In my last post “Blogging, Podcasting, or Youtube? Choosing the right medium” – Podcamp Singapore, I talked about my experience as a speaker at Podcamp Singapore. For a long time, I wanted to try out a different way of using PowerPoint – using both the whiteboard and PowerPoint concurrently without having to move the projection screen up and down – and Podcamp was a great opportunity to do that.
Notice that I was only using the top third of the screen for the PowerPoint slide. Which meant that I could use both the whiteboard and my PowerPoint slides at the same time.
How I did it
I used a black background on my PowerPoint slide, so that the projection wouldn’t interfere with the whiteboard. The text (in white) occupied only the top quarter of the slide. I could have used a lighter background for the top part of the slide, but black was easiest. My original plan was to pull the projection screen a third down, but the technology was too smart – the screen could only go all the way up (and the projector would turn off automatically), or all the way down. Thankfully I could slide the projection screen behind the whiteboard, resulting in a sloping screen, but it turned out fine. Here’s a shot of another slide.
Thanks to the Podcamp Singapore organisers for these shots.
Podcamp Singapore turned out to be quite fun, with some interesting conversations that I hope to blog about soon.
This post is about my thoughts as one of the speakers.
I titled my session “Blogging, Podcasting, or Youtube? Choosing the right medium”.
A more accurate title would have been “Text, audio, or video? Issues to consider in choosing the online medium”, but I would have gotten only half the audience.
I chose this topic because I’ve seen too many people and organizations create a podcast or a video blog without understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the medium.
They may have started a podcast simply because it’s the cool thing to do, not realizing that there are a lot more subtleties involved in creating a good podcast.
It was these subtleties that I wanted to explore during the session.
I was actually a facilitator rather than a speaker. I called the format a “virtual wiki” (a wiki is online, so a virtual wiki is offline) – where the audience gave their input and ideas while I tried to distill their thoughts onto the virtual wiki page (the whiteboard).
The content was audience-constructed, with virtually no contributions from me (although I did lead the discussions in certain directions).
This meant that there were some points that I had in mind that weren’t raised by the audience, but it didn’t matter. What I wanted more was to guide the audience through this thinking process and experience, and I think I was successful in that.
The actual content
Since the actual content wasn’t from me, I don’t have a copy of it. Thankfully some of the audience were busy blogging during the session. Derrick Kwa covered the session live while Claudia covered my session as well as the other sessions live. Unfortunately they didn’t contribute to the discussion because they were too busy blogging about it.
(Update: Shalabh Pandey blogged about the content as well.)
There was also some plurking around in the background by Brian and some others, with one of them wanting to throw cheesecake at me. Thankfully I wrote on the whiteboard before I starting, “NO CAKE-THROWING”.
Knowing that people tend to be reluctant about giving negative feedback, I asked a lot of people “what are the 3 things you liked and 3 things you disliked about the session” (later reduced to 2 things because most people had a hard time coming up with 3).
Most enjoyed the discussions. With very smart and knowledgeable individuals in the room, you can never go wrong letting go and giving them the freedom to converse.
However, not everyone was used to the lack of structure. During the discussions, there wasn’t always a clear direction, and the discussions often digressed. It was disorienting for some.
Furthermore, when the session ended, there were more questions than answers. Not everyone liked the lack of closure.
What I would have done differently
First, I would have framed the issue more clearly. I had some assumptions which weren’t shared by everyone, so the scope of the discussion went too broad at some points.
I should have also prepared the audience better for the lack of structure and closure.
Many of us are too used to the comfort of structure and guidance and we want to be given the correct or model answer. While I wanted to raise questions more than to give answers, it would have worked better if the audience was expecting it.
Despite all the flaws, I’m generally satisfied with how it turned out. I hope others will also be encouraged to try out a similarly participatory or even constructivistic session in the future.