[Linux-aus] [Papers-chair] [sort of OT] Making a better LCA Presentation - Avoiding "Death-By-Powerpoint" [1]

Michael Davies michael at the-davies.net
Wed May 27 15:27:03 AEST 2015

Hi Ian,

Thank you for your comments.

Over the years LCA has provided speaker training to those who have wanted
to avail themselves of it[1], and the papers committee have always offered
to do pre-reviews of slides etc. In a few select cases, we've requested
certain speakers give us early access to their slide decks so we can review
what they will present on.

But prior to that, as part of the talk selection process, we search to see
if the speaker has a public track record of being able to speak well,
preferably with a video that we can watch.  This is in addition to having
public proof that they are a subject matter expert on the topic they will
be presenting on.  Typically each abstract put into the CFP is reviewed by
at least 8 different people - drawn from a committee of around 30 active
free-software/open-source contributors who are very familiar with the
linux.conf.au conference[2].  Part of their job is to verify both the
knowledge and speaking ability of the potential speaker.

Many of our speakers regularly present at open source conferences all over
the world, several of them provide training as part of their employment,
and even though improvements can always be made, I generally think we've
attracted a pretty high calibre of presenter.

We also pride ourselves on "giving new blood a go", that is, we like to
give a certain percentage of our speaking slots to inexperienced speakers,
so as to help them grow into confident regular presenters.  We just think
that's the right thing to do.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not.

We have previously made our speakers aware of Tim's slide linter[3] and
will do so again, and I'll review and potentially add the links you
provided as part of the LCA2016 speaker material when the CFP opens in the
near future (thanks!).  We also refer to Florian Haas' short
presentation[4] on the practical aspects on public speaking (which he gave
in person to speakers at LCA2013).

In short, not every presentation from every speaker is awesome.  But we
provide the support and resources for them to get better.

The piece of the puzzle that most needs work is a feedback mechanism for
LCA attendees to let the papers committee know which talks were helpful and
which ones were not, so speakers can be informed of what they can do to get
better, and so the papers committee can make better choices in future
years.  I'm hoping that we can find the time to address this in time for
LCA2016, which is only 249 days away! :)

See you in Geelong in February!


[1] I think this was first offered in 2004, but certainly many years have
provided it since.
[2] More info on this can be found here:
[3] http://slidelint.net/
[4] Great practical tips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LZXGesneMo

On Wed, May 27, 2015 at 2:07 PM, Ian <ilox11 at gmail.com> wrote:

> I quite agree Nathan. Kathy, while there are many good speakers at an LCA
> having a good presentation isn't an automatic expectation. I well recall a
> major conference (nothing to do with Linux or software) years back when the
> Keynote speaker was an important person representing an International
> organisation based in Geneva. She was on a salary of 7 digits and she had a
> great message to present. Unfortunately her slides were quite average and
> certainly not what I would have expected considering the resources she
> would have been able to utilise in her organisation. Later during a tea
> break I was able to offer her several tips on better presentations and her
> remarks were, "Why didn't my staff tell me what you're telling me?".
> "Death-by-PowerPoint" is rife throughout the world of presentations - just
> Google the phrase and see how many responses you get - and there isn't
> anything to suggest that LCA might somehow be immune to that. Not all
> speakers will have bad slides and none of us should expect that to be the
> case for every Speaker. However with new research on how presentations can
> be improved I think the suggestions about a template and hints should be
> developed and updated to encourage Speakers to put their best efforts
> towards a good presentation.
> Here are some good starting points:
> This one takes speakers through the process of developing their
> presentation:
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUXkThfQx6A
> This guides speakers on ways to avoid "Death by PowerPoint":
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOrHxRB3JrQ
> Giving a good presentation doesn't have to be difficult, with good
> sensible Guidelines in place it can make the task simple. You have several
> of us willing to help out as advisors and as a pre-audience.
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> Papers-chair mailing list
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Michael Davies   michael at the-davies.net
Rackspace Cloud Builders Australia
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