I invited my wife to join me for the second day of BarCamp Boston 2. I wanted her to see Rod Begbie‘s presentation on “Powerful Pointed Presentations – How to give kick-ass presentations, and avoid becoming PowerPoint’s bitch.” I knew this would be a highlight of the day and it was. Rod was in his element, when he showed the audience how to reduce the amount of text on a slide, how to focus the attention from time to time and how to make the talk the center of the presentation and use the slides for illustration and not as a distraction. The lesson that stuck in my head, is “Be nice to your audience and finish early.” It leaves some time to contemplate the presentation rather than racing to the next event or catching up with the inevitable urgencies of the day.
Following Rod I attempted to captivate an audience for “How to organize a Meetup”. I only attracted a handful of participants but we did discuss the topic at length. I shared my experience with Meetup.com as an efficient vehicle to organize a group to a given topic in the real world, using the Internet as the tool. In my opinion, the return on investment comes from being instantly above the fold on search results, for someone looking for the key word in combination with a US town. It makes it very easy to attract new members. My audience pointed out that sometimes one even finds a ready made list of interested people for the topic waiting for someone to start the Meetup group.
After lunch I did present on “Plan-B for OpenOffice.org – documentation for non technical users.” My audience was again very small. But the feedback I received for the presentation and the concept was certainly worth it. The group had an interesting exchange about if and how to fund Plan-B for OpenOffice.org with advertising (separate writeup follows).
My last session for the day was a discussion by Michael Feldman about using technology in teaching college students. Michael is a professor for communication at the BU law school. He has long experimented with technology and has often been disappointed. His lessons are “You need to tailor to the least technology savvy student” and “keep your learning objective in focus”. He currently works a lot with Wiki sites to foster discussions and mash up some useful tools for his class.
If you haven’t attended a BarCamp, I can highly recommend to do so. The unconventional format produces a very productive atmosphere and you get to know many interesting people and their projects. I’m very grateful to the organizers: Shimon Rura, Larry Lyons, Ray Deck, Jeff Potter, Keith Erskine, Mike Walsh, Sooz and the sponsors.
See also my report from Saturday.