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working with the web

What makes a great WebJam presentation?

Nick Cowie presenting at a WebJam even in Sydney in September 2007 – thanks to Gary Barber for the photo

As previously hinted at on this blog, WebJam 9 will be held in Perth after the Edge of the Web conference, November 6, at the UWA Tavern.

This will be Perth’s second WebJam event, although a few of the Perth Port80 regulars have had the WebJam experience at other conferences and events on the East coast of Australia. In fact, it will be WebJam number four for Perth developer Nick Cowie, who was a runner-up at the previous Perth WebJam event with his now-infamous “WebSledge” presentation, which poked fun at many members of the audience.

Seeing as he’s such a veteran, I thought I’d ask Nick a few questions which may help those who are thinking of presenting but are unsure what will go down well with the audience.

Do you get nervous? Is it scary up there with everyone looking at you?

Not at all, with a bit of luck half the audience will be people I know, and most would have seen me do more stupid stuff than will happen on stage that night.

The WebJam audiences I have experienced have been very sympathetic, so unless you are doing a blatant sales pitch they will forgive for almost anything.

It is only 3 minutes, so even you have a complete disaster it is over quickly. You can get to the bar and drown your sorrows while the next presenter takes the audiences mind off what happened.

With close to 20 presenters, the worse thing that could happen is you do a very ordinary presentation that gets lost in the noise of the other presentations. A bad presentation is more likely to be memorable and will get your message across.

So give me the good stuff: what’s the secret of a great WebJam presentation?

I see a WebJam presentation as performance art, you have 3 minutes to entertain and inform the audience. So unless there is a real wow factor in what you are talking about/demonstrating, use humour, try to surprise the audience (e.g. add a stupid slide to your deck, use an embarrassing photo/video/audio of yourself, another presenter, well known audience member, celebrity in you demo etc), you could even try audience interaction. But remember it is only 3 minutes, so your presentation need to be fast, furious and punchy.

That certainly makes sense! Any other advice you want to offer?

You have only got 3 minutes, make the most of it. Script your presentation and practise it, get it down to about 2:30 to 2:45, just in case something goes wrong. Then practise it a few more times for good luck.

Be prepared, make sure that everything is preloaded on the computer that will used for the presentation and ready to roll the moment you step on stage. Your 3 minutes is precious, so don’t waste 20 or 30 seconds opening software, typing in URLs, or waiting for websites to load.

Working with live websites is as risky as working with animals or children, so have alternatives ready just in case something goes wrong.

Great content should win, but in the past great presentations with ordinary content have done very well. So polish your presentation.

And finally, have a go. If you have a good idea or work you want to show off, sign up to present at WebJam. Spend a couple of hours preparing and step out on stage that night. It is great fun and slightly addictive!

There’s some excellent advice in there – thanks a lot Nick! Personally, I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

I may have put my name down to present with my awesome pal Ben. If we can do it, anyone can do it!