I’ve been a fan of the Presentation Summit and Rick Altman for a long time. I even spoke at one a few years ago, and I’m up again this fall at the 2017 version, so I’m very excited to renew some old acquaintances, make new ones, and see how fast Rick falls apart under maximum stress.
Nick: Tell us a little about the history of the Presentation Summit.
Rick: I’ve been hosting learning conferences for literally decades, and I’m old enough to use literally literally. Back in the 1990s, we organized events for the graphic design and publishing industries. And the head of our Help Center, where we offer drop-in technical support, suggested that I hold a conference for PowerPoint. “Why the hell would anyone want that?” I answered back. But he just kept nagging me about it, and it was almost like I said ‘yes’ to get him off my back. So we announced PowerPoint Live back in 2003 and 180 people showed up for it! That was 15 years ago and here we are today.
Nick: It had a different name when you started?
Rick: That’s right, we were all about the software back then. Over the first few years, we began to evolve into all the other disciplines of presentation – message, design, and delivery — and we changed our name in 2010 to reflect that. We still have a strong geek contingent and a majority of our patrons are PowerPoint users, so when people refer to us as “that PowerPoint conference,” it’s all good.
Nick: Why is the Summit important in the public speaking world?
Rick: These are hard things that people are asked to do. Not too many people know how to craft a compelling story, most have no formal training in graphic design, they’re often undertrained in the software, and most people in this country are scared to death to speak in public. So what does this profession require? That we develop a narrative, use software to design visuals, and then deliver the story in public. No wonder people feel like the deck is stacked against them! At the Summit, we’re able to address the needs of all of our patrons – be they the one in charge of company narratives, designing presentations, building slides, out there speaking to audiences, or most typically, a little of all of these things.
Nick: What can attendees expect to get out of the event?
Rick: It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that attendees will learn more than they ever thought possible. The designers who join our team are among the most talented in the world and their before-and-after sessions are incredible. We bring in experts like you, Nick, for the delivery component. And I do not believe it to be an exaggeration to say that we offer the finest instruction on PowerPoint in the world. I will happily defend that statement!
So while all of that goes without saying, the part that is not so obvious is the networking, the bonding, the relationship-building. Those who attend this conference leave with an entirely new network of peers and friends that they can call on. We have seen incredible relationships forged at the Summit – from business partnerships all the way to a few romances.
Nick: Wait, really?
Rick: Three couples have met and married at our conferences.
Nick: What is the profile of the perfect attendee? Don’t say ‘single’.
Rick: (Laughs) No, we’re not actually in the matchmaking business. We attract the people who, one way or the other, owe their livelihoods to creating and/or delivering good presentation content. The folks in the trenches who do battle with the software, the ones who are tasked with designing better functioning templates, the people who have to develop compelling messages and stories, and the ones who stand before audiences, either live or virtual. While we get our share of executives and C-suite folks, most of our peeps are in the trenches getting their feet wet and their hands dirty.
Nick: I can see why there is so much bonding going on.
Rick: Yes, even at our opening reception on Sunday evening, our patrons realize that they have so much in common with all of these people they are meeting for the first time. They’re all going out to dinner that evening, by Monday night they’re hanging out in our late-night sessions, and by Tuesday night, exchanging hugs. I am just as proud of the community that we have spawned as I am the learning that we offer. Maybe even more.
Nick: Finally, tell us a little about you — what’s your story?
Rick: How far back do you want me to go? I wasn’t good enough to play tennis on the professional tour; this all became my fallback. Oh and hey, I invented desktop publishing. Long before John Warnock and Adobe coined the phrase, I was doing it with a suitcase computer called an Osborne, a copy of WordStar, and a 300-baud modem.
Nick: You really are old, aren’t you?
Rick: My daughters would be saying “no, he’s not that old,” while nodding vigorously.
Nick: Thanks, Old Timer! And you’re old enough to recognize the line from the song: ‘see you in September’. The conference is in Clearwater Beach, Florida over four days in September, 24 – 27, 2017. And Rick’s being too modest – he is a speaker, author, and conference-organizer-extraordinaire. His book, Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck and How You Can Make Them Better not only has a really edgy title, but is on its Third Edition.