The Science of Presentations
This week, instead of trying to revamp an entire presentation, which I rarely give now that I have basically flipped my chemistry classes, I decided I’d try and take a single slide of a single presentation and see what I can do to improve it. This is not a typical science slide–I’ve cheated a bit–but it does represent the kind of “rough and ready” slide that my students have to endure. Here is the original slide.
As you can see, there is absolutely zero thought about the design. It is simply words on a screen with a token image chucked in there.
I spent about 15 minutes re-jigging the slide (actually, I started over completely!). Coming up with the cube image took the longest, as I had to manually write the “20” on each of the three sides (as you can see if you look carefully–they’re all different!).
Fortunately, I have two sections of this class, and I’ve already presented the project to one of them. Needless to say, they weren’t thrilled at first. I did notice they got really into it very quickly after beginning, which indicates the project is good, but the presentation was bunk. We’ll see how tomorrow’s class responds to the flashier version.
Elements that I focused on:
-Simplicity: The original slide had >80 words and lots of completely unnecessary complete sentences. It also had some random image in there that was barely related and only served to distract the reader. The revamped model has 18 words and zero sentences, but still gets all of the information across.
-Alignment: The cube is perfectly centered above the center of the text below. That was super fast with Keynote, which snaps to centers, quarters, and thirds. Brilliant. The corner of the cube that points out seemed like a natural “power point” (used in the Garr Reynolds sense of the word), so I positioned it 1/3 from the top of the slide. I tried it putting it 1/3 from the left and right, but it didn’t look appealing at all.
-Repetition: The same font is used throughout. I could have messed around with fonts more, but I’m trying to be realistic about the amount of time I’d actually be able to devote to doing this.
-Imagery: The 20 x 20 x 20 box allows me to let the student ‘figure it out’ on his/her own. They are forced into thinking. (Though a careless presentation will certainly rob them of this)
-General-slickness: Black background! I am pretty sure that if the IRS started using black backgrounds on their 1040, I might (for once) get my taxes done on time.
Overall, I am really impressed with how it turned out. It didn’t take too long, but I have to admit that this kind of window-dressing probably won’t happen unless I am flush on time, which is depressingly rare! I’m hoping elements of this type of design-thinking unconsciously affect my “just get it done” work as well.