Memorable Moments from the 2013 Summit

It is Sunday evening at the Presentation Summit, about 85% of our patrons have now checked in and most of them are in our ballroom foyer enjoying a beverage and a gnash. The energy is contagious as a sentiment of anticipation infects the room. Jetlag be damned, everyone is alive, alert, fresh, and full of spirit. Most in the room are making their first trip to the conference (we typically run at about 60% first-timers) and they can sense the excitement building.

The buzz (pun intended) at the Sunday Evening Reception is palpable (pun intended).
The buzz (pun intended) at the Sunday Evening Reception is palpable.

This is my memorable moment. The following morning is when things really start, but I’m usually too nervous to enjoy it. But Sunday evening (we call it Day Zero) with the energy in the room so incredible, so vibrant, so full of anticipation — there is nothing quite like it for me.

I’m not the only one who felt a moment this year. Here is a sampling…

Nolan Haims, Edelman in New York NY
Member of the presenting team, fourth year attending

This year, I saw increased use of software that isn’t PowerPoint and I saw PowerPoint being used for things other than slides. Danielle Jotham from Turner Broadcasting showed the many software solutions employed by the design team there and Matt Stevenson from Fathom Creative gave a killer talk on Prezi.

PowerPoint is the primary software tool of corporate America, and its relative ease of use is leading many to abandon the bloated and clunky world of Microsoft Word in favor of the slideware’s greener pastures. I also spoke with numerous attendees who told me that their companies were abandoning Microsoft Publisher and Word in favor of PowerPoint as a layout tool.

Sam Thatt, independent consultant, southern California
Second year attending

I attended Sunday evening’s Entrepreneur’s Roundtable, an informal discussion for those who run their own businesses or who are considering it. None of us yet knew each other but I was astonished at how open and willing to share everyone was. It’s not every day that you would trade experiences, issues, secrets, and even what you charge your customers with people you don’t know, and who, for all we know, might be our competitors! I thought that was remarkable.

Sunday's roundtable included an extraordinary amount of sharing by people who had just met one another.
Sunday’s roundtable included an extraordinary amount of sharing by
people who had just met one another.

Dave Paradi, Think Outside the Slide, Mississauga ON
Moderator of the Sunday roundtable (at left, above)

During that roundtable, one of the big issues for people trying to make a change to the presentation culture in an organization is the phrase, “It’s good enough.” Change doesn’t happen unless someone recognizes the value of that change. If the decision makers don’t see the problem as big enough, they won’t pay for a solution. We need to look at the cost of presentations in organizations, including the costs of people spending more time creating presentations than they should because they haven’t been given the training they need. I created an online calculator to quantify the dollar cost of presentations that require rework.

There are also hidden costs of sales not made or productivity gains not realized because the audience was confused or not convinced to take action. When totaled, these costs can easily run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you want to change the presentation culture in your organization, quantify these costs and present that large dollar figure to your boss. Now they may be willing to solve the problem with the type of customized training and other resources that consultants can provide to their clients.

Doug Thomas, Microsoft, Seattle WA
First time attending

I had heard from others at Microsoft about the Help Center, where technical support is offered to patrons in less formal fashion than the seminars. Then I arrived on site to discover that the Help Center is situated right in the main ballroom, in the heart of everything, instead of being relegated to a room down the hall, as is usually the case. That provided me with my first sense that this was going to be closer-knit, friendlier, and more hands-on than other conferences.

Ines Natale, Silicon Images in Sunnyvale CA
First time attending

Sam Horn’s keynote stuck with me. Back in the office this week I spent some time looking at the conference download page for her slides, only to conclude that she did not use any slides. But that story she told about the dog abandoned on the giant tanker ship was so vivid, I could have sworn I saw photos of the dog. At the end of the day nothing beats a good story and this is what I will always try to implement when building a presentation.

It seems a bit ironic that one of my favorite moments from the Presentation Summit did not include any slides at all.

Sam Horn painted such vivid pictures in the minds of audience members, she didn't need to project any.
Sam Horn painted such vivid pictures in the minds of audience members, she didn’t need to project any.

Sam Horn, Intrigue Agency in Reston VA
Monday morning keynote speaker, first time attending

I was introduced at 8:30 in the morning. Then everyone attended seminars until 4:30p. Then there was a social hour. Then a trivia contest. At 6:00p, there were as many people in the main ballroom as there were at 8:30a and they were all totally engaged. I don’t think I have ever seen that before.

Paul Deloney, Boeing in Arlington VA
Second time attending

The thing that resonated most with me was the strong sense of community and sharing. And it wasn’t confined to the seminar sessions; it spilled over to the breaks, meals, and well after hours. Four of us conducted our own mini guru session one night, exchanging ideas, workarounds, slide designs, and more. We went nearly until midnight.

James Gordon, University of Buffalo
Second time attending

My moment was watching Echo Swinford introduce her audience to XML. I’ve been to several XML training sessions and all except for Echo’s took the approach that, in order to learn XML, you have to be a geeky computer programmer. Echo showed her audience how to get at XML in PowerPoint files and edit it for useful purposes — all without going into the geeky stuff. Practical, painless XML. It was the first time I ever saw anyone take that approach.

Echo Swinford on XML: No geek-speak required.
Echo Swinford on XML: No geek-speak required.

Kelly Maiberger, Creative Counsel in Chicago IL
Second time attending

If you asked me last year what I walked away with, I would have said it was the technical knowledge. I got that this year too — it’s impossible not to — but what was more significant for me this year was walking away with inspiration. It may not seem as tangible as being able to tally up the number of new tips and tricks you’ve added to your “ah-ha” list. But being inspired to attempt new approaches in our designs has proven to be just as valuable. Actually, more so.

Anna Dunmeyer, TMS Health in Mercerville NJ
First time attending

What strikes me most is the sheer amount of resources I was able to add to my personal toolkit. How could I not realize these resources were available in the 15 years I’ve been in sales and marketing? I actually quantified it:

  • Twelve new websites to explore
  • Ten new books on my reading list
  • Two TED talks to check out
  • Eight slide redesign ideas that were triggered just while sitting in conference sessions

The last word belongs to Jen Palmer, a first-timer from Thornburg Investment Management in Santa Fe NM, who used the conference tote bag in a creative way:

I bought a preserved shark as a souvenir and had to check it because it exceeded the max for carry-on liquids. I wrapped it in newspaper and packed it in the conference tote and it actually made it back to Albuquerque intact! So, kudos on your tote bag selection — beats Samsonite any day.

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