Presentation Matters

Exchanging ideas on communication, public speaking, presentations and slide design

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Choosing the correct color scheme

November 1st, 2009 · Designer worth noting, Garr Reynolds, Good PowerPoint design, Images, PowerPoint

This is something overlooked by presenters – how do you choose complementary colors for your presentations to give them maximum impact? Garr Reynolds has just posted a very useful piece about color schemes. [Read more →]

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Grabbing images for PowerPoint

October 16th, 2009 · Digital assets, Microsoft Expression Media, PowerPoint, Screengrab, Snagit

I received an email today about a program called Snagit, which allows you to capture images from the web and elsewhere, store them, annotate and add arrows and other things to them. [Read more →]

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Making slides even simpler improves

October 13th, 2009 · Apple Keynote, Communication, PowerPoint, Simple design

I know it’s a matter of taste, but I have been stripping all the bling out of my PowerPoint slides and using incredibly simple designs. [Read more →]

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Keynote is better than PowerPoint:
Any thoughts/contributions?

September 21st, 2009 · Apple Keynote, Bad PowerPoint, Great design

Lots of people reading about saving PPT as JPEGs, how to end a PPT talk but no comments yet! Come on, I am sure someone must have something to contribute!

PowerPoint is bad/good – Keynote is much better (it really is).

Or let me know if there’s anything you want me to cover here – I’ll do my best.

Please post some comments – gets a bit tedious otherwise.



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Poor PowerPoint template design

August 20th, 2009 · Bad design, PowerPoint

I have been asked to give a talk at a corporate meeting. There are several speakers, each presenting on a different topic. Rather than allow us the freedom to use our own slides, they don’t trust us and have imposed horrible templates for us to use.

These are grim because (a) they use the standard 1980s style boring blue background, (b) dictate font sizes (not necessarily bad, I suppose), (c) they are making us use bold Arial for everything and (d) they want everything centred! Why?? I absolutely hate having too much bold on my slides and I will be modifying the template to remove the bold and to remove the centred bullet lists (oops, I have already removed the centering of the text!).

But you will notice that bullet points are the order of the day – how original.

This template has been generated by a company that organizes corporate speaking events in the medical world i.e. they should know better, and should have let a proper designer do the template rather than some admin person!

The various slide templates are shown below.

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10 tips for ensuring a great conclusion
to a presentation

July 3rd, 2009 · Communication, Concluding the pesentation

Each person will have his or her own method for ending a presentation but here are some suggestions which may help

  1. Leave plenty of time to wrap up. If you use all your allotted time or overrun, you will rush the Conclusion and look unprofessional.
  2. Try to finish a few minutes before your time – this allows you plenty of time for questions and stops you feeling rushed and stressed.
  3. Keep your Conclusion or Summary points to ONE slide. If you can’t fit the summary on a single slide then you are trying to say too much. Condense it.
  4. People will remember the final points more than the details in the presentation so keep you words crisp and focused, reinforcing everything you
  5. On the Conclusions slide avoid using whole sentences – just have a few key words that will act as prompts for you and the audience.
  6. Never introduce any new concepts in the Conclusion- simply reinforce the points you made during the main presentation.
  7. Avoid reading the conclusion verbatim – some presenters read their concluding slide line by line. The problem is the audience will read faster than you can speak and they will not be listening to you (hence do not use sentences!). If you want them to listen to you, use very little text on that last slide.
  8. After you have concluded, make it very obvious you have finished. Do not simply stop talking and wait, or mumble “Well, that’s about it…”. The audience will be confused and will not know whether to applaud or wait to seeif you have more slides.
  9. Use a black slide as your final slide (see earlier posts) and say something like “Thank you”, “Thank you for your attention”, “Thank you for your attention. I would be very happy to answer any questions”. These phrases are slightly clichéd but they are recognized as a means of letting the audience know that you have finished.
  10. Step back slightly from the podium or lectern after you have thanked the audience. This provides another major signal that you have finished.

If anyone has any other suggestions please share them!

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Another type of slide to end your presentation

June 30th, 2009 · Apple Keynote, Handouts, PowerPoint

If you are uncomfortable simply using a black slide at the end of your talk, why not advertise your email address? This means you don’t have to hand out your business cards! Instead, the audience can jot down your address and contact you if thety have any further questions they want to ask you. I often use this type of slide to end my presentation if I am tryung to recruit new centers to our cliical studies. Those that are interested will contact me later and I can send them the relevant information.

Picture 1

I also modify my final slide when I am teaching undergraduates. I still use a black slide but I give them the URL which links to the presentation handouts if the medical school does not provide enough or if people were absent and want a copy of my lecture.

Picture 2

The font used in both of these slides is Myriad Pro.

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Technical presentations can be boring
- too true!

June 30th, 2009 · Bad PowerPoint, Communication

I received an RSS feed today with the title Who says technical presentations can’t be engaging? and I got quite excited. The one thing that always bothers me about medical, technical and scientific presentations is that they tend to be a bit boring. They are generally data-heavy with loads of graphs and charts, and they can have a soporific effect on the audience.

If you have a look at any of the leading books about how to make your presentations better, you will notice that most of the examples of “great” presentations are always fairly “arty”, and have the look of a graphic designer. I have never seen a decent scientific talk which has used clever graphics, with few words, and no bullet points. I attend many conferences and all the presentations look much the same, and they all conform to an expected “standard”, rightly or wrongly.

If you go and read the short article by Jay H Lehr called “Let There Be Stoning!” you will see he gives us much good advice, but I take issue with some of his points. He says that we should reinvest the savings we make (as invited speakers) in good slides. Does he mean we should pay someone to design our sides? Or we should buy artwork? I am not sure. I don’t think it takes a great deal of money to make good slides but I may have missed his point.

He also recommends not providing huge detail, and maybe not even using slides at all. I cannot imagine going to any medical conference and being told about a scientific or medical development that did not use slides. It would be a nightmare to describe clinical trials without some kind of imagery or graphs to show survival, or efficacy. He also seems to advocate not giving too much detail, but I think many of my colleagues would feel short-changed if we only gave them sketchy outlines of our work, experiments, drugs trials etc! It would make life easier as the speaker if we were permitted to gloss over technical details, but I suspect we would not be invited to speak again.

So, I have yet to see a good PowerPoint or Keynote presentation for a scientific or medical audience that uses great graphics, fonts, no bullets, is stylish, and one that hits the mark and is memorable. It just doesn’t happen.

I may be over-pessimistic but I don’t think there are many scientists or technical folk that think visually enough to put together (on their own) a blockbuster presentation. Nor do I think most of them care whether their slides look great – to them, the message is the main thing and not the delivery method.

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Elements of good PowerPoint design

June 18th, 2009 · PowerPoint, Presentation Zen

I have just spotted a fantastic presentation by Alexander Osterwalder with a very zen-like approach to getting your message across. Astonishingly he uses 135 slides in the deck which you would imagine is way too much – but it works perfectly.

Watching presentations like this is like a breath of fresh air but writing slides like this is very difficult – at least I find it difficult.

His presentation is here.

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How to use presentation
slide transitions and animations

June 16th, 2009 · Apple Keynote, PowerPoint

Until Aldus Persuasion and PowerPoint came along, we gave talks using 35mm slides or used overhead projectors. [Read more →]

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