November 21st, 2011
In full-day workshops, it’s not uncommon for the workshop instructor to put together exercises. When the workshop is about design, those exercises are often design projects, where the attendees work through the techniques while building something.
Now, what they are building is usually some made-up project, constructed to practice the techniques. The actual results of the design don’t really matter, but, in a great workshop, the students become engaged and put a lot of energy into what they’re building.
At the end of the workshop, they want to show all their hard work. And everyone wants to have a glimpse of what the other folks in the class have done, to see how their design compares to other efforts.
In my workshops, I’ve tried a bunch of different approaches to the sharing. I’ve held walk-around show-and-tell, where people stand by their work. It’s like at a poster session or science fair, while others see what’s they’ve done. Unfortunately, the person who has to explain the work doesn’t get to see what others have done.
I also have tried having each team give a short presentation. It’s interesting for the first couple, but then, because everyone has worked on the same thing, it starts to drag on. Presenters don’t stick to their time limits and their presentations tend to be dry. The pain is compounded because all this happens at the end of a busy day, when everyone is exhausted by being in an all-day workshop.
Kevin Hoffman has a unique way of handling this. In his UI16 Workshop on Conducting Effective Kickoff Meetings, he had his attendees work on a design to practice the various kickoff meeting techniques he was teaching. At the end of the day, they’d all worked hard on their projects.
To show their work, he had them give presentations, Pecha Kucha style. That means they have to give their presentations using 5 slides which automatically advance every 30 seconds. One slide is a picture that Kevin took of their work, while the other four slides are clever art that the visual designers at Happy Cog put together. They don’t see the slides until the audience does and then have to make up a tie-in to their thinking, right on the spot.
The result was an entertaining set of short presentations. We got to see the work, while people had some fun improvising to the slides. Because Kevin only does this with four teams, it goes by very quickly.
I’ll be using the Pecha Kucha style presentation in my next project-based workshop.
[Update: Kevin tells me he borrowed this technique from Luke Wroblewski.]
Here are some of the slides that Kevin used, created by the Happy Cog visual designers: Chris Cashdollar, Yesenia Perez Cruz, Brian Warren, and Kevin Sharon. Imagine presenting your own work, having to work these images into your description of why you made the choices you did. How fun is that?Tweet