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Annual Meeting "Diamonds" Are Compressed, Multifaceted, Beautiful, (Hard)--and Conversation-Starters

Thursday, February 7, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lorraine Cashman
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Diamond presentations are quickly emerging as an important presentation alternative at the AFS Annual Meeting.

In the Diamond, presenters show 21 slides, timed to advance automatically every 20 seconds; the entire presentation is seven minutes long, allowing extra time for discussion.

The format is akin to Pecha-Kucha, a slide-based format favored in international visual art and design fields. Indeed, the fact that the entire presentation is structured by slides does offer rich visual possibilities, ideal for the documentary work of many AFS presenters. However, Diamond presenters have proved that the slide-show need not limit their subject matter; Diamonds have been used at AFS to discuss texts and techniques, as well as events and materials.

In fact, a more important feature of the Diamond presentation has emerged—it opens new possibilities for participation. More speakers may present in a given period of time; two Diamond presentations take, roughly speaking, the same time as a paper, allowing more people to present without proliferating the number of competing sessions. Images and text on slides, and the tight focus of the presentation, help overcome language barriers for international participants. Most of all, Diamond presentations start conversations.

It’s not surprising, then, that audience response has been overwhelmingly positive—presentations are typically inviting, carefully crafted, and if not, over quickly. The experience may be more daunting for presenters, since the format requires careful advance planning, but again, reports have been positive; as Peter Harle reports, "Doing a Diamond Session two years ago was a fascinating and valuable challenge, and it was refreshing to see how much more productive discussion emerged from these relatively brief presentations.”

The format was introduced at the 2010 meeting in Nashville in a session called "Twenty-One Slides, Seven Minutes: Exploring an Alternative Presentation Format,” chaired by Jason Baird Jackson. The individual presentations were varied in their topics and approaches, covering quilts, collections, an internet meme, and communications theory; in the extra time that Diamonds allot for Q&A, the audience was eager to take up and expand the discussion of the format's potential. (You can view two presentations from that session: Michael Dylan Foster’s "The Fall and Rise of the "Tourist Guy": Humor and Pathos in Photoshop Folklore,” filmed onsite, or screencast (slide and voice alone), and Jason Jackson’s presentation on the Open Folklore project,

It wasn’t until the next year, for the 2011 annual meeting in Bloomington, that the term "Diamond” was introduced. After the successful 2010 experiment, it was clear that more such presentations were in our future, but we lacked a name. "Pecha-Kucha” had trademark restrictions, and both Pecha-Kucha and "lightning talk” had become associated with specific presentation formats that had different features and expectations. In any event, we wanted a name that would be more evocative, and more expressive of the value of the genre, rather than just its speed. When Michael Evans volunteered "diamond,” the annual meeting planning committee was struck by the suggestion, even before he noted that a diamond is "compressed, multi-faceted, and a thing of beauty” -- and, aptly, hard. It didn’t hurt that the name came with an immediately recognizable icon that could be used to highlight the presentations in the program book.

Proposals for Diamond presentations came in 2010 and 2011 as both individual and group presentations, but they were invariably scheduled as sessions; in 2012, we experimented further by integrating individual diamond presentations into sessions with papers, in the interests of organizing the program thematically, instead of only by presentation genre.

As we go forward, the possibilities continue to evolve as we experiment – individually and collectively – with the genre. Your feedback can help us all; please share your comments:

Have you attended a Diamond session, or made a Diamond presentation? If so, how would you compare it to a traditional paper presentation? What kind of topics are more or less well-suited to the format? What advice would you offer future presenters?

Should individual Diamond presentations be grouped only with other Diamond presentations, or should they be integrated into panels with papers?

Learn more about the Diamond presentation format on the AFS website.

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