30 comments on “Does size matter?

  1. Oh dear, I’m first again? Or maybe…you’re moderating.

    I like 8hrs.

    Bar that, 3hrs is good.

    Oh alright. 1 hr. I asked for 1hr for IATEFL. But I’m doing a swap-shop so hopefully I did get it. Oh, dear I’d better check, I’m planning on an hour.

    But then my arm was twisted by Lindsay, for the PK… I’ll try 6min 40sec – I could always blog the rest🙂

    K

    • Hi Karenne,

      long workshops have a place, don’t they. I did a 6-hour workshop in São Paulo a couple of weeks ago, and it IS quite a lot of work, but it IS a time period you can actually something in.

      PK? You’ll be a star without a doubt!

      Jeremy

      • Karenne,

        I agree with Jeremy, you’ll be a star! I’m really excited to see both of your Pecha Kuchas.

        I think there is room for long talks. I enjoy watching the recaps at home of keynotes that where very captivating. I think a great presenter makes you want to stay and listen. However, other presenters make you want to leave at 10 minutes unfortunately. I think it depends on how invested one is in the materials and how developed the presentation is as far as speaker presence, slide design, and so forth. I just watched a keynote that was 45 minutes. The presenter had prepared 1 hour and a half and asked if he could go longer. He had people return during their lunch to listen to the rest of his speech. I feel for people at conferences who have to manage time but I also am the type who would stay during my lunch time to see a speaker I have been wanting to see that I may never get to see again for another year or 10.

      • 🙂 we’ll see.

        I know 8hrs / 6hrs is a lot of work – and I s’pose I am really talking about inhouse company/vhs workshops but the thing is they really are infinitely more satisfying.

        I feel like I’m really giving something of my knowledge (cough, cough -sorry that sounds so bold doesn’t it) to my participants.

        I did a 45min workshop on Delicious once (it’s a type of bookmarking web 2.0 tool) and it’s unbelievably useful but honestly, not many people at ELTAS ended up using it. Why, because the talk was rushed on the benefits, service, community and how-to create own profile but no time was spent in hands-on do-it-yourself.

        Which is why we’re ELTAS hosting a TECHTOOLS day in July and it’ll be all day (got the likes of Sire Dudeney coming to talk to us and train us too).

  2. It is more challenging to hold an audience with a longer lecture, but good people can do it. I don’t mind watching a two and a half hour movie if it’s well done and it SHOULD be two and a half hours. But most movies these days would work best if they were between ten and twenty minutes shorter.

    I have to admit, the twenty five minute presentations I’ve done have been the hardest – it goes by in a flash. But perhaps it cuts a lot of the waffle. I think I mentioned on here before, presentations should make you think and entertain… but if I really want to learn something I’ll read it.

    • Hi Darren,

      I agree that twenty-five minutes is a bit tough – how can you encapsulate a good set of ideas in such a short space of time?

      But your point about movies is well-made, I think, and you follow it up really convincingly (I think) by the point about ‘entertainment’. A good and entertaining talk will indeed keep you going for sixty minutes. But it has to be good and entertaining! (see Gavin’s post below)

      Jeremy

  3. I’ve just been asked to do a 20 minute presentation at a conference, and I’m thinking of turning it down, because I really don’t know how I can get anywhere in 20 minutes (bizarrely it’s 20 minutes for presentation and 10 minutes for questions – I’m not sure people will have any questions after I’ve got half way through my introduction)

    I agree that 60 minutes is just about the optimum time. The presenter can run a couple of interactive activities, ensure there is some real content, and create a “learning experience” of sorts in that kind of time. 45 minutes, which is more like 40 or less once people have settled, is really hard to work with, I find.

    Perhaps one problem is that conference participants see a programme with many presentations they’d like to attend, and by having 45 minute (or less) slots, it allows people to go to more – whereas I think most regular conference goers would agree that (a) longer sessions allow more depth; and (b) in terms of attending sessions, sometimes less is more – attending one good session and then taking time to reflect/journal/whatever on what came up for you in a quiet space is often much more useful that attending two good sessions back to back (and so on all day long, for sometimes 3 days), because whatever you’d picked up ends up getting lost.

    When I attend conferences and see people rushing from session to session, I sometimes want to tell them to relax (and then I realise that if there’s such a thing as a personal “conference style”, then it’s quite possible that what I think is the best way to attend a conference is not necessarily other people’s).

    I’ve gone off the point here haven’t I? Perhaps the way forward is for conference organisers to have longer and shorter sessions in parallel (one 2′ 15″ minute block for example, could have three 40 minute presentations in room A and 2 one hour sessions in room B). (I do realise this wouldn’t work either)

    PS I’ve seen a new version of PK which is even shorter. I forget the details, but it’s less than 5 minutes.

    • Hi Andy,

      twenty minutes? Hmm, that’s beginning to get silly, isn’t it. Especially if you have to travel some to get there.

      I think you are definitely on to something when you talk about the need for ‘catch-up’, reflection time after talks. We need time to talk about them, find out if other people heard the same as we did, hear what talks they went to.

      Which is why the coffee break is such an important part of conferences, perhaps.

      Jeremy

  4. Jeremy,

    Another good theme! I tend to look on PK as an entertainment, a welcome break from a long day of stimulating presentations, a time when I can have a glass of wine, wind down a bit and laugh with my colleagues. The first one I did had semi-serious content, but since then I’ve tended towards lighter, funnier stuff simply because those are the PKs I like to watch. In Turkey I’m doing a look at unlikely book titles, and it’s entirely unconnected with work. For me it’s about me having some fun and also – hopefully – giving others a laugh too. I’m not against serious or ELT-connected PKs at all, I just prefer to take a break. I watched Penny Ur do one on matching exercises in Paris, and it was a welcome break from the high-speed onslaught of the funny ones. Maybe, like many other things, it’s a question of balance. Looking forward to Turkey and seeing what everyone else does…

    In terms of input sessions and conferences, I’m tending these days to preferring a 45 – 60 minute plenary with a more practical follow-up workshop. This gives me the opportunity to cover some content to think about in the plenary and some content to work with in the workshop.

    I guess there’s a difference between, say, a conference and a ‘training event’. I’m quite happy to do four-hour hands-on practical workshops, etc., but for conferences I’m hard-pushed to stay engaged as an audience member past the 60 minute threshold.

    Gavin

    • Hi Gavin,

      yes I agree about the benefit of longer sessions (see my reply to Karenne above).

      As regards Pecha Kucha I am looking forward to yours in Istanbul. For myself I am trying to say something serious while people are laughing (if you see what I mean). But it occurs to me that PK events are mildly gladiatorial, even more perhaps than talks – tho’ speakers compare reception, applause etc even if they don’t admit it.

      But in the end I guess you are right to talk about the audience’s attention span. How long is that? Depends on how good the speaker is. What is a good speaker? Ah, round and round in circles!

      Jeremy

  5. Bonjour Jeremy ! Size does not matter at all, only content matters to me. If the speaker can keep me interested, I can listen to him/her for hours on. Yet I was really glad to discover PKs online : their very form and brevity generates enthusiasm with a feeling of urgency that is very specific and enjoyable.

  6. Hi Alice,

    your comment appeared just as I was commenting on other comments!

    ‘enthusiasm with a feeling of urgency’ – but isn’t that what ALL talks should be like?!!! I agree that’s what makes PK so enjoyable and edgy. But sometimes I wish more talks were just like that.

    Jeremy

  7. Jeremy,

    Love the idea of PKs being gladiatorial. There is an obsession with ‘popularity’ or reception. Odd how these days the measure of success in some fora is the ‘laughometer’ or hits on a website, or comments on a blog or whatever.

    In many fora we seem to be tending to looking at the ‘numbers’. Many things have become quantity over quality – or at least that’s the way it seems to be to me. If my blog posting has 45 comments and yours has 12, is my blog posting better / more interesting or whatever? Or should we also be examining the ‘quality’ of the discussion, the ‘quality’ of the comments, etc.?

    I suspect, however, that you meant gladiatorial in a slightly different way – most people (I think) do look on PK as an entertainment, and I think most people trying to entertain want to be as entertaining as possible – hence the desire to push the entertainment ‘envelope’ as far as we can go. Why else would people spend hours preparing something that lasts six minute? So it may be gladiatorial, but we may all be fighting ourselves to excel, to entertain, to inform a bit but to give people as good a time as we possibly can on the evening.

    I really enjoy seeing people work so hard at something which is largely inconsequential, but hugely good fun…

    Gavin

    • Hi Gavin,

      your reasons for enjoying Pecha Kucha sessions (working so hard for so little) make me think of opera.A huge orchestra, scenery, cast, chorus, the whole edifice – and for what? Something that evaporates in the night air the moment it has been bright forth!

      Gladiatorial? Well yes, in both senses. Can I, personally, meet the challenge, pass the test? It IS terrifying – but also exhilarating etc. But also in terms of reception and popularity in comparison to others. How come SHE gets a standing ovation? How come HE….? I don’t like thinking like that, but at least I admit it, cause everyone else is doing the same! I guess everyone wants to think they have made an impact – that people will talk about them long after the event. It’s another form of personal vanity, I guess. Guilty as charged, your honour!

      Jeremy

  8. Jeremy,

    I think that if you are looking for a rule, it should be the following:

    Presentations should last as long as the presenter is capable of making love.

    Length does matter. So your question is well taken.

    David

    • If Pecha Kucha is gladiatorial then under David’s proposal presentation length will be positively gladiatorial/marathonic (if we can mix classical Rome and Greece – and if marathonic is a word)

    • David,

      do I detect a note of levity?!! And you would have, of course, to define your terms here – the start point and the end point!

      But (to be serious) all presentation, all performance, has some affinity with an act of love, doesn’t it, especially where both parties are willing!

      Jeremy

  9. Gavin Dudeney :
    Jeremy,
    If my blog posting has 45 comments and yours has 12, is my blog posting better / more interesting or whatever? Or should we also be examining the ‘quality’ of the discussion, the ‘quality’ of the comments, etc.?

    not to hijack the conversation but I’ve been really lovin’ this recent change in the blogosphere since Jeremy and Scott through in their hats.

    That so many people have decided to start talking back had really been a thrilling development with wonderful knock-on effects that all of us bloggers are now receiving more comments. 🙂

    • Thanks, Karenne,

      and yes popularity is often measured by numbers (of replies, of length of applause, numbers attending etc). But that kind of instant measurement (the size thing again)is ephemeral, perhaps. Only later do we start to measure quality. It takes more time?

      Jeremy

  10. As one of the people who kicked off the whole Pecha Kucha thing (in ELT! in ELT! I hasten to add) I thought I’d better add my two cents here.

    I’m with Gavin that I view it largely as entertainment (although personally I don’t see it as some gladiatorial contest), and the first one was at IATEFL, at the end of the day when everyone has been talked at at length and are pretty much ready to unwind. That being said, it’s best when there is a real mix and you have some side-splittingly funny ones followed by a more thoughtful one.

    It works because it’s different. If all presentations ended up getting shorter and shorter (and this became the norm) then within a few years someone would come along and suggest a long session and it will be seen as a breath of fresh air.

    I’ve been very happy that PK has caught on – I’ve hosted them at five conferences in five different countries and people always love it. As a presenter it has helped me immensely for longer presentations too.

    However, I think that you have a good point for reflection Jeremy, and that is about speeding up, attention spans and so on. I am in fact thinking of doing my next Pecha Kucha presentation on precisely this issue!

    As far as the other issue of changing goal posts (ie a 60 min becomes a 45 min) I also find this quite frustrating. For me, it’s equally bad when it becomes longer, e.g. 60 min suddenly becomes 90 min. I have still yet to perfect the “amazing elastic talk”, something with the same number of slides, same handout and same preparation that can last anywhere from 45 min to 90 min.

    I personally think a plenary is fine at 1 hour max. I enjoy workshops that are 90 minutes long, as long as we get to do something in the workshop. Twenty minutes seems really short. Faced with that, I would probably do a Pecha Kucha and leave the last 14 minutes for questions and discussions.

    Thanks Jeremy!

    • Hi Lindsay,

      yes you did indeed kick off the ELT PK thing (as I know to my cost from that first session!), and you have done it consummately well.

      I like (and agree with) your contention that PK will only last until someone comes up with something different. I wonder what will be next!

      I agree with the difficulty of expanding a talk – frequently achieved by just putting people into pairs and groups to discuss a point that you would otherwise have made yourself!

      That’s the thing, really. If you are an experienced presenter (well actually experience isn’t the issue here)you try and construct a narrative to fill the time available. That’s why changes make it all so difficult.

      As for PK? Let it last and amuse people for as long as it hits the spot! What’s next?!

      Jeremy

  11. Most of the talks I see are between two and four hours, and I’ve come to think that 3 hours is a pretty good length, as long as a short break and several changes of pace are included. 4 hours is too long, even the eager groups are worn out by then.

  12. Hi Gemma,

    yes, I think 3 hours (with breaks) works OK – despite an initial sinking feeling when I know I’ve been asked to do one! But you can achieve something in 3 hours. Provided, as you say, that there is workshop activity, breaks, pace changes etc.

    I was surprised by the usefulness of a 6-hour session I ran recently (lunch in-between). Hard work, but lots of progress made (I think!) But that worked because there was a morning and an afternoon. 4 hours doesn’t give you that.

    But to go from 6 hours to 6 minutes 40 seconds!! That’s quite a leap!

    Jeremy

  13. Shelly Terrell :

    Karenne,

    I agree with Jeremy, you’ll be a star! I’m really excited to see both of your Pecha Kuchas.

    I think there is room for long talks. I enjoy watching the recaps at home of keynotes that where very captivating. I think a great presenter makes you want to stay and listen. However, other presenters make you want to leave at 10 minutes unfortunately. I think it depends on how invested one is in the materials and how developed the presentation is as far as speaker presence, slide design, and so forth. I just watched a keynote that was 45 minutes. The presenter had prepared 1 hour and a half and asked if he could go longer. He had people return during their lunch to listen to the rest of his speech. I feel for people at conferences who have to manage time but I also am the type who would stay during my lunch time to see a speaker I have been wanting to see that I may never get to see again for another year or 10.

    Thanks Shelly,

    it always comes back to the fact, doesn’t it, that there are no rules. It does depend on who is giving the talk, whether they invest it with energy and passion, and whether it chimes with our interests.

    But too short is, well, too short unless it’s something fun like PK, perhaps, and too long in the wrong hands is very long indeed!

    Jeremy

  14. Surely it’s not a question of optimum length, but of matching length to aim to optimal form of delivery. A good speaker with something worthwhile to say and an engaging manner should be able to deliver from a two-minute soundbite to a two hour (or more) workshop… anyway, that’s my two second soundbite on the topic! Nicky

    • Don’t agree🙂

      Am a big fan of TED and I watch a lot of their short videos (short videos being a better source of fodder for English classes than long videos).

      For me short presentations = haute cuisine. Pretty, taste nice but you need to go out to McDonalds after.

      I’d rather have solid meat and potatoes right from the get go – give me something I can sink my teeth into, digest and grow fat from.
      🙂
      Karenne

      • Hi Karenne,

        love this! Haute cuisine + McDonalds (though you could have chosen a better place to get fed ‘up’ in).

        I guess the meat and potatoes diet depends on the seasoning!

        Jeremy

  15. I know this isn’t really the point and is totally obsequious, but I was at your PK talk last year and absolutely LOVED it – I thought it was beautiful, visually and linguistically, and it buzzed around my head for days afterwards, making me smile, so thanks!

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