just switching on, say, a crawl motion effect “because we can!”

> Dividing the address into sections, with specially designed high impact intro title sections for each

> Using plenty of still images (or video if available) either from your organisation’s stills library, or sourced from online stills & image libraries. Again, the free online libraries are full of “old hat” pics, while the subscription libraries are much better.

As you can see, the use of image variety is quite deliberate, calculated, and consistent.

It’s designed to ensure you retain your audience’s attention, that they don’t miss the great housing initiative you’re announcing.

The last thing you need is the audience silently thinking more of the same old thing as last year

If you’re looking for a winner, a multimedia conference presentation planned as set out above will help you achieve this.
© Studio Rossiter 2007

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