Tag Archives: slides

Slides Don’t Matter

At least not as much as we think…

June marked my last month teaching the current campus iteration of PCP. In July, Alex Rister will be tackling the new iteration on campus; and in August, the new online course launches. The focus of the reboots as I’ve discussed before is on helping students develop a personal and professional brand. The courses minimizes the focus on visual design and slides and places more emphasis on process, strong content, and natural delivery. Why this shift? Well, frankly, it’s because slides don’t matter. That’s right–this is me, the presentation designer and Slideshare.net contributor telling you slides don’t matter, at least not as much as what’s at the core of the 21st century model of presenting–conversation, connection, and engagement. Slides and technology, regardless of how flashy, beautifully designed, interesting, or relevant just aren’t a substitute for consistent and thorough preparation, impacting content, and engaging delivery.

What do when our technology fails or our slides don’t function the way they did on our screens? Most of us freak out, begin an elaborate struggle with the computer, and create an awkward waiting period for our audiences while we set that technology right. My students and their teachers often reduce what they learn in PCP to “making better slides,” but this disregards the most important lesson I hope my students learn–that detaching from technology as a crutch or replacement for preparation and engagement is what will ultimately lead them to not only learn when or how to use slides properly but also learn that sometimes, it’s best to go without. To help illustrate, I’ll share with you this brief but excellent talk from Improv Everywhere, “A TED Speaker’s Worst Nightmare.” This talk, while in reality an elaborate part flash mob, part improv, part prank performance, illustrates just what can happen when we rely too much on technology and a flashy concept and not enough on solid content and connection.

What do you think? Do slides matter? How can we use slides responsibly and ensure they don’t overwhelm or derail our talks?

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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.

One idea, one image with empty space

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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Data Display of the Day: Wealth On a Plane

I ran across this visualization from visual.ly, and it upset, enlightened, and intrigued me.

It truly speaks to the power of using relatable imagery paired with strong design, clear organization, and relevant statistics. It’s also an awesome example of progressive disclosure. I am still working on my unemployment slides for the Tweak your Resume debut, and I may have to abandon them for now, as I am far behind on my launch date for this deck and the stat is really being used for a small idea in a bigger presentation. I’ve now included some progressive disclosure; I am hoping it will move me in the right direction!
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Enjoy today’s Data Display!

 

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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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Tweak Your Speech: Rhetoric and Star Trek

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This week in Professional Communication and Presentation, we discussed the basics of rhetoric and persuasion. I don’t really fall too far from the rhetorical tree Aristotle and Cicero developed hundreds of years ago (with the exception of including Kenneth Burke’s concept of identification), partly because my class is only a month long and the three part structure of Aristotle’s appeals works well in this time frame, and partly because I want to impart on my students a very important truth: For the ancients, oration was a skill and art form that surpassed others–communication had immediate impact on the lives of Greek and Roman citizens, they tended to a presentation ecosystem before we’d heard of such a thing.

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This cultivation of strong speech continued through much of human history–imagine Martin Luther King writing up his “I Have a Dream” speech and sending it by mail (much less impacting that way, no?). In recent times though, the study of oration has been diluted, to the point that we devote little time to considering how we structure our messages or how our audience will process and carry on our message. We devote even less time to studying the mechanism of persuasion and analysis of how others structure a successful message. However, in order to really practice and engage in persuasion, we must first understand how it works.

I will share with you a metaphor that helped me understand how rhetoric and the means of persuasion (ethos or credibility, pathos or emotion, and logos or logic) work. An argument is like the Starship Enterprise, flagship of the United Federation of Planets. The Enterprise is THE ship on which to serve. Its reputation is stellar, its technology state of the art, and its crew stalwart and brave.  Your persuasive message is the Enterprise–it is a well-oiled machine, ready to take on any adversary, set to explore the dimensions of the human universe.

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But, the Enterprise would be nothing without three figures (the original series would not be what it is without the interplay between these three)– Leonard “Bones” McCoy, chief medical officer; Spock of Vulcan, first officer, and James T. Kirk, captain. It is the dynamic between these three individuals that drives the show, provides the excitement, drama, and relevance. Without Bones, Kirk, and Spock, the Enterprise would be a wasteland of red-shirted crewment, doomed to die during the next away mission. In the same way, your presentation cannot function without the seamless interplay between ethos, pathos, and logos.

Bones: Ethos or the credibility appeal

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Bones is the moral and ethical compass of this trio. He often protests Spock’s logic-driven decisions and tempers Kirk’s instinct-driven responses. Like Bones, ethos is all about authority. It is how your audience judges you. An audience should be able to determine if a speaker is trustworthy and reputable, knowledgeable, authoritative, and empathetic. A strong presenter develops ethos both through internal sources and external sources. Your external credibility illustrates knowledge and trustworthiness; internal credibility helps illustrate authority, reputation, and common ground or empathy.

External sources of credibility include experts, case studies, information from media sources, and data.

External sources of credibility include experts, case studies, information from media sources, and data.

 

Internal credibility includes personal experience (want to know about skydiving? ask a skydiver.), shared values with your audience, reputation, and demeanor or behavior during a presentation.

Internal credibility includes personal experience (want to know about skydiving? ask a skydiver.), shared values with your audience, reputation, and demeanor or behavior during a presentation.

 

Spock: Logos or the logical appeal

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Spock, half Vulcan, half human, made the decision as a child to embrace logic and repress emotion. His decisions are based on precise calculations, the data available, and analysis of a situation. Like Spock, logos is all about logic and evidence. It is your way of fulfilling your audience’s need for factual evidence that is presented in a way that makes sense. Logos is “the proof in the pudding”. It stimulates your audience’s need to see in order to believe. Logos is about a clear and understandable message, and a specific evidence that your audience can connect to and understand.

Kirk: Pathos or the emotional appeal

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Captain James T. Kirk, the leader of the Enterprise is a cunning, assertive, and passionate man, who often throws caution to the wind and does what seems irrational and rash. In the end though, Kirk’s actions, which turn out to be a blend of instinct, experience, and duty save the Enterprise (whether it is from a fierce Romulan commander or a super-computer bent on world domination). Like Kirk, pathos or emotion must be balanced by ethics and logic. Pathos is potentially the most ethically dangerous of the three appeals–humans are emotional creatures whose emotions can be manipulated and toyed with. However, pathos is also necessary. Your audience may see the logic of your message and may also see you as an authority in your field, but without that emotional core, they’ll ignore your message like they ignore most messages telling them to do this or not do that.

So, tend to each one of these appeals, devote time to developing the logic of your message, use emotion to humanize your logic, and show your audience you are worth listening to. You will surely go where no one has gone before!

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Slideshare of the Day: Start-up of You

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This week in Professional Communication and Presentation, we’ve been discussing the visual resume project. A visual resume can be a great addition to your online portfolio. As wel learned during yesterday’s mini-discussion, it can also be an amazing way to blend the print resume with the digital form, as Victor Petit does in his QR code visual resume:

QR CODE – Content-rich Resume from Victor petit on Vimeo.

But, before one can develop an amazing and unique approach to the visual resume (one benefit to the rise in this approach is the plethora of good examples out there, but a detriment is that it’s now a bit more difficult to set oneself apart), one must know what one wants to convey to the target audience of the visual resume, whether it is a client, company, or collaborator. Students often struggle the most with this aspect of resume building due to anxiety over perceived or actual inexperience. However, young people are not alone in this–all of us must deal with the anxiety of knowing just who and what we are as professionals. I am lucky enough to have a career that is also my bliss, but that doesn’t mean that just like my students, I don’t struggle with finding my place as a professional.

This is where Top Presentation of the Day, Start-up of You by Co-founder and Chairman of LinkedIn Reid Hoffman comes in. Having just uploaded a successful 110-slide presentation, I had to check out this mega deck–I am happy I did. I haven’t made enough use of LinkedIn, and after perusing this immersive deck, I don’t know why. This summary of the book Start-up of You poses a very simple idea–that all of us need to think like entrepreneurs–not just those who function in that same role. Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha firmly believe that our success as professionals depends on recapturing and maximizing entrepreneurship–of our own careers. I have added the book to my Nook list of reads, and you should too. But in the meantime, if you haven’t already, check out the excellent deck below:

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Slideshare of the Year….I mean the Day

 

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If you read this blog, you know of my undying admiration and affection for my superteacher best friend, the very talented Alex Rister. This month, Alex debuted her brand new visual design lesson for her class and also featured shots from this deck on her blog. Well, today, her latest Slideshare offering went live. Check out an “Introduction to Slide Design.” This deck has also become an integral part of our latest faculty development endeavor, The Presentation Revolution.

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September’s 20-minute slide slam

Each month Alex teaches, she challenges students to take a bulleted slide and revise it to a set of bullet-free visual stories. I previously blogged about that here.

This month, I decided to try my hand at a few new images/strategies. In working with one student, who wanted to display the idea, “Cats are the most popular pet” by showing an image of the earth and a pie chart, I came up with the idea of making the earth itself the pie chart. Since Cody Higgins had already chosen to create this for his slide slam, I decided to go with a different option. However, just as an exercise, I chose to recreate Cody’s excellent slide using the percentage of households that own cats and households that own dogs.

The students also work on creating grids; the last slide, just for fun is a ninja grid.

 

Images: Anna Fischer, thedalogs, Angelo González, squacco

Try a 10 or 20 minute tweak challenge to brush up or practice those design skills. Design is a skill that must be cultivated daily. Grow your design!

 

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Love the Visual Resume–Seriously!

Today’s deck comes from my favorite superteacher, Alex Rister. The visual resume began as a fun side project for me and then became a mission–help my students create a more dynamic picture of their qualities as professionals online. In teaching the visual resume, I draw inspiration from the success of others, namely David Crandall and Alex Rister. Both of these individuals have successful visual resumes.

1. She uses story to convey her unique perspective

Alex tells audiences the story of how she found her calling as communications guru and public speaking teacher. Instead of just starting with “I was born…” she begins with a bigger idea–innovation, and then illustrates how she is part of this new age of innovation.

2. She designs unified visuals

Alex uses color, type, shape, and alignment to create something that is uniquely hers. Alex’s use of pink against the vintage images is classy yet whimsical. Her choice of Komika Axis speaks to her personality–this is Alex’s signature typeface.

3. Her visual resume does more than what any traditional resume can do

Alex uses this medium to highlight not only her extensive leadership and teaching experience and professional work as an educator, but also as a means of sharing her ideas on communication, work, and the world at large.

Check out Alex Rister’s visual resume, as well as her other amazing deck (which is a required reading in our Professional Communication and Presentation course), Seven Deadly Sins of Visual Design.

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First draft of Your Speech is Toxic is done!

Phew!  I’ve been working on this epic deck for months (probably 3 or so). I first had the idea to create a deck about this basic idea:

Everyone says, “I am a great communicator” or “I have great communication skills” but from my experience as a student, friend, teacher, mentor, and presenter, most of us are really not very good at communicating.

This belief was reinforced for me after a rather terrible interview I had for a faculty development position. I am convinced that it was this interview that cemented in the hiring manager’s mind that I was enthusiastic and clearly passionate about teaching, but I really had no clue how to manage or lead others. I tried to rectify this in my thank you letter and in the proposal for a new faculty orientation we were asked to submit, but my efforts at rectifying a failed communication situation were little compared to that impression I’d made.

I was involved with an epic Nancy Duarte experience this month and last. Alex Rister and I were privileged enough to speak to Nancy (who just turned 50–check out the amazing deals in the Duarte shop. If I could afford that workshop and a flight to California, I’d be there in a heartbeat) three times, the final time for an hour via Skype with some amazing superstudents. Instead of writing my experience (you can read Alex’s here, here, and here), I’ve decided to incorporate a few lessons I’ve learned from Nancy, my fairy godmother of presentations, in this latest deck, “Your Speech is Toxic”. I would go as far as saying this deck would not have been possible had I not run across Slide:ology while perusing the “PowerPoint” section of the now sadly late Borders Books. Here is a shot of a portion in the Light Table view of Keynote. I still have some tweaking to do, but I can’t wait to share this with others!

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