Historical Reminiscents Podcast EP 57: Short Form Presentations

Hand holding a watch on left. Right reads "Episode 57: Short Form Presentations"

In today’s episode I’m talking about Ignite presentations, lightening talks, and Pecha Kucha presentations. How do you prep for these fast paced presentations? I also chat about where these short presentation formats fit within the conference landscape.

Mentioned in this episode:
The Secret Underground World of Lego Ignite Talk
Fighting Dirty in Scrabble Ignite Talk
About Ignite Talks

Rapid Reads:
-“Home Isn’t Home” by Makayla Webkamigad

Photo by Saffu on Unsplash

Downwnload or Listen Now:

Upcoming Presentations and Conference Travel

I have a busy couple of weeks ahead of me with some personal and work related travel on the horizon.  On the personal side I’ll be in Southern Ontario and Buffalo, New York.  As usual while traveling I’ll be keeping an eye out for interesting public history initiatives.

From October 1-4, 2015 I’ll be in London, Ontario at the New Directions in Active History Conference at Huron University College. During the conference I’ll be:

  • Thursday October 1: Running a workshop on “Archives and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission” for high school and undergraduate students as part of Huron History Day.
  • Friday October 2: Jay Young and I will be delivering a workshop titled “Active History in the Archives.”  A description of this workshop can be found in the conference program.
  • Saturday October 3: I am chairing the “Engaging Popular Conceptions of History” panel featuring Jason Ellis, Josh Cole, and Geoff Keelan.
  • Sunday October 4: I am also chairing the New Directions in Active History closing panel made up of Megan Davies, Alan Corbiere, and Hector MacKenzie.

Other than those fixed commitments I’m looking forward to connecting with the Active History editorial collective in person, taking in some of the great panels, and engaging in conversations around active history.  I’m also looking forward to being back in London which I haven’t visited to since I graduated from Western.

Conference Engagement: Presentations and Papers

Anyone who has attended Canadian Historical Association or Association of Canadian Archivists or any other mainstream academic conference is familiar with what more traditional conference sessions look like.  There are typically two or three presenters per session and the majority of presenters simply read a formal paper.  These papers are at times accompanied by a powerpoint presentation but many of them are simply stand alone papers.  Reading of these papers is typically followed by an extremely short question period, in which a small handful of the audience asks questions.

People reading can be engaging, but it depends on the topic, style of writing, and reading style of the presenter. Some people are dynamic and engaging while talking and don’t really need additional props.  But there are also the monotone presenters, those who hardly look at the audience, and obscure topics that aren’t contextualized for the audience.  Often the content of the presentation has the potential to be interesting, the format of the presentation just lacks any level of engagement.

One of the many reasons I loved the National Council on Public History (NCPH) conference last year was the dynamic, engaging nature of many of the sessions.  The formal reading of papers is fairly non existent at NCPH conferences and I found sessions which involved active audience participation to be the ones which stuck in my mind, provided stimulating thoughts for future projects, and were generally the most enjoyable.

Recently, an email was sent out to NCPH 2013 presenters that reinforced the idea of engaging presentations at the annual conference.  It was suggested to presenters:

1) not to read your presentation if you can help it, but to present as if you are teaching or interpreting at a historic site;
2) bring the audience into the program (don’t leave the audience only five minutes at the very end for questions);

3) see the session as an energetic, highly-informed start of a conversation, not simply a report on work done in the past.

I  really love the idea of presentations as conversations that involve the audience.  I also like that there is an emphasis on “presentation” not “papers.”  A thoughtful carefully written academic paper is not the same thing as a well crafted interactive presentation. Many attendees of the NCPH annual conference come from outside of academia.  I’m sure that this in part is due to the spectrum of people engaged in public history, but I think it could also be attributed to the style of the conference — those not well versed in academic conferences feel completely comfortable presenting in their own style, which might not fit into more traditional conferences.

I’m looking forward to NCPH 2013 which is being held in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in April 2013.  The conference program and registration details are available online.

What makes a good conference session? Have you attended a conference that used an innovative presentation style?

Post NCPH2012 Conference Wrap-up

I think I’m still coming down from a conference high.  Despite the backlog of email and reference requests that awaited me upon my return, I’m extremely happy that I was able to attend #ncph2012.  My thoughts about specific sessions and networking opportunities I attended can be seen in previous posts.

What did you get out of the trip? A question that could also be phrased as “was it worth us spending the money to send you?”

The conference provided me with a sense of perspective on my own work and career path.  Despite being what NCPH classifies as a new professional (albeit I’m just on the tail end of that description), talking with professionals who have been in the field slightly longer than myself  made me appreciate the breadth of experience I’ve gained in recent years. This realization combined with being asked for advice by other public history professionals in recent months has helped me realize the mutual benefit of sharing experiences and continuing to seek a variety of development opportunities. 

I live in rural Northern Ontario, while my home has a breathtaking landscape I feel at times disconnected from larger professional community.  The conference helped reinforce the fact that a large public history community does indeed exist, and that I’m not floating alone on a iceberg somewhere.  The conference also allowed me to meet and build on digital relationships that I’ve made over the past couple of years. 

 Attending #ncph2012 allowed me to get a sense of what type of sessions and what type of presentation formats might work well for ncph2013.  I attended sessions that included formal reading of papers without any visuals, powepoint presentations, roundtable discussions, and sessions which actively attempted to get the session attendee’s to participate in discussion.  Each type of format has distinct advantages.  Personally I found the sessions which were less traditional and more focused on engaging discussion far more valuable.

Lastly, but perhaps most tangibly #ncph2012 introduced me to a variety of new ideas, examples of successful projects, techniques for evaluation of unsuccessful initiatives. I’ve returned to work with a number of projects and open source initiatives that I want to learn more about (and now know the names of people to contact if I want more information). The focus of these projects range from community building to crowdsourcing to basic exhibit development to building a successful oral history program.  Granted, ideas are great but putting them into practice is an entirely different matter – but learning about new things is bound to be the first step towards progress.