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Balinese Fire Dancers!

Here is a video of part of the Balinese Fire Dance performed by dancers at the Pan Pacific Bali Nirwana resort as part of the Apple Distinguished Educators Institute in Bali in March 2013. Look at their 'presentation' as it keeps the audeince's eyes firmly on the presenters. That's what good presenters shsould do. Enjoy!


Presentation Slideshow Design 

Here are a few videos showing a variety of elements that are needed to make good slideshows for presentations. These cover the 4A's - of presentations. Here the A’s stand for Accessibility - use of dyslexic friendly fonts and colour blind friendly contrast schemes. The best fonts are san serif fonts as they have a higher readability factor compared to serif fonts. So I have used Century Gothic for most of my slides as I like its clean lines and overall style. Similarly using mainly lower case also adds to the readability of the slides as this is what most people are most used to reading so they can cognitively process lower case faster (Weinschenk, Susan, 2009). Appropriateness - of the images and their relationship to the topic or idea, and of the the style to content so there is a cognitive match; Arrangement - of the placement, style, timing and transitions of the builds and elements on the slide to smoothly flow together in a cognitively pleasing way; and lastly Awesomeness - of the slideshow in terms on its overall effect on the audience to produce an emotional reaction.

Here I am building on the famous Maya Angelou quote,
“ People will forget what you said, and what you do, but they will not forget how you made them feel”
as the overall aim of presentations is to take the information from the presenter via the presentation and implant it into the minds of the audience in a way that enables them to remember it easily. This is best done via the WOW effects of what I call Dopamine Generators, techniques that produce an emotional reaction in the audience as when people feel emotions dopamine is produced and this enables memory retention. These generators can take the form of humour, shock, awe, sadness, happiness - basically anything that hits some emotional sweet spot in the audience. When this is achieved and dopamine is produced in the audience then these are the best times to have the presenter present their key points as these times are when memory retention is likely to be at its highest in the audience. This is the WOW effect and the video above is an explanation of how it looks on slides, and my TEDxTokyoTeacher talk below is an example of one of my live presentations where I try to do just that - starting with a humourous introduction, evocative images, and controversial ideas!


When audiences attend a presentation the presenter should be the main focus of attention. However many presenters inadvertently design a slideshow that not only does not complement their presentation, but which actually competes with them for the audience’s attention. This ultimately detracts from the overall effectiveness of the presentation as extensive amounts of text on a slide, with the presenter sometimes reading this same text, causes these sensory inputs (auditory from the presenter and visual from the slide) to compete. Furthermore with visual being the dominant sense the audience usually reads the slide and ignores the presenter to some extent during the reading. However the presenters words are audible while the audience are reading and this creates some cognitive interference in terms of processing and understanding the two input channels, i.e. the presenter’s speaking disturbs the audiences’ reading, while the audiences’ reading takes their attention away from whatever the presenter is saying (Mayer, 2001). Furthermore while the text is being read by the audience they generally try to find the key points and on a sub conscious level create mental images to aid in memorising these key points. So the more text there is, the more scanning needs to be done, and then the more mnemonic images need to be created. This all takes time and while this is going on the audience are effectively ignoring the presenter. So the more text on a slide the more the audience ignores the presenter. Therefore in a text heavy slideshow the presenter is redundant to a great extent and there is little point in a presenter being present and presenting if the audience are reading instead of paying attention to the presenter! These and other mistakes in presentation slideshows can be seen in the video below.

Yet presenters are more central to a presentation than the slides as they have many things they can contribute to presentations that slides cannot, and a good presenter can electrify an audience in a way that text on a slide cannot hope to emulate. However to do this presenters need slides that do not pull the audience away from them. This is where Picture Superiority Effect (PSE) comes in (Medina, 2011, pp. 233–235). A PSE style slide then is one where there are few words for the audience to read. The main idea of the slide is an image that conveys the essence of the presenters point at that time. This means that the whole of the slide can be cognitively processed by the audience very quickly as there is little to read and the audience does not need to spend time subconsciously converting ideas to images for memory purposes as the image is already present on the slide. So very, very quickly after the slide appears the audience’s attention is back where it belongs, i.e. on the presenter.   

There are a number of good books on designing visually effective slides (Duarte, 2008; Reynolds, 2008) and my classes take note of this body of work as the videos on these pages show.  Similarly there are some good designers out there (Williams, 2008, 2009) with books focussing on the design of the actual elements that constitute the slides. A short list and mini review of these books is in my Presentation Books section on this site. 
The last thing to consider is the Contrast Repetition Alignment Proximity (CRAP) theory, as these also contribute to effect slide design. Contrast is the first element and it refers to two things. First of all it means that there should be a good contrast between the colour of all text on slides and the colour of whatever is the background under the text. So if the text is dark the background should be light and vice versa. Care should also be taken here to ensure that the difference in contrast is not one that will cause problems for colour blind people. The second contrast is the contrast in size between title level text and subtitle level text on all slides. The size differential should be such that it is obvious whether text is title or subtitle level. The video below gives a very clear visual explanation of the Contrast factor in action in slide design.
Repetition is next up. Here this refers to some style or elements or arrangement that continually runs through all the slides. This serves to tie the slides together stylistically speaking and links everything together in a nice way. The video below gives a good overview of the Repetition element in action in slide design. The video is here.
Alignment is the next of the design elements to be considered. This looks at how the different elements are put together. If they are not well aligned things look a little off cognitively speaking. The video here illustrates this very well.
Proximity is the last of the elements to be considered. This deals with how close or far apart elements on the slides are. Basically it states that related or connected elements should be grouped together and unrelated elements should not be close to each other. The video here shows this in action.
Happy slide designing!!!