Thursday, March 1, 2012

Is your presentation more useful than a facial tissue?

If not, then why are you bothering to say it or write it? Before any presentation you should ask one critical question: So What?

Last month I blogged about how Jeff Davidson had written an excellent article in Speaker magazine about how to Develop a Sure-Fire Topic.

A few days later I read his 135-word January 24th Interruption Management blog post titled "Too Much Information." In it Jeff just bleated about how huge the U.S. Library of Congress is.

He spouted a bunch of large numbers, like how their holdings require over 500 miles of shelf space, and their staff takes in 7,000 new items each day. But he didn’t bother to make those numbers real. For example, their 532 miles of shelf space would make a single row stretching from Washington, D.C. down to Atlanta, Georgia. With a permanent staff of 3,525 people, their handling 7000 items a day only means roughly two per person.

When you have finished reading his blog post you are no better off than when you started. Is there one thing you really should know about the Library of Congress? Yes! They have an awesome online catalog of prints and photographs. I have used their images extensively as illustrations. Three recent examples are here and here and here.

What else should you know about the Library of Congress? They are responsible for the controlled vocabulary of subject headings used by most libraries to organize their collections. It’s extremely convenient that when you look at your public library shelves for a book you can browse the nearby books and find more information. That organization took lots of effort. If librarians were thoughtless or lazy, books might instead just have been shelved based on the order in which they were bought. (There are such accession numbers, but users don’t need to know them).

As R. L. Howser pointed out last week, having said something that changes our audience is The Only Result That Matters.

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