Ric Bretschneider is a technologist, troublemaker, and problem solver. Professionally, he helps people raise the quality of their business communications, mainly presenting. At Microsoft, Ric spent 17 years working on PowerPoint, designing and molding the program that became a juggernaut in business communication. Shortly after leaving Microsoft, Ric was awarded PowerPoint MVP status, a recognition held by only a dozen or so people in the US. In his spare time, Ric runs the San Jose California branch of the Pecha Kucha presentation event, writes, blogs and podcasts. He’s also a huge geek, his obsessions are hidden away on his site.
In this conversation, Ric discusses his sessions at the upcoming Presentation Summit 2015 series.
Geetesh: Ric, you are doing four sessions this year at the Presentation Summit — one is called Poise and Posture: The secret weapons of superior presentation delivery. The other is Quick Customizations: Bending PowerPoint to your will. You are also doing your very popular sessions called The Late-Night Guru Session and Your Pecha Kucha again. Can you tell us more about all these sessions, and what takeaways can the audience expect from them?
Ric: I’m really excited about the Poise and Posture session, I’ve been developing it for months, it’s something that’s been looking for an outlet and the Summit is a perfect place to share it. Based on a ton of personal experience, I’m drawing on everything from drama and improv study, voice training, back injury recovery, and of course years of analysis on the holistic of good presenting. This should help people strengthen their confidence, as well as establish the impression of credibility, and owning your meetings. I think it’s going to be an eye-opener for a number of people.
Quick Customizations comes from my years of working on and with PowerPoint. Some of my most popular blog posts have been on this topic. Things hidden in the PowerPoint UI, things broken that can be fixed, and best of all how to make PowerPoint work the way you want it to rather than the way some Redmond designer expected you to work. The toughest part here will be covering the differences between various versions, and making it uniformly useful for all, but I’m all over that.
We identify and work with a number of Presentation Summit attendees weeks before the Summit and I teach them the art of Pecha Kucha presenting. It’s a relatively simple concept. Each presenter creates a deck of 20 slides for their presentation. When presenting each slide will automatically advance after 20 seconds. So the presentation is done in 6 minutes and 40 seconds. What isn’t obvious is that this requires you to use graphics and images that quickly convey your ideas and reinforce the verbal portion of your presentation. There’s absolutely no “slide reading.” This is such a popular format that there are over 800 cities worldwide who regularly hold social events around them, I founded the one in the Silicon Valley. The takeaway for regular presenters is a mindset and clarity in capturing your audience’s attention and quickly moving them to your point.
The first Guru Session started when, late after dinner I and a bunch of summit patrons stumbled upon an open conference room, a projector, and a bunch of left-over wine from earlier in the day. We naturally decided to just hang out and talk PowerPoint until all hours of the night. The next morning everyone who wasn’t there was being told how “they really missed it!” And the next year it was formalized and named The Late Night Guru Session and I’ve led it ever year since. We start sometime after dinner and often go until after midnight. We occasionally have guests, like last year and this we’ll be bringing my buddy Garr Reynolds in from Japan via Skype, but the heart of it is having everyone sit around in a big circle and talk presenting. It’s part customer service call, part open bar, part drum circle therapy, and always a blast.
Geetesh: You’ve been part of the Presentation Summit for several years — can you share your thoughts about how this event benefits new attendees, and also how it helps repeat visitors?
Ric: Rick Altman and others like to point out that the Summit creates an instant community, and that’s really true and valid. There’s an amazing amount of information conveyed over the week, and everyone ends up sharing their own insights and helpful tips. That’s all very true, but there’s even more there. I think there’s an incredible amount of therapeutic value to spending time with people who have the same struggles you have, understanding how they overcome them or helping them with your own insights. You are not alone, these people are just like you, and it’s only natural that you bond beyond your week at the Presentation Summit.
What is the Presentation Summit?
For many years now, Rick Altman has been hosting the Presentation Summit, a highly popular event that is geared towards users of PowerPoint and other presentation platforms.
Date: September 27 to 30, 2015
Location: Astor Crowne Plaza, New Orleans, USA