Thoughts · Workshops & Seminars

On Why I Won’t be Giving You My Slides

I speak at schools and universities fairly frequently. I average at about one event a month, which isn’t spectacular, but it is regular. Whenever I do one of these events, I am asked by the organiser or the host to share my slides with the institution and the participants. There are two different points when this might be requested and for various reasons.

Usually, in the run up to the event, somebody will contact me and ask me to send my slides in advance so that they can be distributed to the participants. I always refuse.

Then, some time after the event, I will be asked again, sometimes because the participants want them and sometimes because they are needed for a report. Either way, again, I refuse.

This doesn’t always go down particularly well, and in most cases, I’ll be asked again several times. And I’ll refuse again several times. Eventually they stop contacting me, and occasionally they’ll even ask me back for other events in the future, though if they do, we’ll still have to repeat the whole process.

There are a number of reasons I refuse to share my slides. I refuse to share them in advance for two main reasons. Both of these reasons relate very closely to the fact that my approach to these events is very different from what most Indonesians are used to seeing on so called professional development programmes. The vast majority of these events are very formal, lecture-style seminars. More often than not, the scheduled speakers are professors there to present some new research, and the way they choose to do this is by pasting their papers on the screen and reading them aloud.

When I speak, I aim for the events to be much more interactive than this. I like to make all of my programmes as engaging as possible. On thing this means is that I aim for high audience participation, which I achieve through eliciting and group discussions. I prefer it when the thrust of my materials come not from me but arise from discussion amongst those in the audience. This would of course not work if I were to send my materials in advance. That is the first reason.

The second reason is that the materials I bring to an event, in support largely of the first reason, are often quite sparse. I do use slides—my preferred presentation application is Keynote for Mac—but they are usually little more than visual aids: images and diagrams to illustrate the theories I present or perhaps quotes to back up the claims I make. There is very rarely any useable information to be found in my slides, so sending them in advance would be useless at best, confusing at worst.

Of course, the second reason there also constitutes of the reasons that I don’t like to send my materials following an event either. They would be of little use to anybody without a script or full recording of the presentation itself. The other reason that I refuse to send my slides afterwards is that I prefer to think that the participants shouldn’t need my notes because they should have their own. If they learned from the event, then the content is in their heads; they don’t need my slides.

I should point out here that feedback I get from participants tends to indicate that my materials have been understood and retained. Apparently, it’s not even the case that the participants actually need the slides because they didn’t understand the presentation or because I was not an effective teacher. No, it would appear that the only reason the slides are requested is because that is the norm.

I wonder how much this is the norm elsewhere. It strikes me at first glance as typical Indonesian bureaucracy, but it seems to me entirely possible that speakers being expected to share their materials with their audience is standard practice anywhere.

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