Today, I talked to about eighty to a hundred people during my TechConnect keynote in the IBM Toronto Lab Amphitheatre. My presentation was about The Top 10 Web 2.0 Tools You Should Try. I enjoyed customizing it for the audience (IBM Toronto Lab folks - research and development) as well as for the challenging timeslot (30 minutes for 10 tools!). I owe a lot to the Lab, and I was glad to have the opportunity to give back. =) I also had the pleasure of turning the stage over to Abe Batthish for his talk on the Web 2.0 Technology Interest Community, and I had fun listening to him as well.
Here are a couple of stories from the presentation.
With only thirty minutes on the clock, the presentation was going to be fast-paced, and I had to have some way to keep track of what slide I was on. I considered standing near my laptop, but I nixed that because I'd have an even tougher time connecting with people behind such a massive podium. I didn't want to constantly look behind and up at the two projected screens a few feet above my head. Running through the slides in my head, I walked to the center of the stage. As my eyes drifted upwards, I caught a glimpse of something shiny.
The control room at the back of the amphitheatre was separated from the auditorium by a large one-way mirror, which was reflecting all that light. The mirror was just the correct angle for me to see it--and was that a backwards image of my slides?
I hadn't noticed that the last time I gave a speech in the same amphitheatre. Nifty.
Thanks to a childhood spent reading everything and everywhere I could, I had picked up the ability to quickly read backwards. My slides were easy to distinguish even when flipped horizontally. I grinned and returned to my seat in the audience, looking forward to giving my totally small-scale "confidence monitor" a try.
After Julie Waterhouse introduced me, I launched into a whirlwind tour of the top 10 Web 2.0 tools the audience should try. I found it easy to make eye contact while avoiding the microphone feedback zones and occasionally glancing at the reflection to make sure I was flipping to the right page. It was like my keynote segment to 700 people using the Hilton Toronto's snazzy audio/visual setup. No, this amphitheatre was better. The Hilton's LCD panel had been in the lower left corner of my vision, and I had caught myself glancing to the side to see it. Here, the mirror was in the center of the back wall of the amphitheatre, slightly above the audience's heads, and visible anywhere I looked.
Now I'm wondering how I can set up a mirror like that in less-equipped rooms. A full-length mirror wouldn't be portable, but maybe a small mirror set up at the appropriate distance would work. I'm not talking about a double-mirror clamped to the podium, though--I really don't like standing behind podiums! Maybe a convex mirror like those car rear-view mirrors? Will the image be too distorted? Maybe I can make a totally small-scale confidence monitor. Hmm...
Reaching the Back Row
I wasn't quite sure if I had effectively reached people today. I felt that I was cramming too many words into too short a time. (If I'm going to do this again in 30 minutes, I'll probably focus on just 5 tools!) I made a few jokes, got a few chuckles, got plenty of nods of recognitions at the problems and pain points I described... but I didn't have time to turn it into the kind of open, interactive presentation I love. When I gave a similar presentation at another conference, the other tools that people shared during the discussion gave me plenty of material for follow-up posts. Due to today's time constraints, I didn't get to open it up, so I ended up doing all the talking. (Pity! I would've loved to find out what was on people's shortlists of tools.)
But people enjoyed it, and I think I convinced a few people to give some of those tools a try. =) I wish I could've stayed for the networking events, but I needed to hitch a ride back home for some other stuff. When I got home and reconnected to the intranet, I noticed that a manager had left a comment on my presentation. He mentioned that he had sat in the back row and that he really enjoyed my presentation and my contagious enthusiasm. If I can reach someone in the back row with my passion, I must be doing something right! =)