If you took a poll of audiences everywhere, maths lectures are up there with OH&S inductions and televised golf for stifling dullness.
So top marks (ho ho!) to Matthew Weathers, professor of maths at Biola University, who proves that presentation greatness doesn’t need big budgets, just a great idea.
In this case, it’s an idea that you could stage using very basic AV equipment. And a long rehearsal to get the timings right. They’re just simple sight gags, but audiences love them. Admittedly there isn’t a lot of maths in there but I’m sure he brings that alive in his regular lectures.
Think about how you could mess around with the form of your presentations to keep people entranced like the professor.
Which makes me sound like some kind of moody, tortured Christian Bale Batman character, and nothing could be further from the truth.
No, I’m literally in the darkness, sitting at the back of a conference, listening to a long presentation. The presenter is doing a pretty good job, but I’m ready for a nice afternoon nap.
That’s quite an achievement on a standard stackable chair. Long-haul airlines don’t need bigger, flatter seats. They just need to take the lights down and put a monotone presenter in the front of the cabin. Here’s one they could use:
Why Do They Turn The Lights Down?
In the olden days, even expensive projectors were Jessica Simpson-dim, which meant room lights at zero and blinding spotlights on the presenter.
And in movies and theatre shows they keep the lights down to focus attention on the stage or screen.
So that’s the ‘professional’ look for presentations, right?
Well, not very often. There are two sorts of corporate presentation: shows, and meetings.
When you’re doing a major product launch, for example, there will be a lot of theatrical elements. Concert-style lighting, professional performers, expensively-shot video, maybe even dancing bears.
So you need darkness to get the best out of your staging. And it’s all over in an hour or so, plus it’s exciting, so there’s little risk of audience slumber.
This is your standard conference-style series of presentations, with regular presenters, using PowerPoint. Plunging the room into darkness and adding a light show isn’t going to add ‘theatrical impact’ to it. It’s just going to put people to sleep after the first hour.
The sleep risk factor is doubled during the difficult, digestion-affected session after lunch, when you might as well be in a cave talking to bears in winter.
Today’s projectors are bright enough to work under most lighting conditions. So keep the lights up. Not up to full brightness, but enough for the presenters to clearly see the audience and get visual feedback from them.
If you’ve got a really large screen, or a room with strong light coming through the windows, rent a brighter projector and keep the lights up.
Don’t let your speech become a bedtime story for grownups.
Ian Whitworth believes passionately in the power of live communication, without the buzzwords and bullet points. He works as a creative director and principal of agency A Lizard Drinking. He is also one of the founders of audiovisual company Scene Change. Ian is an ex-professional presenter and long ago, ex-audiovisual technician. For non-presentation stuff, try @ianwhitworth.