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Presenting in the smart[thing] era: hijack!

May 25, 2016


So, I recently experienced one of those not uncommon PresenterDisaster[tm] moments.  You know what I mean.  They come in many varieties: computer meltdown five minutes before your speech; speakers before you allowed to run untrammelled past their allotted time, compressing your slot by half, or two-thirds (a memorable occasion); room set up theatre style when you asked for cafe tables for a workshop exercise; and so on.  This particular problem was generated by a misunderstanding on both sides; I freely shoulder my own responsibility.  As with any live performance snafu, what’s important is the save.  And this particular save had both me and the organizer thinking we should convert it to a deliberate strategy for all further presentations.  Here’s the story.

I was recently asked to present ideas on what the future(s) might hold to a group of high-potential A-level students (US equivalent: high school seniors) who were taking part in a distinguished two-day conference in Oxford.  Their morning and afternoon had been stuffed to the rafters with erudition, insight, and eloquence on the topic of UK governance, past, present, and future.  My presentation was designed to offer a tonic to that, and one that took into account pre-dinner drinks, and wines for every course.  Given an audience of media-savvy, visually-addicted 17-20 year-olds, it was screenshot and graphic-heavy.  Also, if you are presenting on emerging change and disruptive novelties, a vivid picture is definitely worth a thousand words of abstract explanation.  I keyed in on four transformative changes, and cast my audience as heroines and heroes in an adventure journey through interesting times.

So far, so good.  I called my host to tell him I was on my way, and would forego the pre-dinner drinks to get into the dining hall and set up my computer and check my slides.


He hadn’t realised I would be using slides.  I got to the college Lodge (reception in US terms) in time to overhear the phone conversation between the college porter (receptionist) and my host, entirely from the porter’s side.  “…..[query re possibility of digital projector in hall]…..” “Sir, the IT/media staff have left for the day.”  “….[query about other possibilities]…”  “Sir [quelling tone of voice], at [august, historical] College, we do not project in Hall.  We dine in Hall.”

Time to improvise.  My host and I huddled and brainstormed.  “Couldn’t you just do without the slides?” I explained about communicating novelty and disruption via visuals. “Print it! we could print it!” No, too many pages for the number of copies required.  We stared at each other.  I asked, “Do you think most of them have smartphones with them?”  He laughed – of course they did.

What would you have done?

Here’s what I did: simplified the various fancy graphic transitions in the slidedeck, saved it as a pdf, and uploaded it to Slideshare.  Took the deck’s Slideshare URL and ran it through to generate a shortcode.  Printed out the shortcode URL onto 100 slips of paper.  Went into Hall, computer in hand, and had a fantastic dinner – with great wines, of course – and excellent conversation with the stunningly poised, articulate, and insightful teenagers seated on either side of me.

Just before I was introduced, my host and his associates walked around the hall distributing the slips of paper with the Slideshare shortcode.  I was introduced, I explained the lack of a projector, and asked everyone to follow along with my slides on their smartphones and tablets.  A brief flurry of clicking later, my audience had their visuals, and I began.  The stories – and their illustrations of future possibilities generated interest, surprise, laughter – and a lively Q&A session.


It was only afterwards, when my host and I were congratulating ourselves with how well our improvisation had worked, that LED bulb clicked on – what a great solution to divided attention syndrome! Ask everyone to follow along on Slideshare, and you’ve hijacked their smartphones, AND insured they’ve linked to your Slideshare account – and by connection, your LinkedIn account as well.

Try it and share how well it works for you.

If you’re curious, the slidedeck is here:

Also, note that this is NOT an extended ad for Slideshare; you could as well use Prezi, Haiku Deck, Slidebean, or share via Dropbox or another online site.

Written by Wendy Schultz, SAMI Principal

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.

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