The Presentation Summit, Sep 27-30, 2015

Oct 12-15, San Diego CA

Questions and answers about the conference

What type of an event is this?

The Presentation Summit is not a web conference and it is not a big trade show. It is a user conference, featuring live presentations, workshops, and a hands-on support center. People attend in order to learn how to become better content creators, better presentation designers, better storytellers, better presenters, and better users of PowerPoint and other software. They leave with a much broader and deeper understanding of the principles and best practices for presentation design, creation, and delivery.

The more wired, Internet-centric, and impersonal our professions become, the more important it is to create a sense of belonging with a group of users. You can only go so far with social media and webinars; there still is no substitute for meeting colleagues and peers face-to-face. It is almost magical the kind of energy created when several hundred people convene, all of whom have something in common before even meeting one another. And if it really does take a village to evolve a group of professionals, we are the ones to create it. We are now in our fourth decade of hosting conferences like the Presentation Summit.

Every detail about this conference is designed for and dedicated to the presentation professional and the end users of presentation software. Your pursuit to become more capable, more creative, and more productive is our Job One.

What types of people come to the Presentation Summit?

While it might be accurate, it would not be terribly helpful to simply answer that this conference is for everyone involved in business pursuits, so let’s categorize:

FORTUNE 500 COMPANIES have obvious stakes in the game, whereby the first impression of a sales call in a conference room or a large-scale announcement could make all the difference in cultivating business relationships and winning hearts and minds. Large organizations have been slowly awakening to the realization that investing in presentation skills is essential, and with that comes the conclusion that neither “PowerPoint training” nor “public speaking classes” is sufficient.

On the other side of the spectrum, ENTREPRENEURS and SMALL BUSINESSES are never not selling and trying to distinguish themselves. Whether you are offering consulting services to law firms, graphic design services to the retail industry, or restaurant supplies to a downtown district, potential customers all want to know the same thing: how are you different than the next? If you know how to tell a compelling story and engage an audience, large or small, you immediately distinguish yourself from nearly all of the other people doing what you do. Good presentation skills make up a transferable commodity—audiences are more likely to trust you with your core message when they see the confidence with which you deliver it.

And in the middle are MEDIUM-TIER BUSINESSES, MARKETING TEAMS, and COMMUNICATION DEPARTMENTS across the country and around the world. People in this group tend to go on auto-pilot, as it is all too easy to trot out the company template, freshen up the language, and head out the door with it. They rely on their slides to an unhealthy degree because they lack the perspective to question the conventional wisdom that likely has prevailed since before they took their current jobs. We don’t allow anyone to go on auto-pilot at the Presentation Summit—we question everything! And from this healthy scrutiny, you are certain to come away with a total reboot of how you approach the presentation process.

From all three of these broad categories, we attract active content creators, heavy users of PowerPoint, and those who are tasked with delivering presentations to audiences, both in person and virtually. We also garner the attention of the department heads who lead the afore-mentioned people. Advertising departments, market research, sales, educational, judicial, financial, medical, government, military…in short, anyone who wants to become more proficient, more productive, and more effective with presentation content is a likely candidate to apply for registration.

PowerPoint is easy—why would I pay to go to a conference?

It’s true, PowerPoint is not difficult to pick up and begin creating slides. Our host’s daughters began creating slides when they were each 8, and we all know people who installed it and immediately began creating slides in advance of an upcoming presentation they had to give. It is probably the easiest program in the Office suite to learn.

This is the bad news, not the good news.

This is why the risk is high with PowerPoint. This is why Death by PowerPoint is in everyone’s lexicon. With other creative apps, such as Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Access, potential users know that it is too difficult to develop proficiency without help. But inexperienced PowerPoint users can already be on their fifth not-so-attractive slide within 15 minutes of breaking the seal. And PowerPoint presentations are rarely created for private use—they are made to be shared with others. That means that an entire company’s reputation goes along for the ride when an inexperienced user begins creating and delivering presentations.

New PowerPoint users need something like the Presentation Summit precisely because the program is so accessible. They need to begin developing taste, sensibility, and restraint before they become a hazard to their own careers!

Perhaps more important, proficiency with the software does not imply expertise with crafting and delivering an engaging and successful presentation. In fact, all too often, the software actually gets in the way. The Summit goes far beyond mere PowerPoint training, covering the whole of the presentation process in a uniquely organic way.

Intermediate users stand to gain even more; they are ready to begin mastery of the techniques that would separate them from the pack. They know how to create slides; now they need to understand how to craft a message that will have maximum impact. They know how to animate bullets; now it is time to learn how to create animation schemes that complement the message, They understand how to import photos to a slide; they will learn how to integrate evocative visuals with simple text messages to ensure that audiences feel the weight of their messages. They will learn these and dozens of other similar skills at the Summit.

Advanced users up the ante even further and this conference delivers with fully-conceived workshops on advanced automation, deployment across thousands of seats at an organization, and a host of secrets revealed for working at maximum speed and efficiency.

This will likely be another tight budget year. How do I justify attending?

When we debuted this conference in 2003, presentation skills were barely on anyone’s radar. Companies were content to invest in traditional advertising and branding initiatives, secure in a belief that PowerPoint was an easy skill to pick up.

Everything has changed.

From Fortune 100 firms to the sole proprietor, everyone now realizes the importance of creating professional-grade presentation content and delivering it with maximum impact. With the result of bad PowerPoint everywhere you look, the danger of being ill-equipped in this medium is crystal clear.

If you are the head of a communications department who wants to improve presentation skills, your choice is to hire new people with those skills or to train the people you have. In a down economy, Door No. 2 is the most viable option, and the last thing you need is just to send your team to another PowerPoint training class or to a vaguely-defined learning event that promises to turn them into presentation gods or rock stars. They need a more complete exposure to the principles, philosophies, and finer points of presentation design and creation. They also need to widen their network of peers and support avenues. No event on the planet delivers these resources as well as the Summit.

If you are the independent contractor, small business owner, or employee of a budget-strapped firm, you make yourself instantly more valuable to your clients or your bosses when you give your presentation skills this kind of shot in the arm. We choose our cities carefully and manage our cost structures diligently so that we can remain affordable to small businesses and independent professionals.

If you need help convincing your boss of the value of the Presentation Summit, here you go

How do I know it won’t be boring and tedious like so many business conferences?

The end users who join us at the Presentation Summit this fall will not have to sit through keynote addresses about sales forecasts, industry trends, or document object models. Instead, if you are one of the 225 to secure a seat at this conference, you will be watching the true experts in the presentation community. You will be watching the most talented presentation experts showcase their talents:

  • How to choose the most effective way to communicate your message.
  • How to deliver that message with maximum impact.
  • How to connect with your audience on an emotional level, not just an intellectual one.
  • How to tell an engaging story, not just recite facts and figures.
  • How to create content for e-learning and instructional design projects.
  • How to increase your understanding of the software many times over.
  • How professional templates are created.
  • How transitions are tuned.
  • How animations are perfected.
  • How slide layouts are made to look inviting and not obnoxious.
  • How to scrutinize your own work and be your own best critic.
  • How to ensure that your presentation looks as good on a notebook PC 3,000 miles away as it does on your own computer.
  • How to work seamlessly on tablets, mobile devices, and in the cloud.
  • How advanced users can write powerful scripts to automate workflow.
  • And how to become dramatically more efficient and productive.

Here at R. Altman & Associates, we have been organizing and hosting user conferences since 1989. We know precisely the formula for a successful event:

1. Amass the most talented team of experts and trainers.

2. Instruct them to tell the audience everything they know—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Victoria Aleman on the Summit environment

3. Create an atmosphere of informality and friendliness.

4. Practically force the patrons to meet and get to know one another.

5. Pack outrageous amounts of tips and tricks into eight hours each day.

6. Wind down and socialize at 4:30pm.

7. Go out on the town with new friends each evening.

Our conferences spawn lasting relationships. We bring people together who share a common bond and spirit and we turn them into colleagues, business partners, best friends, soulmates…even bride and groom (it’s happened three times).

Do I need to be an advanced user to attend?

Definitely not. We design the Summit for those who use the software regularly, or expect to do so, but we make no assumptions about your level of expertise. We offer three concurrent seminars and workshops, and there will always be a seminar taking place designed for beginning and/or intermediate users, or else there will be instructors in the Help Center dedicated to working with new users on fundamentals and basics.

So we are by no means a conference just for experts (although you’ll surely meet your share of them there). We think of ourselves as a conference for earnest users, for those who have made a significant commitment to the presentation industry.

Is this a Microsoft event?

It is not. The conference is independently owned and operated. Microsoft contributes in a very important and tangible way, but does not participate financially. This suits both parties—we produce an independent event, in which you know you are getting real-world advice and instruction, and Microsoft can support a conference that doesn’t create a resource drain.

If this is an independent show, will Microsoft be there at all?

Microsoft's Chris Maloney on the value of the event to the PowerPoint team and the product's development

Yes. There will be several representatives at the event, ranging from customer service reps, product managers, programmers, and developers. If you have a new feature to request, the likelihood is high that you will be able to share it with the person who decides what features go into the next version. If you want to ask about a company policy, you’ll find a receptive ear for that, as well.

How do I know that it won’t be a bunch of hype?

Jamie Garroch on the open and direct dialogue that the conference promotes

As we said above, the Presentation Summit is independently owned and operated. The host, Rick Altman, is a computer journalist of over 20 years with a noted lack of shyness for offering opinion and commentary. So while many trade show events have as their primary purpose the selling of goods, services, and technology, our primary purpose is the teaching of them. Trade shows offer carefully-staged demos in which the software always looks terrific; our presenters are there to show you what to do when the software doesn’t look so terrific. If a feature is awesome, we take delight in showing you. And if a feature doesn’t work properly, we take seriously our responsibility to tell you so, and more importantly, to show you the way around it.

Our sole interest is in expanding your understanding. We expect that by attending this conference, it means that you are already a PowerPoint user or have already chosen to immerse yourself in the presentation medium. The last thing you need is a sales pitch.

If it is not a trade show, will there be vendors present?

The Presentation Summit is not a trade show, but it features one. The Summit qualifies approximately 12 to 20 third-party vendors to exhibit their goods and services on one of the days. The Summit Expo is held on the Tuesday of the conference, and we integrate it into the program, so you can visit the vendors and not miss out on any seminars you want to attend.

What happens on Sunday?

Sunday is our Registration day and also our so-called Crash Course Day. On this day, we offer optional seminars for those who are new to the software, who want to brush up on their fundamentals, or who want to explore a topic more deeply before the main part of the conference begins.

Our Sunday Crash Courses are the only part of the curriculum not covered in the conference fee. They carry an extra charge of $125 per two-hour course.

Why should I choose this conference over a hands-on training course?

This is the question we are asked the most. We think that the Presentation Summit offers the best of all worlds, as we provide both hands-on and hands-off components.

The formal seminars are presentation style, with sessions typically attended by several dozen people. If they were conducted like a training class, all in attendance would be forced to go at the pace of the slowest person, and you would not be satisfied. Instead, you will be watching the program in action or illustrations of ideas on a large screen with a state-of-the-art projection system, professionally prepared and paced by one of our accomplished presenters. You are certainly welcome to bring a notebook computer with you to follow along (about 25% do), but it is neither required nor expected.

The hands-on component features our renowned Help Center, at your beck and call from morning to night every day. At the Help Center, a staff of experts flanks a small armada of networked computers, and their job is to say “Yes Ma’am” or “Yes Sir” when you approach them with any question or problem. You can bring files with you on media or bring them on your notebook. You can watch over their shoulders, have them watch over yours, or have them clear out so you can just experiment. However you decide to utilize it, the Help Center is about as hands-on as you can get. We have patrons who come just for the Help Center, and others who describe to us about the 15 minutes spent there on Sunday afternoon (before the conference officially began) that made the entire event worthwhile.

You write often about “experts”—who are these experts?

Got an hour? The list reads like a who’s who of presentation professionals and PowerPoint experts. We combine the following groups of people to form our team:

  • The true luminary and transcendent figures in the presentation industry, such as Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds.
  • Members of Microsoft’s Most Valued Professional (MVP) team of volunteers who assist users online in the newsgroups and in person at user group meetings.
  • Technical specialists who have developed international acclaim for their books, tutorials, training expertise, and perspective on presentation.
  • Leaders of firms who create presentations for some of the largest organizations in the world.
  • Members of the Microsoft team of product developers, the very people responsible for creating the software.

What if the topics to be covered don’t address my particular needs?

See our comments above about our incredible Help Center. There, you can ask any question under the sun.

Can I bring my spouse and will he/she have to pay full price?

Yes and no, respectively. Spouses are welcome, and we have a multi-tiered program for accommodating them (four, if you count just sending them off to the shops, tourist sites, and golf courses during the day). Your spouse or domestic partner can accompany you for meals, sit in on the seminars, or get full conference access. For details and pricing, call or email us.

So meals are provided?

Yes. Buffet breakfasts each morning, full sit-down lunches on Monday and Tuesday, morning and afternoon snacks, and possibly dinner on Tuesday. Wednesday’s lunch is on your own, as many in attendance choose to take some time for themselves or head out in small groups to local restaurants.

Will there be after-hours events?

Yes, we are already busy checking out all of the city’s hotspots. And you haven’t lived until you’ve watched or participated in our famous PowerPoint Trivia Contest, which will take place on Monday, right after the seminars conclude. Imagine a cross between Jeopardy and Family Feud, set to questions about PowerPoint.

How should I dress?

You should be comfortable, however you define it. Some people wear business suits and pants suits to our conferences, but most don’t. Most wear pants and slacks, many wear jeans and conference t-shirts. Expected New Orleans temps in late-September are mid-80s during the day and low-60s in the evening.

How do I get there?

Flying into New Orleans is simple and a strong Southwest Airlines presence keeps rates competitive from all parts of the country. International travelers could choose to connect in Atlanta or Houston. The French Quarter is an easy and inexpensive shuttle ride from the airport.

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