Rick Altman, a presentation consultant based out of Pleasanton, CA, USA is well known as the host of the annual Presentation Summit and has a strong sense of the needs of the presentation community. He has also authored books on PowerPoint.
In this conversation, Rick discusses the upcoming Presentation Summit being held in San Diego this October.
Geetesh: PowerPoint Live has been such a successful brand for seven years now. What prompted the change of name to the Presentation Summit?
Rick: We just felt that it was time to acknowledge that we’re not just about PowerPoint training, that we cover the whole of the presentation process, from message, through design, slide creation, software technique, and delivery. There is just so much more to giving a good presentation than knowing how the software works.
Geetesh: And yet, almost everyone who attends the conference is a PowerPoint user.
Rick: That’s right, they have that in common, no question. There will always be a track of seminars for nuts-and-bolts software technique, and we’re sure that this year, many people will want to attend the sessions on PowerPoint version 2010 features.
Rick: Yes, there is a “but” coming! When you get people giving our keynotes like Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds, and Nigel Holmes (former art director for Time magazine), speaking on such dynamic and broad topics that transcend any particular piece of software, it just seems like a bit of a disconnect for the conference itself to have a relatively narrow name.
Geetesh: Will the name change signal a big change in the content?
Rick: Maybe no change at all, to be honest. There isn’t much broken with the conference that needs fixing, in my view. This is about a change that has already taken place, evolution we have already undergone. When our regulars arrive this year, the biggest change will be the fact that they can walk about 100 feet from their hotel room to get to the beach.
Geetesh: Sounds dangerous, what if nobody attends the sessions?
Rick: They’re all grownups; they make their own decisions about that!
Geetesh: Have you encountered any resistance to the name change?
Rick: Just the opposite, and I’ll tell the story of one of our six-time conference patrons — she missed only in 2004 — who submitted her request to her supervisor to attend in 2009. He said to her, “how much PowerPoint training do you need? Don’t you know it by now?”
Geetesh: You can only learn about animation for so long.
Rick: Exactly — PowerPoint training should not be a lifelong journey! I don’t blame the boss for scrutinizing that. She said it was a much easier sell this year with the conference name suggesting a broader treatment of topics around a discipline that very few people ever truly master.
Geetesh: Giving a good presentation might be a lifelong journey.
Rick: That’s right, no matter how well you know the software, the art and science of delivering a truly engaging presentation and getting the results you hope for is a never-ending quest.
Geetesh: Not to mention that a “presentation” is such a moving target.
Rick: Tell me about it — what’s left of my hair will be gone come October from our just trying to keep up with the technology. It’s scary to imagine that two years ago, nobody was talking about sharing presentations in the cloud and only a handful had given a webinar. And presenters were still telling people to turn their phones off — now it’s like “oh, and here’s the Twitter tag for this talk, so you can be broadcasting this out to the rest of the universe.”
Geetesh: Will you be covering all of that?
Rick: Absolutely. But hey, by October, it might be passe. There might be a whole new set of services and technologies to talk about.
Geetesh: This gets back to the whole question of content and whether the name change might result in some dilution of the topics. Do you think there is any danger of that?
Rick: I suppose we live with that danger every year — the name change won’t make it any more or less so. Choosing topics is equal parts lost art, black magic, and dumb luck, any conference organizer will tell you that. But I like the way we have structured the conference, because it allows us to keep a tight focus within a more diffuse framework. For instance, we have the track on technique for the PowerPoint hounds, and we offer a presentation design track for those who need help structuring the presentation, honing the message, or designing the slides. This year our third track is entitled Special Delivery, to pay homage to all of the ways, conventional and cutting-edge, that a presentation can be delivered to an audience. Of course, our Help Center keeps long hours to deal with specific questions and concerns that people have. And finally, we will have a fourth track this year that will remain completely blank when the conference begins and will be filled in with topics based entirely on requests from the patrons.
Geetesh: That is very responsive — how will you pull that off?
Rick: Simple, we just won’t sleep.