3 things I learned presenting with slides

I am not a professional speaker at conferences: I do it on my spare time and usually no more than twice a year. But there are some things I learned and that I want to share with you. No, I’m not talking about using a Presentation Zen or Slide:ology approach because, as it was clear to the audience of Better Software 2010, the last conference where I spoke (on Recruitment 2.0, in Italian), 90% of the presentations already got rid of bullet points in favour of photos and terse contents. I am referring to a “parachute plan” in case something goes wrong and to avoid misunderstandings with the audience. Here are my suggestions:

  • Build two different themes – You prepared your slides and tried them some days before on your office projectors (maybe waking up half an hour in advance so nobody could see you). But, when you present, you notice that the quality of the projector lamps is very poor and some contrasts are difficult to read. This is a problem especially for presentations that don’t make use of white bullet points on black backgrounds (or viceversa) but slides with sentences spread in different positions or text put over a photo. The risk is that the “special effects” you spent your nights on are invisible to your audience and that they can’t connect all the dots of your speech. Prepare two set of them (you can use both Keynote or Powerpoint) so that a version is highly contrasted. If, once on stage preparing, you find out that it’s difficult to read your slides, you can easily switch to the highly contrasted theme. Sure, you can use high contrast from the start, but chances are that if you spent hours refining your work, high contrast could not have the impact you wanted. In this way, you have an easy backup strategy. Moreover, you don’t have to prepare two themes every time, because once you define the theme that satisfy your needs, you can use it for whatever presentation you like.
  • Put you Twitter username on every slide – When I was on stage at Better Software, the audience begun twitting excerpts from my talk. Unfortunately, one tweet contained a wrong username (avolpon instead of AntonioVolpon) and the following retweets and new tweets all preserved the non-existant username. So, if you can, if it doesn’t “ruin” your design, reserve a space where you repeat you Twitter username on every slide, and don’t limit this only to the first or last slide.
  • If you build a story, wait for your audience – I am a big fan of Made to Stick, and since I read it I try to build a story in every speech I give, when it’s possible (at Better Software I presented my various job opportunities, starting from the military service). Be very careful if the story is mandatory to understand the meaning of your talk. If so, and your presentation starts after a break, or if the audience can choose among different concurrent sessions (and so needs to move from a room to another), I suggest you not to insert the story in the very first slides, but to (reasonably) wait for most of the people to enter and have a seat.

Ljubljana Barcamp

Last saturday in Ljubljana (Slovenia) I attended my first barcamp. Or, better, I attended the first barcamp worthy of its name.

The success of this initiative has to be equally shared between organizers, speakers and the ones that filled the rooms.

The organizers set a simple, yet winning formula:

  • 20 minutes for every speech including Q&A, without possibility of overrun
  • final session with 5 minutes speeches without questions in order to attract hesitant and shy people
  • explicit request to speak English (in Slovenia, differently than in Italy, they speak a very good English)
  • breakfast and lunch for free and t-shirt for 10 euro to fund the event
  • evening party

Everyone has to be rewarded for being an active part of the conversation with hundreds of questions, requests and speeches rarely commonplace.

A barcamp that gives many suggestions to Italian organizers of similar events:

  • organizers followed most of the events in the first line, rather then limit their appearance for public relations;
  • they give up the idea of streaming the event (an expensive and unnecessary option considering that a barcamp is made of many concurrent conversations) and decided to allocate resources to improve the attendees experience
  • speakers developed their presentations to last for few minutes but, more importantly, to give a starting point for the discussion. It’s easy to state that a barcamp is not made by a passive audience, but it has to be possible for attendees to easily join the conversation

All this without astronomical sponsors or guest starts.

Recession at Le Web ’08

End one of Le Web ’08 in Paris ends here. Here are some citations and feelings from today Le Web ’08 that I agree with:

  • We yet have to see the consequences of this economical crisis (during the panel Getting financed in a recession)
  • I hope the market will fall down till people understand what has real value (Paolo Coelho)
  • Recessions give new opportunity. During recession times it’s harder to be finances, but you have less competitors too
  • Solo-leaders would have not built the web (David Weinberger)

If you ask venture capitalists here at Le Web 2.0 if bad periods await us during the next year, most of them don’t deny say no. They are not alone. Paul Coelho is on the same wave lenght.

Le Web ’08 – Europe’s startup scene

Mike Butcher from TechCrunch noted that year 2007 saw lot of activity concerning European startups, with Webex, Double click,Reuters, Aquantive being the more productive.

Market clearly picked last year, but then prices started to fall.

Recent investments were:

  • networks go niche (the updown, kindo, visible path)
  • advertisers get smarter (adinfuse, smaato, consorte)
  • everything goes mobile (mystrands, sreamezzo, betnow)
  • return of professional content (tvtrip, videojug)
  • media becomes immersive (superscape, payfirst)
  • shopping gets social
  • software in the sky

What next?

There is still lots of activity (such as stupeflix, floobs, rummble, second brain). Plus, Europe is getting connected

Key strenghts in Europe:

  • social applications
  • mobile/3g
  • data creation
  • first class engineering


  • fear of failure
  • smaller local markets
  • need more 2nd and 3rd enterpreneurs

On the positive side:

  • ability to deal with diverse markets
  • mobile
  • state support for startups

Mobile helps change the rules

Le Web ’08 – Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho in the past refused to give rights in order to make films from his books but, starting with the Witch of Portobello he started a project. Coelho has asked aspiring filmmakers to tell the tale from the point of view of one of the 13 characters in the book. He had an impressive response, with some hundreds of music and movies to select from.

Coelho thinks that privacy, from the book author perspective, should be stimulated. People can’t read online, so they download books but eventually buy the printed copy.

For this reason he decided to put on his site some full texts so that one can “pirate” his books. He only owns the right for the Portuguese version: sometimes readers translate books that are not translated yet.

Being tolerant about the usage of his books let him sell more.

The goal of every writer is to share his works.

He is sure that a period of recession will make people understand the real value of free and of the social networks and new ways  of communication.

Paulo Coelho – Author