Reflections on Disrupting a Panel Presentation

Several audience members at Press Start: Culture, Industry and Innovation in Japanese Gaming picked up early on in my panel presentation on Game-Based Learning that this wasn’t going to be your typical presentation. That’s because embedded in the design of my 15-minute panel presentation were a number of points of interaction.

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I’ve been reflecting on conference presentations that I’ve given over the past 3 years and I want to increase the interaction points in order to engage the audience more—a reflection of what it’s really like to be in a learning environment with me. For me, conference presentations have more than one purpose. They provide an opportunity for teachers, researchers, learners and working professionals to demonstrate the work that they do and the innovations they are part of developing. They should also be an opportunity to propose a different kind of learning shouldn’t they? How do we maximize what can be learned? From what I’ve witnessed at well over a dozen conferences in the past 3 years, there’s lots of room to disrupt the typical lecture-style talking head format and reduce the number of heads nodding off in the audience. I designed my short 15 minute presentation with this in mind. I also collaborated with my colleague Jon Festinger at his presentation by providing a layer of game sound effects as transitions and commentary to his topic Legal, Normative & Cultural Perspectives on Mods and Modding of Japanese Video Games

Below are the interactive elements that I added to my presentation on game-based learning. I’d rather not call what I did gamifying a panel presentation though. I think embedding interactive elements might best describe what I am interested in and will continue to develop wherever I present.

  • Improvised a quick game at the beginning by splitting the audience into two sides and challenging each to be the fastest to pass a ball to each person from the front to the back of the audience and all the way back to the front. I did this out of necessity since I wanted to keep the audience engaged while the tech team got my computer set up.
  • Triggered sound FX (from the game world of course) to comment on or empower something that was just said. I used a hardware controller with Ableton Live.
  • Created a competition to challenge people to count the number of times the word ‘game’ was used in the presentation, with a delicious reward for the person closest to the mark at presentation end.
  • Facilitated two people to roll dice. The highest roller would decide what I should talk about at the presentation. In preparation I zipped through a short teaching about probability. In that talk I revealed that there was a higher probability for one person to roll higher than another, than each person to roll the same number. The first two rolls were the same number.

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  • Misdirected the audience’s attention on purpose using PowerPoint. Sorry trade secret on this one. Suffice it to say that principles of magic can easily be integrated into presentations. The pay-off, however was this slide representing what I could have presented on.

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  • Facilitated a quick exercise using two colourful balls in order to uncover the difference between play and a game.
  • Introduced questions to the audience in order to engage them in a moment of self-reflection following the exercise described above, to reveal the importance of self-reflection and the variation of interpretations possible when you access the combined intelligence in the room.


Beyond these interaction points with the audience, I did manage to also provide a few examples of how I integrate games and play into the design of a course that I teach at the Master of Digital Media Program where I work as a Senior Lecturer, and a Strategic Design for Business Innovation course that I am currently teaching at UBC’s Sauder School of Business.