Improvisational Powerpoint Karaoke

Source: Scott Berkun website, Nov 2012

THE RULES WERE SIMPLE:

  1. We get five minutes to speak
  2. The slide decks are made for us
  3. The slides auto advance every 15 seconds
  4. There are no other rules
  5. Audience votes on the winner

HERE’S WHAT I LEARNED IN PREPARING:

  • There was no effective way to prepare. Surprise! Good advice for presentations hinges on having good material and practicing it. Neither is possible in this format. This was both terrifying and liberating.
  • I tried to  prepare anyway. …  the live audiences have unusual responses. They expect it to be bad and have an unusual set of expectations for what they’re going to experience.
  • Crash course in improvisation. … faithfully committing to whatever happens. Powerpoint Karaoke is at its heart an exercise in improvisational theater.

HERE’S WHAT I LEARNED AFTER I PRESENTED:

  • You play for comedy. There is no way to take the slides seriously since by design they are ridiculous. … At best you are making the audience laugh, at worst they watch in silence as you struggle on stage. It’s purely stunt presenting. No one is there to learn or be inspired, at least not directly.
  • The audience wants spectacle. …  it is a weird kind of theater that wants to see speakers work against so many difficulties. There’s  an element of wanting to watch cars crash in this event. It’s all in good fun, but also schadenfreudian.
  • The energy is weird. Good speakers (and comedians) build a rhythm with the audience through their material. The pacing of jokes, how certain facts are revealed, all build to something. But here since the speakers don’t know the slides the energy is weird – sometimes very funny things happen, but often there are complete misfires. Sometimes the audience laughs but the speakers don’t know why. Sometimes the speakers think the audience should be laughing, but doesn’t know why they aren’t.

ADVICE:

  • There is no way to be good at this. This is liberating. It was very hard for me to say who of the five speakers did the best job. They were all weird, funny, awkward, and interesting in different ways. It really is more like experimental theater than anything like a public speech.
  • Make sure you trust the hostsLuz Bratcher made the slides for this event and did a great job. If the person making the slides wants to screw all the speakers it’s easy to do, as if the slides are thoughtless speakers won’t have much to work with. You want the hosts to make it a challenge, but to give you well crafted slides that are funny all on their own and give the speakers plenty to work with …

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