Looking Back on the Summit

Amid all of those monumental rituals I wrote about last week, the Presentation Summit did actually take place. And we were expecting it to be sparsely attended, after 2009 recession-ravaged travel budgets created the weakest numbers in conference history. Instead, we attracted the largest crowd ever — over 225 patrons and exhibitors.

And they came from all over — more international participation than ever before. We would like to think that a part of this dramatic influx was due to our rebranding: investing in presentation skills development is a more impressive pursuit than going in for PowerPoint training, and is more likely to garner approval from the boss. Beyond that, though, we don’t really know how it happened, and disregarding good business sense, we kind of don’t want to know. It’s almost like good karma: the less we know about it, the better…

Meanwhile, this expansive 2010 crowd experienced a lot of repetition. That usually is taken as criticism, and in the case of the weather, yes, it was a dreary procession of clouds and rain. Inside the ballrooms, the continued espousing of common themes turned into a rally cry of sorts. To wit:

  • Julie Terberg performed makeovers in which she consistently stripped out unnecessary text and advocated a “less is more” strategy.
  • I issued the Three-Word Challenge: Can you distill each of your bullet points to three words or fewer? Imagine how much better the world would be if you could.
  • Carmen Taran spoke of the “psychology of absence,” and the phenomenon that overtakes us when we work toward open space, not crowded spaces.
  • Wayne Michael extolled the virtues of “the lightness of simplicity.”
  • Mike Parkinson challenged patrons to sketch out ideas without the use of any words.
  • And Garr Reynolds, coming to us via Skype from his home in Osaka Japan, extolled the virtues of “being naked,” both literally and figuratively. (You kind of had to be there for that one.)

A couple of our patrons noted this ongoing theme with a bit of scrutiny, as if we ran out of things to say. But I find lots of virtue in this: when six prominent commentators on the presentation landscape all advocate the same basic philosophy, everyone in the building should take notice. That represents an attitude that must count for something. That’s good repetition.

And I’ll be quick to point out that while the conference is better for scenarios that play out this way, we can take no credit for it. We neither orchestrated nor anticipated it. It just happened, in a moment of group serendipity. More good karma.

Other moments and observations…

APPLE CURIOSITY: More than a few iPads were being toted from room to room, and when we asked patrons to request topics for on-the-fly seminars, PC-Mac compatibility topped the list. The hour that Indezine’s Geetesh Bajaj whipped up played to rave reviews.

TOONTOWN: What do you get when you blend a PowerPoint maniac, a creative storyteller, and a neurosurgeon? You get Justin Massengale, who creates cartoons with PowerPoint. Not just stick figures that get crudely animated; he uses PowerPoint the way graphic artists use Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw: he creates and shapes curves within the program and then painstakingly animates them into lifelikeness. You’ve never seen so many jaws drop to the floor than in his session.

VIDEO HEAVEN: Glen Millar showed once again that he thinks of things that nobody else does. In this case, the object of his unique vision was the new video support given to version 2010 of PowerPoint. Now that videos can be played simultaneously, colorized, and stuffed into shapes, the door for unique thinking is wide open. And there’s no better person to cross that threshold than Glen.

INSTANT CLASSIC: The most quoted phrase of the entire conference came from Nancy Duarte Wednesday morning: “Never give a presentation that you wouldn’t be willing to sit through yourself.” Within 10 minutes of her uttering it, that quote had been retweeted around the world and back again.

FOGTOBER: Since 1989 when we first began in the conference business, we have chosen San Diego as the host city 12 times. This is the first time that we have not had spectacular fall weather. Mother Nature made up for it all at once, with thick fog and then rain. Our visions of bayside lunches were dashed, but the spirit of the group never waned. Even…

SOGGY PHOTOGGY: The annual Digital Photography Field Trip on Tuesday attracted 15 intrepid camera-toting patrons, led by resident photographer Rikk Flohr. They all got more than they bargained for as a light mist became a tropical downpour…when they were about a mile from the hotel. You’ve never seen a wetter bunch of conference attendees, most of them nonetheless with smiles on their faces.

HEADING EAST: Our announcement for 2011 brought a near standing ovation — apparently I am not the only one who has been wanting to visit Austin TX for some time now. We will descent upon this dynamic and vibrant state capital city September 18-21.

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