Following on from my post last year about the office, post COVID-19, I’ve recorded a micro-talk about what happens next.

I decided to push myself out my comfort zone and develop a PechaKucha-style talk: 20 slides, 20 seconds. I’ve found constraints inspire creativity and help focus the mind. All in, this creates about a six-minute talk. Long enough to be of substance, short enough to keep an attention span.

Why I Made It

In many respects, we’re stuck in our ways. Working from home, even during the turmoil of the pandemic, has opened my eyes to different and more humane ways of working. That respects people’s time, commitments, and outside-working life.

The UK government are considering the relaxation of restrictions, opening up the possibilities to return to the office. Senior government figures have also demonstrated their lack of understanding and empathy on this issue. Boris Johnson suggested we’ve had enough “days off” and Rishi Sunak suggested staff would leave if they weren’t given an office desk. Both miss the point profoundly - that the open-plan office was a cost-saving exercise mired in the remnants of 20th Century workplace thinking.

Sure, we’re two decades into the 21st Century now, but COVID has forced the issue of what modern working will look like. Now videoconferencing is normalised. Now the jobs that “could never” be done from home, for “security” or whatever other excuse was contrived at the time, are being done from home. Now that things begin to open up again and the kids are back at school. What should work look like?

I think this presents us an opportunity. This talk summarises where I am with my thinking on this.

How I Made It

For now, I’m still using PowerPoint for slides. So I created a template slide that allocated room for a webcam to be overlaid, and added a ticking timer bar. This time bar starts its animation immediately and lasts for 20 seconds. Then, the slide automatically advances. Duplicate it 19 times, you’ve got yourself a template for a micro-talk!

Historically, I’ve preferred to riff from the slides over being particular in what I say. It makes each iteration of the talk unique and provides space for reading the room. But this isn’t ‘live’ in that way. It’s a one-and-done scenario, and you’re up against the timer. So, I wrote a script. I did this on a slide by slide basis, using the constraints to clarify the thought I wanted to present on a slide. I rehearsed and refined until each slide had 17-20 seconds of content.

The recording was handled in OBS, which was used successfully during last year’s NE-RPC events. It’s simple to set up - all I needed to do was add the PowerPoint window, my mic and webcam, rearrange and crop to fit the template, and hit record.

I’ve a second monitor that’s capable of producing 1920x1080 output, which I use to host the slideshow. My main, 37” curved monitor holds OBS and the Presenter View. To get the windows re-arranged quickly, I added a “Get Ready” slide. That meant I could hit record in OBS, start the show, and have a few seconds before the show begins in earnest. All that fluff gets removed in post, before uploading to YouTube.

Now I’ve essentially got a reusable template for running these talks, I’ll think about doing more. Alongside blogs, of course.