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PresentationNext: Conversation with Rick Altman

Tuesday, January 18, 2011
posted by Geetesh on 10:29 AM IST





Rick Altman, a presentation consultant based out of Pleasanton, CA, USA is well known as the host of the annual Presentation Summit and is the author of 15 books on presentations and graphics. His upcoming PresentationNext workshop series features stops in eight U.S. cities: Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, San Jose, Chicago, Newark, and Baltimore.

In this conversation, Rick discusses these workshops.

Geetesh: What is PresentationNext?

Rick: It is the name of my series of one-day workshops for the spring of 2011. I will be in eight cities across the United States from March through May.

Geetesh: What are the topics covered? How do you split it between theory and practice?

Rick: Carefully (laughs)! When you ask people to sit and listen for an entire day, it is vital that you create an active blend of topics and of treatments. Also, this is not a multi-track event like my annual conference; it is a single track of seminars, so you have to pick topics that will be of benefit to a wide majority, without being so general as to be useless and vague.

Geetesh: So how do you do that?

Rick: Like I said, carefully! I've been doing this for a while now, and I have a pretty good idea of the issues that most content creators and presenters face. If you are involved in presentations today, you likely have little or no formal background in graphic design, yet you are asked to design presentations, perhaps on a daily basis.

You spend untold hours inside of PowerPoint and yet you probably had little training on it past the basics offered by a local training center. You maybe avoid use of animation because you know how easy it is to misuse it, you have a passing familiarity at best with the software's global controls, such as slide masters and layouts, and more important, you are constantly being asked to include large volumes of content on slides, perhaps against your better judgment. You probably never went through Toastmasters or similar programs, yet you or others in your department are asked to stand up in front of a group of people you don't know very well and deliver a message that is vital to your organization. Oh, and message -- most people do that all backward: they focus on how great their company is instead of on the issues and needs of audience members.

Geetesh: You're going to cover all of that in one day?

Rick: They'll leave tired!

Presentation Summit 2011 Austin

Geetesh: You are best known for your annual conference, in which everyone meets at one place. This seems like quite a departure for you.

Rick: I can see why you would think that, because the Presentation Summit is well-known. But really, the other 51 weeks out of the year, this is what I do -- I give workshops, I teach presentation design and delivery skills, I coach on advanced PowerPoint technique. The difference is that normally I do this in private settings, in organizations, instead of open to the public.

Geetesh: How does that make these different?

Rick: (laughs) They're a lot cheaper!

Geetesh: I'm sure that's not the only difference.

Rick: No, but I should start there. Because when I am hired by private companies, they are going to spend several thousands of dollars on the program. Here, any person can attend for $295. Also, large organizations often fill a room with 300 people for these workshops, but at any one city, we won't go over 45 people. Finally, when you bring together several dozen people from different companies, they really get a chance to share stories and compare notes.

Geetesh: So it's much more personal.

Rick: That's right -- we even invite the attendees to send us their slide decks ahead of time so that we might use them in the workshops.

Geetesh: Why did you choose the cities that you did?

Rick: Because they're big! They are major urban centers around the country, so they are near large concentrations of businesses or easy to get to by car or regional flight.

Geetesh: But only in the States. No London or Frankfurt on the schedule? How about coming here to India?

Rick: I know that you have an international readership and I'm mindful of overlooking many of them. If I were still 22 years old, I'd do this in every continent, because I really love meeting presentation pros from other countries. We had over two dozen international patrons at the Summit this year and it was a wonderful experience. But my wife would divorce me and my kids would disown me. Eight cities and one country is all I can handle.

Geetesh: What is the one thing you want people to leave your workshop with?

Rick: Empowerment! Most people who work on presentation content don't get many opportunities to expand their horizons. You become entrenched in the daily grind, you use only the software skills you have, everything is due yesterday, and you find it difficult or impossible to push your own envelope. This day will give you a completely different experience. It will be an opportunity to blend best practices with honest critique of your current methods. You spend this day with me and you will change permanently the way you approach and tackle presentation projects. And you'll like the change.

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