Geoff Mulgan, former head of Tony Blair's strategy unit, this evening provided a striking lesson in how to do a presentation that favours the audience - by chunking the content in a way that stimulates conversations. It was all the more effective because there was no Powerpoint, no exhortation, and no evident ego. Clearly some people can survive a tumble in the No 10 spin machine.
The occasion was a meeting of the Tomorrow Network, a free, loose association of about 2200 people treated by the Tomorrow Project to end-of-the-day meetings every few months, mainly in London. Not all at once, of course.
Tonight's topic was 'The future of the electronic media', which is usually a great temptation to fancy slides and baffling techie references. Instead we got 10 stories that provided different windows into the issues, based around technology, business, geography, power relationships, civil society, mentality, community, children, morality, time. The content was a crisp mix of anecdote, analysis, and hunch, all in 20 minutes. I'll do more later on one or two of them. My point here is that the presentation was - it seemed to me - designed specifically to prompt some conversations (and incidently offer at least 10 neat blog items). It occurs to me you could also take the structure and use the 10 categories for further research... a good jump start to some Spurling perhaps. Or do a mindmap - here's a start.
As it was, after some question and answer, we moved to more traditional knowledge-sharing over a free drinks in the splendid building of the Royal College of Physicians. There was no problem finding something to talk about.
The other speaker, futurist Dr Wendy Schultz, had some great ideas too, but suffered from.... uhhh, electronic media. Her Mac-based Powerpoint didn't fare well on a PC lacking Quicktime, so most slides featured big white spaces telling us about TIFFs, missing compression gizmos and so on. She promised us a multimeg, multimedia download - later. It seemed like a telling metaphor about technology, people and communication, with Wendy triumphing over the limitations of her technical aids.
Geoff is now director of the Institute of Community Studies, which has a 50-year track record of social innovation initiated by its founder Michael Young, who invented the Open University and Consumers Association. Lots more ideas will follow, I'm sure. They may even be accessible too.
Free membership of the Tomorrow Network - details here
Update: Hands up if you are a knowledge activist