The talk I gave during TEDx Singapore 8 months ago is now online!
The talk, entitled The Princess, the Witch, and the PowerPoint is a fairy tale illustrating some bad PowerPoint design practices. It’s really a minor revision of the version I gave 3 years ago.
A huge thank you to the TEDx Singapore folks, especially those who put in an incredible amount of effort producing and editing the video.
And all who attended my talk, who added their laughter and made it so much more fun for me to present it.
The presentation was for this:
Category 2. The Ultimate Open Web Presentation
We’re looking for the ultimate presentation that explains the open web and why it matters. You’ve got 5 minutes — describe the open web in a way that will excite and illuminate.
My presentation lasted less than 5 minutes, but it took me many hours to prepare – coming up with different ideas, weighing the different ideas, testing out ideas with different people, and finally sitting down and working on the slides.
I decided to take a somewhat poetic approach (someone called it an “ode”) to resonate with the emotions more than the intellect. It was a risk, since I would be presenting to a primarily geek audience. But I took it anyway.
And it paid off, since the judges liked it, and declared mine the “best presentation”.
A big thank you to those who gave me feedback on my ideas before they were fully formed, including Lucian and Preetam! Bernard Leong too, for encouraging me to present, and Mark Surman for organizing this. And finally my colleagues at Digital Boomerang for their support, including letting me present to them so I could record the audio for the slideshare presentation.
Despite my heavy schedule these few weeks, I had to attend and speak at Barcamp Singapore 3 because it was held at my previous workplace – the Teaching & Learning Centre at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. My presentation was entitled “How to bluff your way through an interview on Information Architecture”, which was really just to introduce what IA is, why it’s important and what kind of value it adds, and a little on how an information architect goes about doing their work. The slides are on slideshare – make sure that you’re viewing the Notes tab below the slides, otherwise it won’t make much sense. Slideshare: How to bluff your way through an interview on Information Architecture Brian Koh liveblogged my session, and had a very nice comment at the end:
That’s it! From the people next to me. “That’s the most educational talk i’ve heard at Barcamp.” “IA is awesome!”
All I hoped for was for more people to know about IA, because I believe it’s important – I never expected anyone to think that IA is awesome. It was also great that quite a number of people came up to me to thank me after the presentation. These were all really nice. Later on towards the evening, I decided to do another presentation, since there was a free slot. It was an old presentation I used to do on the use of Powerpoint, entitled “The Princess, the Witch, and the Powerpoint“. That one never fails to entertain. Updates: Chin Yong has a great summary of my session. He also mentioned:
The presentation style of Coleman was entertaining and educational. I give him a two thumbs up. And of course, he already given himself 2 thumbs up pointing at himself everytime he mention “Good Information Architect”
This was, perhaps, the most educational session I ever experienced at any of such events. Coleman isn’t just knowledgeable, he is charming and a great presenter with the right amount of humor. If there was a way to attach an affiliate link to the polar bear book and for the audience to purchase the book on the spot, Coleman would have cleared a fair amount of commission that day. Yes, he was that good.
Like I said, he was very generous. Just in case you can’t find the notes on slideshare. The notes start from slide 2.
Just starting my IA presentation – my first slide (photo by sgentrepreneurs):
Me showing a content inventory during the IA presentation (photo by Claudia Lim):
My audience at my IA presentation (photo by Lagoona Loire):
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.
I was at the Singapore Digital Media Festival 2008 pre-event dinner just today, where we had a pretty interesting discussion about user generated content.
I won’t go into all that we discussed, but I’ll highlight some interesting points.
What’s “user generated content”?
They even have an acronym for it – UGC. When we talk about user generated content, we tend to think of content on sites like YouTube. It’s amateurish, it costs little to produce, and it’s produced by some unknown individual (before they get famous).
But what if it’s a professional-quality video on YouTube that costs thousands to produce? And produced by some large corporation? Is it still considered user generated?
Or what if it’s amateurish, costs little to produce, on YouTube, but created or funded by some large company? Is that video considered user generated content?
I’m being a little pedantic about definitions here, but I found that some of the discussion wasn’t too productive because everyone was using the same term but with different definitions in mind.
The inability to properly define user generated content may lead to unprofitable discussions; the inability to understand its appeal leads to unprofitable endeavors – which is far more costly.
The appeal of amateurism?
Ben Koe made the observation during the discussion that user generated content tends to be amateurish, and there is some appeal in that.
But many a large media company has made the unfortunate mistake of thinking that producing something amateur-looking would make it appealing the way a funny home video on YouTube is.
The funny home video on YouTube appeals not because it’s amateurish, but because it’s authentic.
We’re forgiving of the shaky camera handling of the amateur because we know it’s done by someone who can’t do any better. It’s real.
But amateurish-looking videos produced by Big media don’t have the same appeal because we see them as professionals pretending to be amateur (I’m thinking of RazorTV). They aren’t authentic.
Those that still manage to be successful are successful because they have very good content, or they are good enough for the viewer to suspend judgment, despite being inauthentic.
In other words, they still have to be really good.
Thus, Big media should do what they’re good at and have the resources to do – produce top-quality content that is beyond the capabilities of grandma. There are too many grandmas and grandpas and moms and dads and everyone else out there producing content – don’t compete with them. Don’t compete with everyone.
The cheapening of content?
During the discussion, Daniel Goh observed that people are less willing to pay for content, and in many areas, content is expected to be free. I completely agree.
People love music, but kids these days don’t believe in paying for them. The same goes for video content, which is why BitTorrent is using up a significant amount of internet bandwidth – people are using it to music and videos for free.
While people are paying less for content, they will pay for experience.
While kids can download movies over BitTorrent, they still pay to watch the movie in a cinema. Many bands are coming to terms with this trend, realizing that they actually make more money through their concerts and events, and not through CD sales.
Or more recently in Singapore, people were willing to pay ridiculous amounts of money (in my opinion) to watch the Formula 1 race at the track, having to endure crowds and other hassles and getting their eardrums hurt, when they could have watched it live in the comfort of their own homes. Crazier are those who flew over here from Europe or the US just to experience the race.
But the overwhelming reaction from those who were there was that it was worth every cent. Hearing the deafening roar of the race cars blasting away the eardrums was an exhilarating experience, even for those who weren’t F1 fans.
Companies are missing out on these trends at their own peril.
Many are still clinging on to their content-for-sale model, while others that realize the need for change jump onto the amateurish track instead of the authentic one.
I’m planning to attend the Singapore Digital Media Festival (was invited), and I hope to see some enlightened companies there.
Besides having unique purple napkins during the tea breaks, the PSFK Conference Asia 2008 turned out really great, with many really good speakers – one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended.
It helped that the 11 sessions were only half an hour each, meaning that those who weren’t so great didn’t get to take up too much time, and those who were really great left you thirsting for more. Yes, the latter is a good thing as well.
There were so many insights and ideas and food for thought but I won’t blog about them now – I still need time to digest so they can help fuel some thoughts and ideas I already have.
For now, here’s a nice quote quoted by one of the speakers:
“I don’t know what the secret of success is, but I know the secret to failure – it’s trying to please everyone” – Bill Crosby
PSFK, an international consultancy specializing in trends and innovation, is organising the PSFK Conference Asia 2008 for those in the creative business. The full-day event is happening on 10 October 2008.
The conference covers topics like youth trends, social media, creativity and innovation, collaboration, digital democracy and the impact of change in China, with speakers from companies including MTV, NASA, Panasonic and agencies including Flamingo International, Mindshare, Profero and Wieden + Kennedy.
I did a short interview with PSFK’s CEO Piers Fawkes to find out more about the conference.
Coleman: I understand that PSFK started with you and your friend emailing each other trend and idea news, and eventually posting it on PSFK.com. Now, what’s the story behind the PSFK Conference Series?
Piers: I had been to too many bad conferences. Some had CEOs talking about what it’s like to be a CEO to an audience of non-CEOs, others had doers who weren’t directed enough. I wanted to create an event with quickfire presentations and talks where the audience could use their learnings the next day back at work.
That explains why the PSFK conference can have almost 20 speakers – each one has less than half an hour. Short and sweet.
It’s also good to know that I’m not the only one who’s been to too many bad conferences. And here’s someone who’s actually doing something about it.
Coleman: You’ve had PSFK conferences in London, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. Now it’s coming to Asia, with the first one in Singapore. Why Singapore?
Piers: Partly because of the strong heritage Singapore has a heritage as a crossroads of creativity and business; partly because my partner in Asia, Brian Tiong, is there – and partly because we thought it was the perfect place to start our journey into Asia.
Coleman: What’s with all that purple?
Piers: It’s to do with luxury – or the color of luxury. PSFK in its first iteration as a business was a luxury consultancy. I ran it with Simon King – the SK of PSFK. It wasn’t very successful so I put the company to sleep for a while. When Simon and I started the site, we thought we’d use the URL and the color scheme of the previous company!
An interesting event by an interesting company – I’ll definitely be attending (I was invited for it).
Event link: PSFK Conference Asia 2008