Christian Heilmann

⚡️I don’t want Q&A in conference videos

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 at 5:30 pm

I present at conferences – a lot. I also moderate conferences and I brought the concept of interviews instead of Q&A to a few of them (originally this concept has to be attributed to Alan White for Highland Fling, just to set the record straight). Many conferences do this now, with high-class ones like SmashingConf and Fronteers being the torch-bearers. Other great conferences, like EdgeConf, are 100% Q&A, and that’s great, too.

confused Q&A speaker

I also watch a lot of conference talks – to learn things, to see who is a great presenter (and I will recommend to conference organisers who ask me for talent), and to see what others are doing to excite audiences. I do that live, but I’m also a great fan of talk recordings.

I want to thank all conference organisers who go the extra mile to offer recordings of the talks at their event – you already rock, thanks!

I put those on my iPod and watch them in the gym, whilst I am on the cross trainer. This is a great time to concentrate, and to get fit whilst learning things. It is a win-win.

Much like everyone else, I pick the talk by topic, but also by length. Half an hour to 40 minutes is what I like best. I also tend to watch 2-3 15 minute talks in a row at times. I am quite sure, I am not alone in this. Many people watch talks when they commute on trains or in similar “drive by educational” ways. That’s why I’d love conference organisers to consider this use case more.

I know, I’m spoilt, and it takes a lot of time and effort and money to record, edit and release conference videos and you make no money from it. But before shooting me down and telling me I have no right to demand this if I don’t organise events myself, let me tell you that I am pretty sure you can stand out if you do just a bit of extra work to your recordings:

  • Make them available offline (for YouTube videos I use YouTube DL on the command line to do that anyways). Vimeo has an option for that, and Channel 9 did that for years, too.
  • Edit out the Q&A – there is nothing more annoying than seeing a confused presenter on a small screen trying to understand a question from the audience for a minute and then saying “yes”. Most of the time Q&A is not 100% related to the topic of the talk, and wanders astray or becomes dependent on knowledge of the other talks at that conference. This is great for the live audience, but for the after-the-fact consumer it becomes very confusing and pretty much a waste of time.

That way you end up with much shorter videos that are much more relevant. I am pretty sure your viewing/download numbers will go up the less cruft you have.

It also means better Q&A for your event:

  • presenters at your event know they can deliver a great, timed talk and go wild in the Q&A answering questions they may not want recorded.
  • people at the event can ask questions they may not want recorded (technically you’d have to ask them if it is OK)
  • the interviewer or people at the event can reference other things that happened at the event without confusing the video audience. This makes it a more lively Q&A and part of the whole conference experience
  • there is less of a rush to get the mic to the person asking and there is more time to ask for more details, should there be some misunderstanding
  • presenters are less worried about being misquoted months later when the video is still on the web but the context is missing

For presenters, there are a few things to consider when presenting for the audience and for the video recording, but that’s another post. So, please, consider a separation of talk and Q&A – I’d be happier and promote the hell out of your videos.

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