I started my SXSW Monday with a bang – Presenting Straight to the Brain. An excellent, knowledgeable moderator and three EXCELLENT presenters flooded the audience with solid presentation advice. There are some basic ideas that drive a good presentation:

  • Out of a 20-slide presentation, the brain only remembers 3-4 slides.
  • Look at a presentation more like a film strip rather than a handout for leaving behind. So, each slide gets one image and one audio track.
  • Users remember 65% more if you apply sight and sound. The sum of these two is much greater than the power of each by itself; we have to synchronize the two to get through to the mind. Don’t make the viewer choose between sight and sound – one will lose.
  • The brain cares about emotion. Using images that evoke an emotional response in an audience is way more effective than text on the screen.
  • Bullet and talking points are OUT. Using the screen as a vehicle for presentation notes begs our audience to switch off.
  • There was so much more to this presentation that I’ll bring back and we can use, but just seeing this list tells you how phenomenal this presentation was.


I perhaps chose poorly for my second session, especially following a show on great presentations. I went into Managing the “Expert” Client. They may as well have called this session Account Management 101. And, the two presenters REALLY should have gone to the early morning session. The Powerpoint was slide after slide of bullet points and the presenters read straight off the screen and from pre-typed notes in front of them. I was able to pull out a few interesting nuggets for gaining client buy-in for interactive ideas and refuting the top 5 objections:

  1. “No one uses Flash.” (99.1% of web users have at least Flash 7)
  2. “No one scrolls.” (If this were true, Google’s search returns would only result in one screen at a time. Amazon’s home page scrolls. So does Fox News)
  3. “More than one click is too many.” (There is only so much information you can pack into a home page before completely overwhelming a user. Research shows users will tolerate 3-4 clicks before giving up)
  4. “Our site has to work in every existing browser.” (NO website works perfectly in EVERY browser. We will optimize the site so that it works correctly in the most heavily penetrated versions of every browser)
  5. “I don’t want people to comment publicly on my blog.” (People are going to comment whether you make their comments public or not. You may as well begin with transparency from the start. If things go badly, we can always take that feature down).


After lunch, we hit the keynote with James Powderly, who is the co-founder of Graffiti Research Lab. Other than seeing some pretty cool avant garde laser art projects, I’d say this talk was wholly underwhelming for me. I expected to be much more inspired by him.


The next panel panel for me was Nielsen vs. New Market Research. There was a Nielsen representative on the panel, a new media measurement expert and the former CMO of Ford Worldwide. The latter two wore t-shirts and jeans…the Nielsen guy had on a tie and jacket – very characteristic of their companies. I learned that we are using a lot of great tools already (Google Analytics), but there are many free measurement tools out there we can still employ to help measure online brand awareness. I want to put them to work right away!


We wrapped the evening by listening to Bruce Sterling, sci-fi and Wired writer, discuss the evolution of journalism and ranting about modern society. Engaging, funny, insightful – what a brilliant and refreshing perspective he has.


This was a GREAT day for me at SXSW. We are on the right track at CM and are poised for the next generation of interactive development!


  • Scott Miller
    March 17, 2009, 2:56 pm  Reply

    Bruce Sterling? I’m jealous! He cowrote “The Difference Engine” with William Gibson, one of the best steampunk novels I’ve ever read.

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