I do not buy into the idea that all presentations (or gigs) should be done in the same kind of form. In particular I will argue here that we need new forms of presentations adapted to the changing nature of people and our media.

Garr Reynold have for a long time maintained his fantastic blog Presentation Zen. Clearly he advocates a presentation style where ”the key is simplicity, harmony, and restraint in design”.  Reynold frequently stresses the importance of great visuals and a minimum of text (if any) on the slides as well as an engaging speaker that stays focused on the (single) story. Whereas this a a great form of storytelling, please note that there are other options.

In a post today Reynold asks Too much clutter on the screen? He summons the answer as:

The cluttered TV displays make sense in airports and waiting rooms when the sound is off. But when we are listening to someone speak, visuals make sense only when they augment and enhance the message or illustrate the particular point the speaker is making. Graphics and effects completely unrelated to the topic are simply a distraction

Hey, have you never heard of the kids who have five five online chats going on, while making the homework assignment, listening to music, texting a friend, calling another one on the phone, and watching TV? To them it makes sense managing multiple topics simultaneously. And I wonder how smart it is to always give them lectures (in school) where only one (boring) topic is up in the air.

Those of you that have attended one of my gigs during the last two years or so know that I explicitly make a point of telling a number of stories during the same presentation. In other words, a try to juggle with many topics at the same time. I am practising a form of storytelling, increasingly used in popular culture, that Steven Johnson calls ”multiple threading”. (For a context, search for everything is bad is good for you). I started to do this many years before I learned about Johnson’s idea. Why? The simple answer is that I was fascinated by the changing nature of television content. To create presentations like that seemed like an interesting idea.  If not only because I thought future audiences would not enjoy traditional talks.  In hindsight Johnson told me what I was doing.

Back to Reynold’s clutter discussion. He quotes the comedian Lewis Black’s recent rant to TV executives at the Emmy Awards (video here):

Your job is to tell stories, it’s not to tell us in the middle of the story what show is coming on next or which one is premiering two weeks from now!

I saw the clip, and would like to add another qoute from Lewis:

We’re not idiots. Except for being dumb enough to try and get the news feed. The only thing you give us is attention deficit disorder.

Who are we? What if the audience have ADD, or ADHD, which is a more developed term? I know I am dancing on a sharp edge here. True, I believe there are mental conditions that cause severe implications for an individual irrespectively of its (social and medial) enviroment. At the same time I think it is dead wrong to diagnose the recent generations of humans as ”sick” just because their brains are perhaps wired differently, maybe due to an unprecendented media environment. And I guess we all have to learn that the number of moments a particular speaker have all the attention is steadily decreasing. Pearhaps another way to tackle this dilemma is to start thinking of ”we” as presenters.

I am only sure of one thing – I want to experiment  more with complicated, cluttered, emotive, and cognitive stimuli in my gigs. Is that OK with you?

p.s. iStockhphoto returns 38.707 hits for ”simple clean”, but only 69 for ”complicated clutter”. d.s