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A Tonic for Ramshackle Wordsmiths
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Copyright Melanie Spiller 2011. Do not copy without permission.
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Presentation Slides and Handouts

In the last blog, you tagged along while I did the research to create a day-long chant workshop. I know that most of you are creating technical workshops, but I’m sure you can extrapolate. Today, I’ll talk about the visual aids that can enhance or detract from the workshop experience. I also polled some of my favorite presenters for a few dos and don’ts.

 

In order to make presentation slides, I thought about the lecture notes. I wanted the class to listen to what I had to say more than burying their noses in the handouts, so I had a fine line to tread regarding what went up on screen, how similar that was to the handouts, and what I had to say that wasn’t reading straight from the slides.

 

First, I thought I should give the group some sense of how the day would proceed. A simple schedule would also make a good handout. So that’s the first slide and the first page of the handout.

 

The lecture portion of the class was structured as a basic listing of common themes (drones, rhythm, monody—a single melodic line without harmonies—and polyphony—multiple concurrent melodic lines), and then we’d work through the various continents, cultures, and religions by listening to recordings. Each chant warranted a small discussion about it before we listened and the discussion topics constituted my lecture notes.

 

I needed to talk about the basic groupings I came up with—my organizing principles—before we started listening. I had to talk about drones, rhythm, monody and polyphony, so I needed to put those basic themes up on the screen. To make the slide more interesting than a list of four words, I included abbreviated definitions for each term. The handout had a more rich discussion of each term, and I would discuss each term from my notes during the lecture, perhaps with little historical asides or entertaining anecdotes. The second slide, then, included the four terms and brief definitions, the second page of the handout included the four terms plus a few more terms that would crop up during the discussion, and nice discursive definitions went with each.

 

Next, I tried to prioritize the chants I wanted to play, separating them by the basic themes within each culture, those I felt were really unusual, or those that could be useful in the “build your own” portion of the day. I didn’t think slides were necessary for that portion, and, if I watched the clock and found that things went more slowly than in my practice sessions, the less I commit to in print during the listen and lecture, the more flexible I can be during the actual class.

 

At this point, I had created two slides, one for the basic schedule of the day and another with the four basic terms we’d need.

 

The rest of the morning was listen and lecture, and I decided not to commit any of that portion to slides or handouts, so it’s on to the afternoon of “build your own.”

 

Before we started, I wanted to give a quick voice lesson. Singing for an entire afternoon can be brutal on a trained voice, and I expect that many students will be non-singers. This phase won’t require a slide, but I have to remember to bring stacks of business cards and shameless advertising so I could pick up a new student or two for private voice lessons. I’d put that in my lecture notes.

 

Next, there would be a few ground rules so that everyone got a turn to solo who wanted a turn, so that no one fainted from exhaustion, hunger, or ecstasy, and so that we could end on time. The ground rules definitely deserved a slide, and I think I wanted them on a handout, too.

 

That seemed to do it. I had three slides and related handouts. There would also be a discography in the handouts, and perhaps a biography of yours truly, replete with contact information. That’s at least five pages, but I guessed that the definitions would take up more than a single page. So, in all, perhaps seven or eight pages of handouts and three slides for a five- to six-hour lecture. That’s probably far fewer than most technical presentations.

 

Now it’s time to start assembling the slides. I’ve polled some of my favorite presenters, and this is their advice:

 Phew. That should do it. Now I’m off to refine my lecture notes. If you’re going to be in the San Francisco Bay Area in late July, come spend a day chanting with me.