The Deck That Didn’t

Traditional Design & New TechnologyHow many more weblog posts can I squeeze out of my trip to this year’s South by Southwest Interactive Festival? This is the last one, I think: it wraps up the panel discussion in which I took part on the first day of the conference, “Traditional Design & New Technology.” As promised, I’m making the slides available for download. However, be forewarned that this deck is unlikely to be of much good to anyone. It was prepared as just a skeletal framework for the discussion, so there’s not a lot of content in the slides themselves.

In preparing for the session, Mark Boulton, Toni Greaves, Liz Danzico, Jason Santa Maria and I all labored through several rounds of a much more detailed and extensive deck of slides that we used to help us get our bearings with the subject matter. After several rounds, we ultimately decided that first framework was too constricting, that it would too forcefully guide the discussion and suppress the spontaneity of the group. So we took a deep breath and threw it all out, keeping only a choice few slides as touch-points for the conversation.

The Do-It-Yourself Panel Method

Below: Slip ’n’ slide. One of several heavily revised and ultimately discarded slides from our original preparation.

Here’s how it evolved: we had five very busy panelists with five full-time jobs in four different geographic regions, so there was some trouble finding the time to get out of the gate with the planning. As I’ve mentioned before, the panel was Mark Boulton’s brainchild, but, finding myself with two weeks off at the beginning of January, I decided to take a first pass.

So I sat down and knocked out an outline of some of the issues that I thought might make for a good discussion. For this, I started in OmniOutliner Pro, and then transferred it to Apple’s Keynote, translating my list of bullet points into a fairly sparse set of slides. I was going for an inventory of concepts, basically, and the first draft, which you can download here, was very sketchy. The goal was to provide a strawman that the others could react to, contradict, refute and/or embellish.

Sample Slide

I then posted the first draft to a shared Backpack page that we’d set up for collaborating on this panel. Each of the other panelists took a crack at adding notations, new bullet points and additional slides, posting their revisions back to the Backpack page. We went through several rounds of this, loading it up with lots of ideas, digressions and questions. We also supplemented this process with a few international conference calls, reviewing the slides together and hashing out which points could bear the scrutiny of a group discussion.

The Sliding Scale of Slide Effectiveness

Looking back now, we could almost have easily have just spent more time on conference calls, planning our session conversationally and focusing mostly on the chemistry of the group. But I don’t regret the work that we did on that deck at all; I think it was invaluable preparation that got our brains going and made us consider the issues at hand carefully. We needed to do that homework, if only to ultimately discard it, because we needed that foundation of familiarity — with the material, with the divergent viewpoints, and with one another’s various ideas of what shape the panel would take. If you take a close look at the last version of the document, you’ll see that it’s chock-full of notes, nested and tucked away here and there. It’s a pretty interesting document of a collaborative process, at least to me. You might find it interesting too.

Traditional Design & New Technology Drafts
Version Notes PDF
1.1 05 Jan 2006 This is the first draft, and is more an inventory of ideas than a complete narrative Download
1.6 31 Jan 2006 This is the last of the drafts we labored over. Note the cascading conversations. Download
2.0 11 Mar 2006 The final deck, as shown during the panel session, with beautiful design courtesy of Mark Boulton. Download


  1. Great insight into the process of putting together a panel. The second set of slides is great. I would have enjoyed some of those lines of conversation in the panel, but we could have been there all day.

  2. Thanks, Wilson. I wish we had more time to discuss those ideas in depth, too. There are actually a few other ideas not included in those presentation drafts that I’m hoping to expound upon in near future posts.

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