June 2012 . www.conference-news.co.uk . 53 THE CONSULTANTA snippet caught my eye from our sister magazine Conference & Meetings World, where industry association Down Under, Meetings Events Australia, had banned the use of PowerPoint at its conference. CEO Linda Gaunt said: "The bullet point model was created in the predigital era, when there was a shortage of expert information. It was worth fl ying somewhere to hear that kind of speech. Now the web is full of expert presentations, so meetings need to provide something extra. The aim is to deliver presentations that are simpler and more emotive. Presenters are encouraged to tell stories rather than read out lists."In a similar vein, I'm organising an event for September, when our speakers are instructed only to use pictures, not text.Yet simply banning PowerPoint does bring to mind babies and bathwater. In the right hands it can be a great tool, but most users only ever master a fraction of the potential.A Prezi for youIn the right hands PowerPoint can be a fantastic tool; with the bad guys it can be evilRichard John zooms in to a new look for presentationsRichard John is an events industry trainer and consultant. He can be contacted through the Editor.Richard JohnPowerPoint is not the only package available. Mac users have the impressive Keynote. However, as Macs lack the ubiquity of Windows fi les are usually exported as PowerPoint, defeating the object.Another option is Prezi, a cloudbased presentation and storytelling tool for 'exploring and sharing ideas on a virtual canvas'. The most distinguishing feature is the Zooming User Interface, enabling users to zoom in and out of their presentation media. The developers claim that it 'bridges linear and nonlinear information'. Prezi replicates how the brain chooses to absorb information, making presentations far more memorable.Mastering the basics is easy. You select media you want to use, grouping them on your virtual canvas. When it comes to showtime, users just pan and zoom in and between these objects. For linear presentations, users can construct a prescribed navigation path.Creatives love it. The Hungarian developer, Adam SomlaiFischer, an architect, wanted to be able to jump between the 'big picture' of a fl oor plan and then zoom in to view the detail. Word of mouth led to the rapid sharing of the software, and Prezi has been used by numerous leading voices in business and politics to share and explore their ideas. The World Economic Forum is currently using Prezi as part of its presentation and media strategy, and many TED Conference speakers use it.Prezi uses the freemium model of business. If you opt for the free version you must publish your efforts on the Prezi website. Keeping your presentations secret, or enjoying the version with more whistles and bells will cost.If you use good speakers, Prezi will enhance their performance big time. If they're as dull as ditchwater, at least the audience will have something to look at. Win:win, I'd say.
54 . www.conference-news.co.uk . June 2012June THE LECTURERWe don't actually teach our Events Management students how to survive sleep deprivation. But I think we should. Because those of them who are destined for careers as meeting planners soon learn that the one thing you don't get much of during any conference you're in charge of, is sleep.Last one to go to bed, and fi rst one up in the morning seems to be the general rule for the meeting planner running the show. And our alumni are full of stories of how they routinely fi nd themselves in the hotel bar in the wee small hours of the morning, sipping a lukewarm Perrier longing for the last delegates to knock back their lagers and turn in, knowing full well that they, the meeting planner, will have to be on their feet again in four hours, checking all the arrangements for the following day's programme and, of course, looking as fresh as a daisy.All I can say to them is: respect ! I take my hat off to anyone who can do without eight hours of sleep and still be fully functional the next day and ready to cope with any crisis that fate may throw in their direction, from keynote speakers stranded in fogbound Schiphol airport to 20 delegates going down with food poisoning. I could never do their job, for the simple reason that I love sleep so much, and, like Cinderella, I just don't 'do' after-midnight. And it's nothing to do with me knocking on, i've always been like this. It's like fl icking a switch on the stroke of midnight, I can drop off absolutely anywhere at the witching hour: noisy bars, on planes, at weddings, parties, you name it, I can sleep through it. You know the Abba song, 'Gimme, Gimme, Gimme A Man After Midnight'? Well, that could never work for me. Even 'Gimme, Gimme, Gimme A Man After Newsnight' would be pushing it.Nightclubs, naturally, are a complete no-no for me, which is a great pity, because I do enjoy the occasional bop and I've been told I have some groovy moves. Why doesn't some enterprising Baby Boomer open a chain of nightclubs for people like me? They would open at 5pm, so that clients could go there straight from work, spend a few exhilarating hours of frenzied, shandy-fuelled fun, gyrating to hits from the Golden Era of British Pop (1972-1975: it was all downhill after that), and then still be back home in time for News at Ten with Trevor McDonald. A good night out, followed by a good night's sleep, preserving the physical and mental powers necessary to doing a good day's work the next day.And that's the point, not only for meeting planners, but the delegates themselves. How effectively can they, the delegates, operate, when they're a bit the worse for wear from overdoing it on the booze and grabbing only a few hours before taking their seats for the next day's proceedings? How much can delegates really learn in that state of mind and body? And if they're not learning / interacting / problem-solving / networking effectively, then the conference stands much less chance of achieving its objectives. Naturally, hotels want to maximise the takings from their sales of alcohol, but it's clear to see that putting a reasonable time-limit on hotel bars' opening hours during conferences would be benefi cial to everyone, not least the meeting planner. And here endeth today's sermon from the Greenwich Temperance Society!I take my hat off to anyone who can do without eight hours of sleep and still be fully functional the next dayMidnight cowboyRob DavidsonRob Davidson is a Senior Lecturer in Events Management at the University of Greenwich.Rob Davidson talks sleep deprivation