• Where are James’ Slides?

    by  • 21 June 2012 • Articles

    I give a lot—well, I give some—talks, but I never give the slides out.

    And, as far as I can remember, no one has ever asked for them.

    I know people, people who speak a lot more than me, who put all their slide decks up. Why wouldn’t I do that? What makes me think I’m so special?

    It’s about my style of speaking, the kind of impression I want to make, and the types of slide decks I build. If I do it all correctly, the slides themselves will be completely useless to you. At best, they might jog your memory about something, but there are much better ways to do that.

    The slides aren’t the story, not by themselves. The slides are half the story. I’m telling you the other half.

    That’s not to say there isn’t going to be information in my talk. There will be. And it’ll be valuable and important, or they wouldn’t have let me give the talk, and you wouldn’t have come. And I want you to get back at that information later, after the talk, too.

    But I want you to get the whole story. And the slides are only half the story. (Sometimes, the slides and the words combine to make a joke. I’d really hate for you to only get half of that.)

    Most of my technical talks have one URL in them, it’s the last or second to last slide, and it’s where to get the story, in some other form. That one URL has all the links you need, all the projects I mentioned. And if I’ve had time, it has the whole story, just in text form.

    Edit: There’s some good conversation happening over on Hacker News, you might want to check that out, since people disagree with me.

    • http://twitter.com/canadaduane Duane J

      Out of curiosity, would you post your slides (plus) if they were also accompanied by video of you presenting them?

    • http://jamessocol.com/ James

      @Duane: Absolutely. Though, since my slides tend to be mostly big pictures and huge text, you’d hopefully be able to make out the important parts in the video itself.

    • Luis

      I also tend to build slides that are completely useless without the other half of the story. Most of the time, I also don’t post them anywhere, for the same reason (except possibly in a private bitbucket repository).

      That said… there is one reason why I post some of the otherwise useless slides: when I get asked “how did you do that?” (some effect on the slides). So, for those talks, I post the slides + LaTeX source. But they tend to be useful only for the latex part…

    • Jens

      Found your site through Hacker News. 100% agree with the post.

      For a presentation that was held right, the only two things that (should) make sense are either a video of the presentation or a seperate set of slides that contain the spoken part of the presentation as text, making it less of a slide and more of a written article.

    • http://jamessocol.com/ James

      @Jens: Video, with slides, great. Or even Zach Holman’s style audio track with the slides, great. But if you make Seth-Godin-style slides, then a well-written blog post, or even just a collection of links, is probably going to be easier to digest and understand than slides + notes.

    • njn

      See also http://njn.valgrind.org/good-talk.html — under “slides”

    • http://twitter.com/joedevon Joe Devon

      Weird, we ask every single speaker to share their slides.

      We do forget to follow up sometimes.

      Even if people don’t understand your slides, they might learn a nugget or two and watch out for your next talk.

      Not saying you’re “wrong”. Everyone has their style and you gotta do what works for you.

    • http://jamessocol.com/ James

      Joe, can I ask what you organize, who you mean by “we”? I certainly wouldn’t refuse to hand over the slides for most tech talks–it’s not like I’m viciously protecting the IP or anything–but I’d caveat with “but they’ll be useless except for a link at the end.”

      njn, good read!

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