The Adventures of Invisible Elephant


Most people will be surprised to know that this presentation for VoiceSage CTO Graham Brierton, who presented yesterday at the big nerd fest communications conference Ecomm 09, took three solid days to put together. Five pages of speech, twenty simple slides, three days. But Ecomm is a big deal, and when you’re sharing a stage with Doc Searles, Ribbit, BT, Cisco, Skype and T Mobile, the standard is high and you very much want to not look like an idiot. It’s worth a bit of time.

Whilst working on the speech for this conference and the PowerPoint slides to go with it, Paul Sweeney and I were playing with the concept of “invisible elephants” – the big issues in a business you often don’t see because you don’t have the right data or comparative business intelligence to know they are there.

And at 3:30 one morning, it suddenly seemed like a great idea to order 500 badges emblazoned with Invisible elephant is in your data eatin’ your profits! to go with the presentation. And so we did, right then, thanks to the beauty of the internet and the time difference between Ireland and LA, where the badges were printed and delivered direct to the conference centre.

(I have secretly been chanting the Invisible Elephant mantra in my shower ever since. It completely cracks me up.)

Niall Harbison recently wrote a post on How to Make a Fun Presentation and I am all about that. I think a lot of presenters are afraid of deviating from the PowerPoint norm of click show read click, and sadly that norm is atrocious. Why bother with the speaker at all? Just send in the slide show and be done with it.

At the same time, one thing I increasingly pay attention to these days is the fact that PowerPoint presentations are not one-offs anymore. Because presentations are normally shared after the event, and you don’t have the speaker standing there to narrate them, they do need to make sense when viewed on their own.  You absolutely do not want to click show read click, but at the same time the presentation needs to encapsulate your main points in some kind of narrative style if you want to share them beyond your immediate audience.

Because of the post-event nature of presentations, we also did a special conference page on the VoiceSage site to send people to, with the slideshow and speaking notes.  I think it’s idiotic to send your traffic to SlideShare or wherever when you can capture that interest to bring people to your site (though you obviously don’t want to hit these visitors with any kind of hard sell.)

Also, I love the elephant and it was an excuse to add more elephant. Who doesn’t want more elephant?