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10/01/2011 / Kirsty Pitkin

Amplified Slides

It has been observed that sharing slides using online social tools, such as Slideshare, can amplify the value of your presentation by helping you to reach a wider audience over time.

I was therefore interested to come across this presentation from Slideshare, which discusses statistics and features of popular presentations…

This is very high-level, and mainly shows us that presentations relating to social media, business and marketing are likely to be most popular amongst the Slideshare audience.  It woulds be interesting to see topical comparisons from other services, such as Authorstream and Prezi.

However, this presentation also shows us some of the common features of popular presentations, including the very interesting observation that popular presentations have fewer words per slide. I think this tells us something about the way that presentations are consumed online.  Without the context and engagement of the speaker talking through and expanding upon the slides, these statistics would indicate that audiences prefer multiple slides with small nuggets of information and few words.  I can fully associate with this myself, as I have found presentations with lots of text – when isolated from the speaker’s narrative and navigation – rather than overwhelming and I, personally, would be less likely to wade through such slides without an accompanying video or audio to help me engage with the presentation – unless I am visiting it online purely to find a specific quote after participating in the presentation live.

One could argue that this is not particular to online, asynchronous viewing of presentations.  A poorly designed presentation will negatively affect a physical audience as well as a later audience. However, I would argue that a good speaker can compensate for bad slides, and make practical use of them to aid them in making what can be a good presentation overall.  Ideally, of course one should present good slides to both audiences.  But are there things that you need to consider if you want your slides to have maximum impact over a longer period for a remote and disparate audience?

With my transliteracy hat on, I would be interested in carrying out further research into how people engage with these materials when they are presented in isolation.  Do we need to consider how we tag slides and which service we use to reach the best audience for our theme?  Do we need to change the way we design slides to make them more appealing and accessible for the online audience?  Do we need to ensure that our slides are accompanied by an audio file or links to other resources?  What are the different use cases for online slides and how does this affect the ways in which we guide people to these resources?

We also need to question the Slideshare statistics to see exactly what they are telling us.  By “most popular” do they mean presentations that have been viewed in their entirety or ones which have received the most front-slide hits due to an attractive first slide?

I think we need more resources like this to help guide speakers and event organisers as they consider the longer term and wider applications of their events.   As I have observed before, maybe part of an event amplifier’s role needs to be assisting the speaker so that they can engage effectively with their full audience, not just the ones immediately in front of them.  This may mean creating materials to help train amplified speakers and encourage a new awareness of the potential reach of a presentation.  These Slideshare statistics are a good place to start, but we need to know more.

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