Colloquium's philosophy

Philosophy of presentation tools

Clear and honest communication of ideas has never been more important than this point in time.

Over years of giving talks, I came to the realisation that none of the available software really solves the problems involved with giving a presentation. Most software is ‘slideware’, that is, software for designing slides. Sure, good design helps. But think back to some great talks you've seen. How many of those consisted of empty white slides with a single graph or diagram, or perhaps no slides at all?

Even Steve Jobs's famous keynotes have almost no content on the slides at all. The most important thing is that a presentation has a clear story. A slide design program is completely the wrong tool for achieving this. When people try, they end up with slides full of text, with one bullet point per sentence. If you intend to convey the information in written text, why not write a paper instead?

Tools like Prezi have a new approach to slide design, but it's still the same thing at heart. To me, that doesn't solve the real problem of helping presenters give presentations. This is what I aim to address with Colloquium.

The first aspect of this is to encourage you to write a story, not slides. Colloquium makes “narrative” the first class object. When you start the program, the first thing you see looks more like a word processor than a slide editor. It invites you to start collecting your thoughts as text, then add slides later.

It's not just about preparation, either. In the thick of a presentation, having a script worked out in advance frees you from thinking about the content, and lets you concentrate on posture, body language, speaking clearly and so on. Since I started using Colloquium myself, I constantly get feedback about how good the delivery was.

The second aspect is getting the timing right. Running over time is exceptionally common in scientific presentations (and probably other kinds as well). Not all slides take the same time to present, of course. However, when the content of the talk is laid out, it's possible to make a reasonable estimate of progress and adjust speed accordingly. This works regardless of whether you write short notes in the narrative, or longer prose, as long as you're consistent.

There are other aspects as well, which aren't yet implemented in Colloquium but are coming soon. Watch this space!