I’ve done PowerPoint Karaoke (PPTK) twice now, and seen it done a bunch of times, and while I certainly enjoy the challenge a lot of people struggle with it and find it unbearable. In this post I thought I’d have a go at writing down what I think should be done to ensure you deliver a good PPTK talk. I must admit though at my last PPTK talk I naturally failed to implement all of these ideas, because nerves, but nobody can expect to be perfect the first time. Or second., Or third.
Disclaimer: This blog is just my thoughts and opinions, I don’t claim to be good at PowerPoint Karaoke, or indeed anything else I blog about, or do in life.
I like to think that everyone knows preparation is the key to a successful presentation, but I think that people assume its impossible to prepare for a talk about an unknown topic so they don’t bother. Whilst it is true you can’t prepare for the content or topic you can at least mentally prepare yourself for the fact that it will be the unknown, and hopefully prevent some of that “deer in headlights” effect.
The job of most presentations is not to lecture, but to entertain, and this is even more apparent in PPTK talks, so prepare yourself mentally for that. Treating it like and open mic stand up comedy routine than a technical talk, and making your only aim be to entertain a few people for a few minutes, will also put you in a better frame of mind.
Take your time
Most PPTK talks are expected to go for about 5 minutes, and given the natural tendency for people to talk faster in front of crowds, and the desire to rush through uncomfortable information you end up with really short talks that can last as little as 2 minutes. Given this its totally fine to slow down a little at the start, and take a minute to think about your topic once you find out what it is. Linger on that first slide a bit and think about 3 or 4 key things about the topic. This will give you some ideas to help once you start launching into the slides. If your topic is “raising children” for example, you might quickly think to yourself “children are loud, messy and the prospect of having them is scary. Those 3 things are enough of a framework to allow to proceed and not have every slide be a complete curve ball.
Usually at PPTK everyone in the audience knows that you’re doing PPTK so they will give you some leeway, and allow you to take this time. You don’t want to leave a lot of dead air of course, but even just saying out loud “oh, topic x, thats interesting, hmmm” will buy you the time you need to do some thinking because the audience knows you’re as unprepared as they are.
Analogies are your friends
The best presentations have slide content that is not a literal representation of what is being talked about. With PPTK you can pretty much guarantee that will be the case, so embrace it and use analogies to map your topic to the slide. For example if the slide shows a picture of a starfield then say “Having kids can sometimes feel like being adrift in space”. The audience will appreciate that you talked directly to the slide, but about your topic, and will be impressed. Don’t forget: They know you’re doing PPTK so the expectations and rules are different.
You can also leverage their knowledge of PPTK and actually directly address the slide as a character. “There are hundreds of unique stars in this picture, and there are hundreds of theories about raising kids”. Again you’ve achieved one of the ultimate goals of a PPTK talk, that of being able to adapt your topic to the content, and the audience will appreciate it.
Once you’ve tied the topic and slide together you’re free to just keep talking about the topic which turns the PPTK from being “oh dear how can I connect these two things” to “I just need to waffle on a bit”. Having your plan of 3 or 4 ideas really helps here as it gives you boundaries on what to talk about, and a natural trigger to switch to the next slide once you’re done with a single idea.
It is still a talk about a topic
A good PPTK talk is a series of random slides, and an adept speaker who can link each one to his topic painlessly. A great PPTK talk is where the speaker does that linking but then continues talking, and demonstrates not only that they can deliver a few jokes, or talk to random content, but can also deliver a proper talk on the topic that was given.
Don’t forget however that the primary goal is entertainment, not education, so you don’t need to worry if your talk doesn’t have a beginning, middle and end. Nobody will remember anything you said anyway :)