Meet Jeff Brenman- creator of "Shift Happens" and winner of the World's Best Presentation Contest

May 15, 2007

The winner of the World's Best Presentation Contest is Jeff Brenman with "Shift Happens". He also won the Second Prize in the People's Choice Awards. I have to admit I had been curious about Jeff from the moment I saw his first presentation (Crossing Senses). Here's Jeff for you...

1) Tell us a little about yourself? About your background, where you are based, what you do for a living?
jeff-brenman.jpgI'm a graduate from Northwestern University where I studied psychology and business. For about as long as I can remember I have had a fascination with human perception and technology. At universities these days it's no secret that the professors almost all use PowerPoint to accompany their lectures. It was pretty early on in my college experience that I became disenchanted with the "conventional" presentation styles and started to independently study the theory behind what makes great presentations great. It wasn't long before I was helping out a few of my professors and student leaders on campus with their slide decks, eventually having a position created for me with the university as a presentation design consultant. I realized I have a knack for helping people tell their stories, so I decided after I graduated to make a business of it. I started a design firm called Apollo Ideas, specializing in presentation design and consulting and have been helping people and businesses present their stories. I am based out of the great city of Chicago.

2) Do you design a lot of presentations?
Yes. I have been making presentations for the past several years both for personal projects and for educators, lecturers, and more recently, businesses and business leaders.

3) When and how did you create this presentation?
I created ShiftHappens about two months ago. I came across Karl Fisch's "Did You Know" presentation online and thought the content was fantastic. I had just finished reading The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, so the globalization themes in Karl's presentation resonated hard with me. I decided to re-stylize the presentation as a challenge to myself, to re-make it how I'd like to see it. I am glad ShiftHappens has received so much attention through SlideShare because the reality of the 21st century is a subject we all ought to know about.

4) Who are your inspirations when it comes to designing presentations?
There are many presenters whose work I admire. Some of the people who have inspired me most are Edward Tufte, Garr Reynolds, Steve Jobs, Al Gore, and Carl Sagan.

5) What advise do you have for SlideShare users who want to design great presentations?
My advice? Forget everything you know about PowerPoint. Instead of approaching a presentation with a template editor, approach your presentation as a presentation (yes you read that correctly). Think about the story you want to tell your audience and begin by creating an engaging speech to convey it. The presentation comes from you, not the screen behind you. Think of the your slides as big white canvases on which you can paint anything you want to help you tell your story. Keep them simple. There seems to exist a standard for how a powerpoint presentation should look and sound, but the standard is pretty sub-par. Do your own thing, focus on telling your story, and your presentations will shine.

6) How long have you been using SlideShare? How did you discover it? Do you have any interesting stories about your SlideShare experiences?
I have been using SlideShare for about two months. I stumbled across the site after seeing a presentation embedded on a blog in SlideShare's format. As someone into presentations, I was intrigued by the technology. Browsing around the site I realized how useful SlideShare's technology was. Rather than emailing a 20MB presentation to dozens of clients, it is much more practical to be able to post it online.