The Antidote for Dull Presentations

Say goodbye to boring talks. ideaDJs provides ‘real-time visual support for events’ by using images to riff on a speaker's presentation — on the spot and on the fly.

Ramon Vullings became something called an ideaDJ about four years ago while he and his colleague Marc Heleven were providing innovation consulting through their company — Netherlands-based 21 Lobsterstreet — to clients for their business events. “A lot of the conferences were very boring,” Vullings said. “It was a very standard format, so we said, ‘You have, say, 800 people here from your industry — this is the time to do something great!’”

Vullings and Heleven’s ideaDJ business started with meetings where clients were attempting to pitch ideas to their companies’ boards of directors. “They only have a half-hour or so with the board,” Vullings said, “so they need to convince them on the spot. We saw a lot of really beautiful ideas skipped over because the boards were just unable to understand.”

So Vullings and Heleven began to provide what they term “real-time visual support for events” — a series of images that bolster what a presenter is saying onstage. The two always work as a team, using an extensive database of images, two video-mixing machines, four laptops, and two iPads.

What sets ideaDJ apart from the traditional use of imagery in presentations is the way that they incorporate visuals — on the fly. The speaker doesn’t even know ahead of time what images will be used while he or she is presenting. They often take a two-screen approach, so that a presenter’s own PowerPoint presentation can continue throughout, with the second screen used for periodic images inspired by specific remarks or stories from the presentation.

Vullings stresses that it’s important for them to have an advance understanding of the subject area. For example, with some knowledge of the financial-services industry, an ideaDJ will select images from nature or even from another industry that support the speaker’s message, align with issues specific to that industry, and will appeal to the audience. “ideaDJs really take people into the subject,” said Dick van Schooneveld, a partner at Stratix Consulting, which has worked with Vullings on multiple events, including a 250-person telecom conference in the Netherlands. “It clearly gives a richer and more advanced feeling [to the presentations].”

Those unfamiliar with the concept might worry that flashing images throughout a speaker’s presentation would distract rather than engage the audience. Not so, Vullings says — as long as it’s done appropriately. “On average, for an hour presentation, if we show 20 things, it’s a lot,” he said. “It would be easy for us to overstimulate or deviate attention, or to be funnier than the presenter. If those three things happen, it is not going to help the event organizer get what they want out of it. So that’s something that we are very, very careful [of].”

They were obviously a hit with van Schooneveld’s group. “I saw many people come up to the ideaDJ table to thank them,” he said. “The value is clearly in the on-the-spot visual support. It makes everything so much more interesting.”

Not for Everyone

ideaDJ can provide support throughout an entire event — from augmenting panel discussions, to providing directions for attendees, to playing movie clips while the audience files in or out of an auditorium. That is, until the last speaker, whom the organization often has brought in from outside the industry. “The last one is the person who everybody comes for,” said ideaDJ Ramon Vullings, “and the reason that everybody stays until the end.”

Vullings acknowledges that his ideaDJ services aren’t necessary for all speakers — especially those keynoters who are already practiced presenters and have no trouble engaging the audience. “[I]f you’re talking about … professionals who make a living off speaking, they don’t need an ideaDJ.”

Katie Kervin

Katie Kervin was formerly assistant editor of Convene.