Dear Attendee: My Slides Will Not Match the Handouts

Apr 5, 2016   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, DLBlog, Events, Speaking, Training  //  9 Comments

 

Sorry...not sorry

Dear Conference Attendee:

I started out writing this as an apology.  But it’s not.  I’m sorry that it isn’t.  Months ago, I was required to submit my slides to your conference organizers for reasons:

  • there may be a review committee that reviews the content for offensive and unacceptable words, images or demos – and, yes, I’m sad that this is even needed.
  • there may be a review committee that checks to see if I mentioned my own name more than once in the entire deck, even at the end of the deck where I want to tell you can reach out to ask me more if you want to.  Yes, this is a real thing.
  • there may be a review committee that measures font sizes and types to see if they exactly match that of the official conference template, which will be ugly, unreadable, and bullet-point driven, but required for all speakers to use.  Yes, font measuring is a real thing. 
  • there may be a review committee that counts the number of words on a slide and deletes the “extra” words. Yes, this really happened to me.
  • there may be a review committee that fixes all the trademark names.
  • the organizers might have been burnt too many times by speakers who weren’t ready with a slide deck the day of the event—and yes, I am sad this is even needed.
  • the organizers might need to print the handouts of the slides months in advance – so they tell me.

Some of those are great reasons, some of them awful.  But they are reasons the organizers require slide decks to be submitted months in advance of the event.

Stuff Changes

But in those months between the time I submitted the deck and I show up to present, the world has changed.  I say that one day in cloud time is equal to one month in boxed software time.  So 2 months in cloud tech is like a 5 years delay in talking about traditional software and hardware releases.

The products, services and features I am presenting about will have changed.  Their names might have changed.  They may have been bought by another company.  They may have had a new release. They might have new features.  They might have deprecated features.  They may have changed their license agreements.  They might have gone bankrupt. They might have disappeared.  They might have changed their architectures.  Anything and everything might have happened in the months between my deck being uploaded somewhere until the time those pieces of paper are handed out to you upon registration.

I Change, Too

In the weeks between my submitting the slide deck and actually giving the presentation, I think of a great way of presenting a concept. Or I think of a new thing I want to point out.  Or I experience a failure along the way that I want to share.  Don’t get me started on fixing typos or other inaccuracies.  Yes, I know that I shouldn’t make mistakes.  But I do.

Maybe I hear about something I didn’t know about when I did the deck. Maybe I realized that something that was true when I developed the deck is no longer exactly true. The point is, I am constantly thinking abut making my presentations better.

But What About…?

I know some of you are saying “What paper handouts?”  Yes, some conferences still give you printouts on dead trees, especially for half and full-day seminars.  I know you are thinking “Can’t you just send them updated slide decks?”  Yes, I can.  Sometimes that works, most times it does not. Sometimes we speakers are penalized for doing so.

But this happens even with digital decks.  I can send revised slides and sometimes someone on the other end will update the deck produced for download.  Sometimes they will not. We speakers mostly have no control over that.

I’ve also heard about people who completely redo a presentation so that the slides from before aren’t even recognizable.  That’s not what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about a few new slides, some changed ones, maybe some replaced ones.  I want to be able to do that in the 2-3 months between submission time and class time.  I want to make it better for you, the attendee.

I’ve also been asked “Why don’t you just print out new handouts for the attendees?” and “Why don’t you email out the updated slides before the event”.  I have done that for my formal training classes (of course).  But for organized events, I may not have the authority to do that.  At some events the distribution of all materials is forbidden. I also don’t have access to attendee email addresses to distribute them, either.

What I Do to Minimize the Impact of Changes

When I have enhanced my slide deck in those months, I do the following:

  1. Provide the whole current deck on my website for download
  2. Provide the whole new deck on a thumb drive for you to “download” at the event
  3. Provide the organizers with the updated deck
  4. Encourage everyone to learn how to leverage the mark up features of the apps they have on their tablet and laptops.  These are a true timesaver for me.
  5. Describe, while presenting, why there is a new or different slide.

Yes, I know you want the paper copy for taking notes and marking up the deck.  I’m not happy, either, that these decks had to be provided from a 2-3 months ago reality.  I know many of you will be unhappy.  You will mark down my speaker score because I included new slides to show new functionality (this happened to me two years ago at an event). I know you will leave an evaluation rating and comment that my slides should have matched the handout.  I want you to do that if that’s what is important to you.

But I’m not going to apologize for the paper handouts being out of date.  It’s a physics problem.  My only way to fix this is to be able to bend time so that I can see the world as it will be 60-90 days in the future. Trust me: if I could do that, I would be presenting at a much different event.

So cut speakers some slack.  You really do want them to enhance their slides, fix mistakes, update for new information and maybe even make them prettier in the months before the event.  If you have other ideas about how I can make the impact of change easier on you, let me know.

Good speakers want you to learn, have fun doing it AND have something to take home with you to remember what you learned.  Help us help make that happen for you.

9 Comments

  • +1

    I put my slides up on Slideshare and try to update them there as often as necessary.

    I tweak/change up my decks continuously, and having them turned in months beforehand makes no sense to me – but I agree this is SOP and try to play nice.

    And attendees are there for the show, not the slides, right? Some of my slides just have a single word on them.
    thatjeffsmith recently posted..Why DESC When You Can INFO in Oracle SQLcl?My Profile

    • I do play nice, as well. Some of my decks (Contentious Issues in Data Modeling) are more than 15 years old. And I’m still updating them. I will continue to update them.

      My cloud-related decks often need to be updated the morning of the presentation even.
      Karen Lopez recently posted..Is Logical Data Modeling Dead?My Profile

  • Nicely said. I know that conference organizers do a lot of work and are sometimes not compensated for that work. And they have rules to follow. But too often the speaker gets blamed for unavoidable changes… and the speaker is also often overworked and not compensated. I enjoy speaking at conferences, but dealing with pedantic oversight can be quite the hassle!

  • I’m rather shocked about the paper handouts actually being a thing. As a developer attending various developer events the takeaways I’m looking forward to are:
    1.) a link to an online slide deck
    2.) a link to any code samples/tech demos/github
    3.) a twitter handle (to follow or reach out to)

    However I fully expect that anything printed would be essentially instantly out of date. I can only hope that event organizers learn that a link to a live online site is worth 10x a one time printout.

    This all said it looks like your commitment to keeping content up to date is beyond stellar – Color me impressed!

    • There are still communities of people who want paper. Who have never heard of Git or Dropbox or OneDrive. Or who don’t have access to those at work. I personally live and die by OneNote. I don’t want any extra paper in my life, at all.
      Karen Lopez recently posted..ERwin Modeling Products Sale is FinalMy Profile

  • ‘”Can’t you just send them updated slide decks?”
    … Sometimes we speakers are penalized for doing so.’
    How so? I’m just starting to branch out to speaking get at external events 🙂

    • It depends on the event. Some conferences forbid using a speaking session for collecting contact information from any attendee for any reason, some forbid contact attendee. Many would be upset about a mass contact.

      But the real reason is most speakers have no access to the email addresses of attendee.
      Karen Lopez recently posted..Happy 20th Birthday, ER/1…ER/StudioMy Profile

  • […] One of the reasons decks have to be submitted for review at Summit is so that dozens of volunteers can scour the slides for mentions of the speaker’s name or company.  That isn’t really a value add for attendees, yet we do it because people have been overly focused on selling their products or services instead of the community. We’ve incurred a huge cost (in volunteer hours) to enforce this and some other less important things AND added months to gap between slide preparations and presentation time. This leads to pain for both the speakers and the audience. […]

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