Visual Design: Don’t Forget Your Audience

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When I learned that I would have a few very special guests attending my visual design lecture this month, I redesigned my lesson plans.  While these lessons aren’t quite Slideshare-ready yet, I would like to share them with you over the next few days.  I promise to debut the new visual design Slideshare presentation before the end of January!

The new lessons focus on teaching my students 7 key rules for effective slide design.  Read rule number one: Slides Are Not Documents; rule number two: Apply The Picture Superiority Effect; rule number three: Slides Should Be Simple; rule number four: Slides Must Have Unity; rule number five: Display Data Clearly; and rule number six: Use Multimedia Wisely.  Today, we cover the seventh and final rule of effective slide design:

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Your presentation should be based upon the needs, wants, and hopes of your audience. Your slides should definitely take the crowd into consideration.  Additionally, you should spend enough time on your slideshow to honor and respect your audience.

Consider a 30 minute presentation in front of a crowd of 200 people.  Each of those 200 people are giving up 30 minutes of their lives to watch you present, so 6,000 collective minutes are at stake during your speech.  Is that time your audience will feel is wasted?

Creating slides should not be a race… Don’t speed through this important process.  Instead of rushing and hurrying to build a Keynote for your presentation, spend time storyboarding, carefully searching for the right images, and, most importantly, tweaking.

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Chiara Ojeda introduced me to the concept of “tweaking slides” because of her commitment to constantly improving, revising, and growing in this area.  Now, before I complete a deck or share new slides with my students, I always ask for her opinion.  Just as rehearsing your content helps your message and your delivery, asking for slide advice helps you design the best possible Keynote.

Nancy Duarte believes in the three-pronged presentation ecosystem.  Jim Endicott believes in the three-legged presentation stool.  If you hope to deliver a strong presentation, each of these three legs much be strong.  Spending more time creating and revising your slides will ensure that third visual design leg is just as powerful as content and delivery.

Visual Design: Use Multimedia Wisely

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When I learned that I would have a few very special guests attending my visual design lecture this month, I redesigned my lesson plans.  While these lessons aren’t quite Slideshare-ready yet, I would like to share them with you over the next few days.  I promise to debut the new visual design Slideshare presentation before the end of January!

The new lessons focus on teaching my students 7 key rules for effective slide design.  Read rule number one: Slides Are Not Documents; rule number two: Apply The Picture Superiority Effect; rule number three: Slides Should Be Simple; rule number four: Slides Must Have Unity; and rule number five: Display Data Clearly.  Today, we examine the sixth rule:

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I’ve noticed that if allowed, my students want to fill up a lot of speaking time with useless multimedia.  Audio and video must be used wisely, and every clip inserted into Keynote or PowerPoint should reinforce the speaker’s main idea.

Sometimes, my students throw video clips into Keynote that have little to nothing to do with their presentation topic.  When I question those students on why the video was included, I hear things like, “Because the video was cool!” or “Because I knew my audience would laugh at the video clip.”  If you’re using multimedia just because you believe it is funny or interesting, you should not use it in your slideshow.  The goal of multimedia is to support a main idea in your presentation.  Just as you would use research and source material in your speech, multimedia should be integrated seamlessly.  Video clips should tie to the speech content, but the speaker should also work to explain those relationships, too.

Multimedia should also be short and to the point.  I suggest using the QuickTime tool inside the Inspector in Keynote to cut down your audio or video clips and to only show the most important parts.  If your audience wants to know more, you can share the link to the full version with them.  After all, inspiring your audience to look up more information about your topic is positive… Boring your audience to tears with too-long videos is not.

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The great thing about the QuickTime feature in the Inspector is that you don’t have to use any other program to cut down your multimedia… no iMovie, no FinalCut Pro.  The QuickTime tab allows you to adjust the “Start” and “Stop” times for your multimedia.

When it comes to making sure you are using multimedia wisely, ask yourself the following three questions:

1.  Is this audio or video clip directly related to my message?  How is this multimedia supporting or reinforcing my presentation’s content?

2.  Is this audio or video clip absolutely necessary?  What will my audience miss out on if I don’t include the multimedia?

3.  Can I cut down the audio or video?  What can I cut?  How much can I cut?

What other questions are important to ask when deciding whether or not to use multimedia?

Slide Makeover: Data Display

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As we learned yesterday, displaying data on a slide can be a tricky task.  When we have information, research, facts, and figures to share with our audience, we CAN make those visual.

Below is a typical (hideous) slide with data:

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Instead of a death-by-bulletpoint approach, consider two ways to makeover your slides.

First, you can single out one piece of data that is most important for you to convey to your audience.  The fact that Americans own more than 81 million cats is astonishing, and a shocking statistic like this helps capture your audience’s attention.

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Second, you can display all of the data in a simple way that follows the three-second rule of glance media.  In the slide below, the data is laid out so plainly that the audience can easily process it.  Showing more than one statistic allows your audience to see relationships and connections between the data; this may be important in your presentation.

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Garr Reynolds discusses the difference between pie charts, vertical bar charts, horizontal bar charts, line charts, and tables in this post.  It’s a must-read if you’re trying to determine how to best show data to your audience.

Keep in mind that your audience needs you, the presenter, to tell them the meaning behind the data.  Hans Rosling is the man when it comes to conveying the meaning and the story of the data.  Garr Reynolds suggests we look to Rosling to teach us how to do this.  “Who says data is boring? Data is like notes on a page, says Dr. Rosling, it’s up to the presenter (the conductor) to bring the data (music) alive for the people” (Source).  Learn more about how you can move from data to meaning here.

Visual Design: Display Data Clearly

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When I learned that I would have a few very special guests attending my visual design lecture this month, I redesigned my lesson plans.  While these lessons aren’t quite Slideshare-ready yet, I would like to share them with you over the next few days.  I promise to debut the new visual design Slideshare presentation before the end of January!

The new lessons focus on teaching my students 7 key rules for effective slide design.  Read rule number one: Slides Are Not Documents; rule number two: Apply The Picture Superiority Effect; rule number three: Slides Should Be Simple; and rule number four: Slides Must Have Unity.  Today, we take a look at the fifth rule:

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We live in a data-saturated world.  Just as the results of a particular study can be muddled, slides containing data can be unclear.  The goal of presentation design is to display information, especially data, in a simple, clear, and easy-to-digest fashion.  Data must be clear in order for an audience to look at it, to process it, to digest it, and to remember it.

When we present to an audience, we may want to fill our slides with more data than they need so that – if they have a question – the question can be answered by sifting through mountains of data.  By doing this, our slides end up looking busy, confusing, and overwhelming…

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Ironically, the slide above is talking about engaging customers to cut through clutter… However, the slide is so busy and cluttered that the audience can’t process the main idea in three seconds.  Heck, I can’t even process the main idea in ten seconds.

Yes, we can give our audience all of this information.  However, when we’re speaking, we typically use the data to support one main point.  I suggest including only the relevant data to support that main point on your slides and then putting all of your research, tables, graphs, and charts in document form to hand out (or to distribute digitally via email/Dropbox/flash drive).  That way, your audience has all of the information in case they want to fact-check you, but your slides still remain clear and simple.

Sometimes, we display data effectively, but we use the premade charts in Keynote or PowerPoint.  Without changing the typeface or colors, we end up with a hideous data visualization like the one you see here:

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David McCandless says that data should be displayed with four principles in mind: 1) interestingness, 2) integrity, 3) form, and 4) function.  To learn more about his work, check out Information Is Beautiful or watch his TED Talk (one of my personal favorites) “The beauty of data visualization.”  McCandless believes in data, but he believes we should work to display it more clearly, effectively, and beautifully.

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The experts agree that data should meet the qualifications McCandless describes above. Garr Reynolds advises against slapping every piece of research on a single slide and expecting our audience to figure things out.  He says, “We must not make the mistake of thinking that our data can speak for itself, no matter how convincing, obvious, or strong it may seem to us” (Source).  He suggests we look to Hans Rosling (a man David McCandless describes as his “master”) to see how data should be displayed.

Phil Waknell gives some additional advice, “Some [main points in a presentation] will require tables of data. These do not go on slides. I would simply print those tables and give them to the investor at the appropriate time. It’s far easier to understand tables of data on paper rather than on a big screen. What is more, on the screen I could then put a simple graph which illustrates a key data point from the printed table. This helps me to guide the investor’s attention a little. However, if I only showed the simple graph, the investor would not have enough detail to trust what I’m saying” (Source).

How do you display data on your slides?  Is your data clear and simple?

Links of the Week: 2013.04

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This week has been incredibly busy with work, with my husband’s broken hand, with advising three days (and long nights) of sorority recruitment at Rollins College, and with my stress-induced sickness.  Luckily, I still found plenty of time to read some amazing articles about public speaking and presentation that I’d like to share in the fourth installment of “Links of the Week” in 2013.

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In “6 Ways to Enhance Your Credibility,” Geoffrey James advises us how to be more authentic and natural so that we can connect with others.  These tips work well in business, advertising, marketing, and public speaking.  James suggests that we communicate our genuine selves with others; that we know our own value and what we can provide others; and that we develop insights based on research and analysis (Source).  My favorite tip, which is also a Duarte must-do, is to be a catalyst as opposed to a hero (Source).  Read James’ article in its entirety here.

“How To Be A Super-Achiever” explains ten qualities that a leader must possess.  From dedication and persistence to good storytelling, Jenna Goudreau references the book The Art of Doing: How Super Achievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well by Sweeney and Gosfield.  I definitely added the book to my must-read list after reading Goudreau’s article and watching the book trailer:

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What great articles did you read this week? 

Visual Design: Slides Must Have Unity

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When I learned that I would have a few very special guests attending my visual design lecture this month, I redesigned my lesson plans.  While these lessons aren’t quite Slideshare-ready yet, I would like to share them with you over the next few days.  I promise to debut the new visual design Slideshare presentation before the end of January!

The new lessons focus on teaching my students 7 key rules for effective slide design.  Read rule number one: Slides Are Not Documents; rule number two: Apply The Picture Superiority Effect; and rule number three: Slides Should Be Simple.  Today, we take a look at the fourth rule:

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Unity is a basic and universal principle of design.  Kent State University’s definition of unity is simple and perfect for our application on slides:

“Unity is the relationship among the elements of a visual that helps all the elements function together. Unity gives a sense of oneness to a visual image. In other words, the words and the images work together to create meaning” (Source).  The opposite of unity is noise, chaos, and confusion.  This is why slides must be simple.

PowerPoint and Keynote often get a bad rap because they cause the user to create documents.  When we take a closer look at a template, here is what we see:

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The Venetian template in Keynote does many things incorrectly.  It forces the user to focus on text as opposed to the picture superiority effect.  It asks the user to input bullet after bullet of text on the slide.  It is the quintessential document generator.

However, the template does one thing correctly: unity.  Templates are the perfect example of unity, and we can study a template to learn more about the design principle.

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Kent State reminds us that unity can be achieved in a variety of ways, through a repeated shape or similar shapes; through a common pattern or background; or through the use of space (Source).  But we must learn to create unity ourselves in our presentations.  As opposed to selecting a tired, boring template such as Venetian, we can create unity in our slide decks by repeating a shape, repeating a font, or repeating a color palette on each slide.

For example, on the slide deck I created (above), you see two fonts repeated: League Gothic (all caps) and Blackjack.  You see a unified color scheme: black, white, and green.  You see that most of the images are black and white, so the look and feel of the pictures displays unity.  Lastly, a repeated circle shape is seen on the slides displaying the visual design “rules.”  The more unity you include in your slideshow, the more cohesive the presentation.

Visual Design: Slides Should Be Simple

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When I learned that I would have a few very special guests attending my visual design lecture this month, I redesigned my lesson plans.  While these lessons aren’t quite Slideshare-ready yet, I would like to share them with you over the next few days.  I promise to debut the new visual design Slideshare presentation before the end of January!

The new lessons focus on teaching my students 7 key rules for effective slide design.  Read rule number one: Slides Are Not Documents and rule number two: Apply The Picture Superiority Effect.  Today, we discuss rule number three:

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Slides should be well designed and serve as visuals as opposed to documents.  Slides should also be simple.  Nancy Duarte refers to slides as “digital scenery,” and this idea will help us to understand the purpose of slides and the needs of our audience.

The idea of simplicity boils down to two major design rules: the three second rule of glance media and the signal to noise ratio.  The three second rule explains that slides are glance media – just like a billboard or an ad in the subway.  An audience needs to be able to glance at the slide, process the message of the slide in three seconds, and direct their attention back to the presenter.

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Since we’ve already made the distinction between a slide and a document, we know that 30-50 words on a slide is not effective.  But just how many words should appear on one slide?

A great rule of thumb is to use the three second rule of glance media.  Include a single main idea on your slide.  Step back and count to three seconds.  Can your audience read and process the message in three seconds?  If so, you’re on the right track word count wise.  But if you’ve spent your entire life treating slides as documents, you might need to work a bit to reduce the text on your slides.

One amazing trick I’ve learned is to just add more slides.  If all of the words you want to use can’t fit the three second rule, create additional slides to hold that information.  As a wise slide designer once taught me, an extra slides costs nothing.

Your ultimate goal is to include one main idea per slide.  To get there, make sure that main idea is digestible within three seconds.

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While you’re thinking about text on a slide, it’s important to determine what kind and how many fonts to use.  Simple typefaces are key, and I only use free, Commercially licensed fonts.  A great website to download fonts is Font Squirrel.  The fonts I’ve used for my slides in this post come from Font Squirrel: League Gothic (all caps) and Blackjack.  My general rule of thumb is to use one font consistently on every single slide.  This helps with the unity and flow of the presentation.  However, it’s also nice to have one highlighting font just in case you want to make certain words stand out.  The experts agree on limiting yourself to two fonts on a slide or in a slideshow:

Garr Reynolds says, “Use the same font set throughout your entire slide presentation, and use no more than two complementary fonts” (Source).

Nancy Duarte says, “It is best to combine no more than two fonts per presentation” (Source).

Ethos3 says, “We understand the need for more than one [font], but if you find yourself using three or more, you may be flirting with a readability disaster” (Source).

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The picture superiority effect teaches us that a large, clear image is key to a successful slide because people remember pictures more than words.  We already know how to search for and select effective images, but how do we know how many images to include on one slide?

Slides should be simple, and one main idea per slide reinforces that simplicity.  When you are designing a slideshow, pair a bit of text with a strong image.  However, one main idea per slide doesn’t necessarily mean one IMAGE per slide.

If you have multiple images that communicate the same main idea, arrange those images using a grid.  Remember to arrange images in a clean, seamless fashion… Do not stack images on top of one another.  Think about your slide as a puzzle where all the pieces must fit together neatly.  In Keynote, using the “Shapes” tool can help you with this task.  Chiara Ojeda shows you how to arrange multiple images on one slide in a clean, simple way in “Build Your Presentation Design Muscle.”  Check out the “Eat Fresh” slide: multiple images, one main idea.

The three second rule of glance media combined with the one main idea per slide rule will help you to determine if you have too many images on one slide.  Since an extra slide costs you nothing, you can always divide your images onto multiple slides.  A deck doesn’t have to include 10 slides… You may need 20, 30, or even 60 to get your message across clearly!

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None!  I tell my students they should not use animation on their slides without my permission.  Animation should be simple, elegant, and natural.  Most animation, whether it is a transition between slides or animation of elements on a slide, is tacky and hideous.

If I see animation on a student’s slide, I ask, “What is the purpose of your animation?”  Usually, the answer is, “Because it looks cool!” or “Because I want to grab my audience’s attention!”  You shouldn’t rely on your slides to keep your audience engaged.  That’s why we work to build strong content.  If your flames transition is the only thing keeping people engaged, your content and delivery must be terrible.  Instead of gross animation, just add an extra slide and “build” in additional elements that way.