Category Archives: Tweak your Slides

Slideshare of the Day: The ten worst body language presentation mistakes

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SOAP presentations is definitely among my top Slidesharers to follow. Their decks are consistently useful, well-designed and engaging. Today’s Slideshare of the Day features a topic that is important to both live synchronous presentations and asynchronous video presentations. While we can debate just how much we say through body language vs. verbal language, no one can deny that an audience makes certain decisions about a presenter’s credibility and relationship to them based on non-verbals. As Amy Cuddy asserts, our body language can speak volumes about how others perceive us (Source). Garr Reynolds in The Naked Presenter speaks about the honeymoon period of a presentation:

Even famous, well-established presenters–including celebrities–will only get a minute before audiences grow tired of their inability to grab attention.

Often, it is body language that can determine whether or not a presenter can truly grab an audience’s attention. Maintaing an open posture, facing the audience, maintaining genuine and consistent eye contact, moving with a purpose, and focusing on clarity in vocal delivery can all make the difference between an engaging, memorable presenter and a forgettable one. Pairing SOAP’s tips with Amy Cuddy’s “power pose” strategy can be a great starting point for stronger physical delivery. Check out today’s Slideshare below. For more on Amy Cuddy’s theories of body language, check out her TED talk.

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Design Smarter: Find the best blend for text and image

The picture superiority effect occurs when you combine visuals and text together to increase audience retention of your message. The picture superiority effect is what allows you to create one of Nancy Duarte’s STAR Moments, evocative visuals. Not every visual needs to utilize text; Lisa Kristine in her amazing TED talk uses no text on her images; using text over her haunting and beautiful images of human slaves would have diminished their impact. However, text, especially in stand-alone presentations can help enhance a slide, communicate a more impacting message, and add to that cohesive look we want from original slide decks.

There are a few ways to blend text and image together on a slide. What you do depends on what you want to accomplish, the nature of your image and the amount of text on your slide. Your choice depends on what your main focus is in displaying the word with the image. Are they equally important? Is one more important than another? Here are a few variations to get you started.Below, I’ll cover a few of the more common combinations I see from designers and students. There are several ways to combine a bit of text with an image. Here are a few variations to get you started.

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One way to combine an image with an idea is to look for an image that has empty space. Often, images that employ the rule of thirds  include enough space for text. You know there’s enough space when there is little to no overlap between image and text. In this example, the original image by Flickr user Photoco. was licensed for commercial use with adaptations or remixes allowed. I was able to fill the slide with the image (which was large enough to display without pixelation) and use the empty space to the left of the figure to add my idea.

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One idea, one image without empty space

In other situations, you might have a fairly busy image you’d like to use on your slide; there is no one specific detail in the image that is more important than another that must be visible as in the example above. So, you can use a few strategies to blend image and text. The first is to adjust the brightness and exposure of the original image and place one large word over the picture (fig. a); note that this works well with a typeface like Intro, but might not work well with a typeface that has a thinner weight. In the first two examples (fig. a, fig. b), I adjusted the brightness and exposure of the image. In the next, I added a shadow to differentiate the text from the background (fig. c). In the final example, I adjusted the opacity of the text (this sometimes improves readability) (fig. d). Notice that the color changes depending on the option.

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After tweaking colors, shadows, and image settings, I chose this variation:

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Now, let’s assume you want to use a font with a thinner weight, like District Pro. Notice that without a bit of help, the text here is difficult to read. This is where a supporting shape comes in. Placing a shape behind the text (as long as it doesn’t make an important element on the image impossible to see) can be an option when blending text and image. In the example below, I’ve used several shapes to emphasize the text.

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One quote, one image with empty space

So, what if you want to place a quote or a lengthier idea (keep words to a minimum on a slide; 5-8 words is enough) on a slide with an image? Your first and best bet is to seek out an image with empty space, like the one above. Using an image with empty space and a readable typeface will help you maximize the impact of the quote by providing simple, clean visual support.

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One quote, one image without empty space a quote

At times, it’s possible to place a quote on a slide that has is busier–again, as long as the quote does not interfere with important parts of the image. However, this is the option I would advise the least. Placing a quote on a slide with a busy image will increase your chances of creating noise and it could minimize signal. In the case below, the quote on the slide combined with the image creates noise.

 

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The solution here is to rearrange the image to fit the frame (fig. e), find an image that allows the blend to happen naturally (fig. f), or allow the quote to stand alone.

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These are only a few of the many ways to blend text and image together.Whatever your choice, it’s important to consider these three best practices when pairing text and image:

1. The picture superiority effect is maximized when text and image are blended.

2. Create the most seamless blend possible.

3. Keep signal high and noise low.

What are your go to strategies for maximizing the picture superiority effect?

 

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Slideshare of the day: An Argument for Visual Literacy

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Today’s Slideshare is an inspiring deck from Gavin McMahon. Check out his lovely historical recap on the move towards then away then back towards visual literacy and be inspired by his excellent call to action.

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Slideshare of the Day: Soffia Says You Need to Travel

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I had the great pleasure of meeting superstudent Soffia Jonsdottir in Alex Rister’s September Professional Communication and Presentation course. Soffia is a marketer, designer, lifelong learner, and world traveler. Today’s Slideshare of the Day is also the Top Presentation of the Day. In this offering, which Soffia presented in class as an Ignite persuasive presentation, we learn a few reasons why we should travel as well as getting a glimpse at some of the design practices Soffia learned during her time in PCP. A few of my favorites are her cohesive color scheme (we worked on colors for her presentation a lot in class–which combination of colors really worked best, when to use green, when to keep the color simple); her use of a consistent shape to enhance the unity of the presentation, and her juxtaposition of typefaces. Check out Soffia’s awesome deck below:

 

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Visual Design Basics is a Top Presentation of the Day!

Thank you to Slideshare.net for choosing my quick and dirty guide to visual design as a top presentation of the day. While it is not as exhaustive as my Simple Design deck, I hope it helps encourage everyone to see that slide design is not a mystery, but a totally attainable goal! Check out the deck below:

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Resistance is Futile: Bullets Kill

This week on Creating Communication, public speaking guru, Alex Rister discussed resistance to the 21st century approach to design. I too find that many professionals (teachers and business folk alike) resist the text-light, design-centered approach to the creation of visual aids. The biggest argument is often that “bullets have their place.” Another argument I hear is “well, your way is only one way to display information.” Well, the truth is, yes, bullets have their place–on a dense document that requires them to help break up copious amounts of information into smaller digestible chunks. And unfortunately for those stuck in the feedback loop of “1987-pick a template-throw a title on a slide-then fill each slide with more bullets than a gun store”, this is the best possible way to display information in a visual medium. I believe the resistance comes down to a very important point Alex makes in her article:

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Presenters I consult with often say, “but I like MY slides” or “what’s wrong with MY slides?” The view that slides are for the presenter is exactly what’s wrong. An audience-centered presenter cares less about the efficiency of a template and more about how design elements like color, type, and layout communicate a specific vision for the audience and help set a tone for the audience’s interaction with and reception of a message. An audience-centered presenter cares less about the number of bullets on a slide and more about how to successfully assist an audience in retaining information.

The truth about text-heavy slides is that they hinder cognitive retention, not improve it. This stems from the way our brains work. John Medina, author of Brain Rules explains it best in his book, site, and video series:

Medina provides a good rule of thumb for presenters.

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Simply adapting to this rule helps encourage your audience to pay attention to what you are saying, as opposed to reading ahead of you and tuning you out in the process.

Recently, I was tasked with developing a quick set of slides showcasing my department’s curriculum best practices. Note that I don’t completely eliminate text; instead, I work to make the text I use visually appealing and easier to process.

So, do you resist the notion that “bullets kill”? If so, check out the brief version of my much longer treatise on all things design, “SIMPLE Design,” below!

Links of the Day: One superteacher’s story and pitch decks

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It has certainly been a while, readers! I can admit, I’ve been sucked into some professional and personal adjustments/changes that have created a mountain of excuses and pushed blogging further down on the list, but I realized today, hey, you know what I DO have time to blog. No excuse! So, today, I bring you two excellent links. The first comes from a current student who is preparing his first discussion in this month’s Professional Communication and Presentation class. The student’s task is to analyze a TED talk’s content. One question asks students to look at what research the speaker uses or cites. The student had a very relevant and valid question. What if your TED talk doesn’t really reference research? In class, we discuss the importance of creating a balance between fact and emotion. This balance, according to Nancy Duarte, is “alluring”, but imbalance can hurt a speaker’s credibility (Source).

He then shared Pearl Arredondo’s inspiring TED Education talk with me. Arredondo grew up the daughter of a gang member and was written off by many teachers as a problem student. Years later, she became a teacher herself and realized that fighting the battle to improve education wouldn’t happen unless she and her community took education into their own hands. She started a middle school devoted to empowering students to excel as technology and thought leaders in the 21st century. Arredondo’s talk is inspiring as a teacher who believes it’s up to us to reform education from the ground up. It’s also a wonderful example of a presentation that uses storytelling structure to communicate a persuasive message. It also manages to remain alluring in it’s balance of emotion and fact, using the story of one student turned teacher to put this situation into the bigger context of educational reform. Check out the talk below:

The second link of the day comes from Script Magazine by way of super writing center coordinator, Nicole Chapman. Nicole is currently pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and shares this excellent article on the importance of a clean and well-designed set of visuals to accompany a pitch aka a pitch deck. Author Martin Shapiro believes scriptwriters can take a cue from start ups pitching to a vc. In addition to being “able to talk intelligibly about the business aspects of movie marketing and distribution”, scriptwriters should be able to create a set of slides to accompany the story/tone/approach of the script. Click on the sample slide from Shapiro’s pitch for a film adaptation of the series Chopper:

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SIMPLE Design: Make Unity a Priority

I am fortunate enough to work for a school that provides teachers with some pretty neat tools for instructional design and student interaction. I teach an on campus iteration of Professional Communication and Presentation (PCP) six times per year. In addition, I also teach one to three sections of the online version of PCP. While I work on both the online and campus classes, in the past six to nine months, the PCP team has been tweaking and retweaking the online course. Teaching public speaking and presentation online is often the pits! How does one create the level of engagement and immersion needed to really help a student internalize weeks worth of material in only 60 hours, or 4 weeks? Well, in some cases, the answer is still forthcoming, but thankfully, I am able to at least engage with my students directly each week through our GoTo Trainings. If you aren’t familiar with Citrix’s GoTo Meeting, it’s becoming the industry leader for synchronous remote meetings, and it’s exclusively used by my school for internal meetings, workshops, and virtual classroom meetings/lectures. The service isn’t perfect and its inability to handle my media rich video archives has caused me to get creative with distributing the session to those who cannot attend it live, but the chance to interact with students and to clarify assignments, lessons, and intentions is invaluable to myself and other online educators. In PCP, I am responsible for holding the GoTo sessions for weeks 3 and 4. Week 3 covers the delivery “leg” of the presentation stool: what REAL Delivery means, how some of the more important aspects of that model fit into an online structure, some best practices for how to rehearse for the students’ upcoming Ignite presentation, and an open Q & A.

In preparation for this one-hour session, I have to adapt the unity and structure of my already existing REAL Delivery deck to fit this structure (as opposed to the structure of a four-eight hour block of class). The exercise leads me to think about two important lessons related to 1. design and 2. organization. In this post, I’ll cover the first lesson:

SIMPLE Design: Make Unity a Priority

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Although this deck is a hybrid of my Conquering Presentation and REAL Delivery decks, AND the inclusion of a few class-specific elements, my goal in creating a visual aid to accompany this session is to use unity–the repetition of key elements like color, text, background, shape, and image style–to communicate how this piece of the students’ learning journey fits into the whole. For most of us, unity means choosing a pre-made template and adding elements.

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Templates are wonderful examples of how unity actually works (choose key elements, repeat and variate on a theme) and why unity is important (consistency helps reduce confusion and puts the focus on content and meaning, not visual fluff). Unfortunately, the limited number of templates, combined with our ingrained use of presentation software (open program, choose template) makes templates cliche, watered-down versions of unity.

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To make unity a priority, focus on taking the idea of a template (repetition) and making it your own. Instead of using someone else’s vision to communicate your concept in a way that is instantly forgettable, use repeated elements to create a unified theme that communicates your concept in an original way.

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Here are a few best practices for choosing two of those key repeated elements, type and color.

Typefaces:

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Focus on readability and consistency; your fancy font may be right in line with your topic and theme, but if your audience cannot read it, what’s the point? I cycled through several different choices for REAL Delivery, including my standby, Bebas Neue. I chose Utility all caps because I preferred the heavier weight and thickness when paired with Edmondsans. However, I found that not spacing my letters out somewhat (kerning) made readability a problem. So, when choosing a typeface, integrating it into your design and combining it with your other elements, remember the following:

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Finally, if you have the option of using a font or typeface beyond what is already included in your software, a great place to start is FontSquirrel:

Font Squirrel is one of my favorite sources for commercially-available typefaces and fonts. Their selections are high-quality, carefully selected, and lovely!

Font Squirrel is one of my favorite sources for commercially-available typefaces and fonts. Their selections are high-quality, carefully selected, and lovely!

Color:

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A second important element to consider in creating your own unity or making unity a priority is color. Here are three useful tips on choosing color from Ethos 3’s Color Matters:

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One final tip is to use a great color generator, such as design-seeds, which Alex Rister recently discussed on Creating Communication. Here are two of my other favorite color generators/color tools:

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Check in tomorrow for the second lesson from my GoTo Training experience: Murdering Your Darlings. Next week, we will move on to the P in SIMPLE Design, Pictures are Superior!

Check out the rest of the SIMPLE Design series below:

SIMPLE Design: Why Simple Isn’t Easy

SIMPLE Design: Ideally, One Idea Per Slide

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Breaking Designer’s Block: Tweak Your Resume Update

It’s been a quiet few weeks on TYS, in no small part due to the new bane of my existence, the Tweak Your Resume deck. I will be debuting this deck on Slideshare next week, and it’s been quite the creative challenge. I am working on combining two slideshows, one on professionalism and another on some visual resume lessons from Slideshare decks and student decks. I am not sure if it is the combination of messages, the struggle I’ve had nailing down a theme that works, or my blending of photography and iconography, but this deck has given me some serious designer’s block! I’ve made my way out of it, but only after finally nailing down a strong cover image.

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I still have to eliminate the dreaded Venn Diagram (I have been banned by my superteacher partner in crime, Alex Rister from using it ever again), and I’m still working on a strong visualization for the 12 million folks unemployed in the US, but I am finally happy with the direction the deck is moving in and am excited to share it with readers and colleagues.

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My first version of the unemployment rate. I think it’s a bit weak and have a few more ideas I’m trying. What do you think?

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Simple Design: Ideally, One Idea Per Slide

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The SIMPLE design series covers my six principles for effective visual design. The first piece in this series covered the concept of simplicity in design, with a focus on a very basic truth–simple isn’t easy; it takes work. In this installment, I’ll cover the next letter in this acronym, “I,” which stands for…

Ideally, One Idea Per Slide

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Years of slideument conditioning has led all of us (including me as you’ll soon see) to see our slides as a document, something that is only really complete when filled with content (text, image, clip art, chart, random animated gif). This habit means that we’ve managed to keep our slides low in number, but high in noise (and conversely, low in signal).  According to Garr Reynolds, “[p]rojected slides should be as visual as possible and support our point quickly, efficiently (good signal-to-noise ratio), and powerfully. The verbal content, the verbal proof, evidence, and appeal/emotion comes mostly from our spoken word” (Source). So, in a live situation, it’s the presenter and not the slides who must carry the weight of the signal or content. Creating a content-heavy slide places the focus on the visual aid (in the worst way possible), can cause cognitive dissonance and confusion, and can damage a speaker’s credibility. As an educator, I felt the need to fill slides with as much content as possible, especially in courses I felt less than solid in or that required more lecture focus than composition and writing, particularly Latin American Humanities:

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What’s wrong with this slide? Well, even when I presented information by only showing one bullet at a time, my students first had no tangible concept to attach to ideas like “universal constructivism”, and second, as John Medina discusses in his must-read Brain Rules, the mind cannot multi-task, which is exactly what we ask audiences to do when we create slideuments. Our audience must read our slides AND listen to us, which they just cannot do. According to Medina, “[r]esearch shows your error rate goes up 50% and it takes you twice as long to do things” (Source) when the myth of multi-tasking is in play. Further, as Nancy Duarte asserts in Slide:ology, slides, like billboards are “glance media”, which means that your audience should be able to process your visual story quickly and then return to listening to your awesome content.

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The situation becomes even more complex when we are asked as presenters to provide our slides for publication or when we use our slides as study guides for our students. How do we keep our slides cinematic AND also communicate dense amounts of content? Reynolds has a few suggestions, including the most obvious and useful one–create a set of display slides and create a separate document with complete notes (Source). I find that doing this gives students the opportunity to use their critical thinking skills and decide what is really important or note worthy.  I want to share one of my most important design epiphanies that helped me find a good balance between content and design. Keeping this idea in mind has helped me move towards truly SIMPLE Design: An Extra Slide Costs Nothing!

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So, instead of placing every bit of information about Joaquin Torres-Garcia and Universal Constructivism on one slide, I can break the information up over many slides.

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Have you faced the challenge of creating cinematic slides that are also content-rich? What are your great ideas for moving away from the slideument? 

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