The "Lessig Method" of presentation is not an official method per se, but many people who know about the work of Stanford law professor, Lawrence Lessig, have been inspired by his presentation style and informally refer to his approach as something unique indeed.
Those who have seen Lessig present have been talking about his approach for a while. David Hornik at VentureBlog wrote a post entitled Putting the "Power" in Powerpoint over two years ago. In this post he heaps praise on the presentation style of Lessig. Hornik says Lessig's presentations "are a fantastic combination of content, art and brand...."
James MacLennan may have been the first to put a label on Lessig's presentation style, calling it the "Lessig Method" which he likens to the Takahashi Method in Japan because Lessig's slides often contain just a single word, short quote, or a photo. The Takahashi Method and Professor Lessig's approach do have similarities, though Lessig uses photos and other graphics, albeit sparingly. MacLennan does a good job of reviewing recent posts in the blogosphere concerning presentations and slideware.
Here is a good example of the "Lessig Method" of presentation. You can see the 243 slides and hear his narration along with them in Flash. Unfortunately you can not see the presenter himself at the same time. Still, judging from the live recording of the presentation, we can get a pretty good idea of the smooth way Lessig synchronized his visuals with his speaking, i.e., the story he was telling about his ideas on "free culture." You can even download the PowerPoint file (sans the Mickey video) on this resource page.
See Dick present "Lessig Style"
There are more videos of Lessig lecturing and presenting here. But there is even a better example available. Scott, a Presentation Zen reader, sent me a note on Monday pointing out the unique presentation style of Dick Hardt. Hardt gives credit to Lessig for inspiring the unique method he used in his presentation on Identity 2.0.
Hardt speaks for 15 minutes and synchronizes his talk quite smoothly to what must be several hundred slides. Most slides are no more than a word or two, a short quote, or a photo. Most slides are visible no more than a few seconds.
Hardt's presentation style is not applicable to every case, of course. Often we need to go much more slowly. But for this short kind of presentation, content, and audience, it worked well. For longer presentations it would be more appropriate to change pace — sometimes moving quickly, slowing way down at other times to explain a confusing point, for example. His introduction is excellent though and is a style many people may want to experiment with to grab the attention of the audience and make an impression, and then later slowing down a bit when needed as the presentation progresses. Also, I would like to see Hardt use a remote and move away from his PowerBook.
It's not the size of your deck that counts
I guarantee you there is no presentation book on the market that would recommend you use a few hundred slides, some visible for 1-2 seconds, for a 15-minute presentation. That's crazy talk, right? Yet, it works in this particular case for this particular audience and for the particular allotted time, a short 15-minutes. This is why I never recommend a specific number of slides, or even that a presenter must use slideware at all. It depends.
As we like to say in Japan, it all depends on TPO (Time, Place, Occasion). Who's to say what an appropriate number of slides should be? It depends on the content and the presenter as well. Guy Kawasaki is amazing with 10 slides in his PowerPoint deck at his popular speaking appearances. Tom Peters may wow a crowd with his content and enthusiasm with a deck of 100 PowerPoint slides (I don't suggest you copy Tom's PPT design style, by the way...more on that at another time). The number is not important. To be concerned with the number of slides shows that our head is in the wrong place. Because...it is the wrong question to ask.
LEFT: Complete deck from Kawasaki's presentation. RIGHT: Partial deck from Peter's PPT.
Watch Hardt's 15-minute presentation and Lessig's Flash presentation. Ask yourself how you can incorporate aspects of the "Lessig Method" that will help kick the quality of your presentations up a notch. How can you use these simple visual techniques in slides and yet still keep your message conversational and your connection with the audience strong?