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June 21, 2007

Powerpoint and glanceability

Tony Hirst talks about glanceability in the context of presentations and makes the point that Powerpoint (particularly within academia) is often mis-used - or at least not used as well as it might be.

In general, I'm guilty of over-egging the text on my slides - hey, it's hard to find suitable images when you are talking about metadata!  Interestingly (to me anyway) I think I often talk longest to those slides with the least text, at least I'm getting better at doing so, so I don't think I'm guilty of simply reading stuff out.

I think we need to separate out 'slides as scaffolding for the talk itself' vs. 'slides as record of the event'. I tend to put enough text on my slides that they stand alone afterwards, and I'm regularly told off by the marketing people here for doing so.  But in the age of Slideshare, slides have a significant impact well beyond the 30 minutes and 50 people that you are speaking to at the actual event.

I picked one of Tony's Slideshare presentations at random and yes, it looks very nice.  (I genuinely wish I could put together presentations that looked like that).  But I have no real idea what points he was making in his talk - at least not in any detail.

Perhaps we just need to get better at sharing the 'record' in some other form - a text log, an audio/video recording, some slide notes, or something...?

I sometimes wonder if more slides, each with much less text, is a possible compromise?

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"I picked one of Tony's Slideshare presentations ... But I have no real idea what points he was making in his talk - at least not in any detail."

That's been bugging me too... ;-) The point about slides as a "performance aid" rather than a matter of record is one that I keep thinking about. The slides I do are to support my ramblings and, hopefully sometimes, support people who blog talks the way I do... using slides as keyword hooks/headers for my notes.

They are not good summarisers of the talk fro people who weren;t then (and aren't meant to be; I post them to slideshare for personal archiving reasons as much as anything...)

I'm thinking more and more that what I need to do is make notes/comments slides on each slide after the talk - essentially writing up what I (remember) saying over each one...

Alternatively, I guess I could try to make a recording of the presentation and post that too (or a transcript of it).

The only other way to find out what words go with the slides is to turn up or invite me over...!

The ideal solution would be to have someone live blog notes to each slide, and then review them/tidy them up after...!

tony

Hi Andy
I've been chatting with Tony about this whole glanceability thing - it links to cognitive load theory maybe as well. Afterwards I tried to do one for a workshop Tony and I were doing - see http://nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk/no_good_reason/2007/06/blogging_worksh.html
It worked well I think, but it took me a lot longer to produce - bunging a load of text up is so much easier!
Martin

I can't quite remember where I got the suggestion, but ever since I heard it I've tried to change how I give my presentations on the law.

I make a detailed handout that is essentially an outline of my talk, complete with more in-depth references for each point so that once they go home, participants can look deeper into the issues I've raised. The slides I've started to use for the fun stuff -- images, single words, etc -- just as punctuation for my talk.

Usually it is not too big a deal to create the handout, as this is essentially a cleaned up version of my lecture notes.

It doesn't match up perfectly as a record, but could go a long way.

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