Archive for the 'clarity' Category


PowerPoint versus Slideshows

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

In my presentations workshop, I make a distinction between PowerPoint and slideshows. The slide projector can be an incredible communication tool, sharing images, video and a host of other meaningful content. PowerPoint, as typically used, is good at creating lists. Content often ends up mashed into a hierarchy of bullet points. And God forbid the presenter reads them out loud.


Presentations Workshop

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Last Friday I led a four hour workshop on giving presentations. The audience was primarily parents who have children with disabilities. These parents are very active in the community as advocates, educators, and activists and sought new ideas for communicating their message. These are the day’s graphics.

I organized the class into three basic sections: Content, Methods, and People. Of course, these elements all overlap to create a successful presentation, but by taking each in turn, we didn’t get overwhelmed.

We discussed ways to hone in on and organize content. My guiding principles are clarity, honesty, simplicity, immediacy and impact.

We talked about four common methods for presenting information. I discussed the limitations of PowerPoint presentations and the benefits of using graphics as a way to share ideas and informations.

I divided the People section into two parts: the Audience and the Presenter. Throughout I emphasized the idea of a call-to-action. What do these people need to know right now? What do you want them to do tomorrow? I’ve worked in human services long enough to know that if you don’t provide clear instructions and a strong impetus, even the best idea will die slowly and painfully in committee.

The last section of the day was about the Presenter. At Chloe’s feet you’ll find practical ideas for making your presentations go smoothly. Arrayed around her head are many of the more conceptual ideas that guide a good presentation.

Many thanks to Darlyne Sahara, Gwenda LedBetter, Fred Lashley and Jim Johnston for their contributions to making this workshop a success.


Transitioning Youth

Saturday, January 7th, 2006

Disruption is the one constant for young people with developmental disabilities in the service supports system. Many kids move from placement to placement, pushed along by rules regarding age and suitability of setting. All young people must move from their existing program, generally a group or foster home, when they turn eighteen. Even under the best of circumstances, this transition is difficult. There’s great uncertainty; it is often very hard to find any openings, never mind a place the kid really wants to move to. The process is cumbersome as well, involving a host of people sometimes dispersed across the vast expanse of Oregon. There are often people involved with overlapping roles, but with very different expectations. This graphic was created to help clarify the process and who is responsible for the various steps.

The “Transitioning Youth” graphic demonstrates a complex, yearlong, 18 step process on a single page. Icons and text reinforce each other and tell a story. This learning graphic is laid out to invite note-taking, engaging users on many levels all at once. The color key at the bottom clarifies role accountability within the process and is clear even when printed or copied in black and white.

Click the image below to link to a larger, more legible version. Many thanks to Amber Desjarlais for her help.


Tufte, Strunk, White

Saturday, July 30th, 2005

Edward Tufte visited Portland earlier this week and delivered a lecture on ‘Envisioning Information’ to a capacity crowd of roughly four hundred people. He spoke at length about data graphics, good presentations and how PowerPoint kills astronauts. His summary of the communication failures between NASA and Boeing during the Columbia disaster are particularly poignant today, as we are reassured by NASA that the Discovery, now docked at the International Space Station, is doing fine, despite similar problems with flying chunks of foam.
Towards the end of the day, Tufte offered some practical advice on giving presentations. While there was nothing especially new under that sun, I was pleased to hear him mention Strunk & White, the authors of The Elements of Style, the only book on writing worth reading. It’s a manifesto for clear communication. It’s also surprisingly funny.
Strunk, White and Tufte share a respect for their audiences that’s no longer in fashion. So much of today’s media holds its audience in obvious contempt. Advertisements, disc jockeys and news programs pander and insult. Movie theaters charge nine dollars for the pleasure of watching massive, jittery advertisments and music videos before the feature presentation. To their way of thinking, the audience will always be there, soda-swilling cattle in uncomfortable chairs. Odd then that the movie industry complains so frequently and loudly about their diminishing market share. Of course piracy is an issue; movie going has become so unpleasant and costly that people will risk federal prosecution to avoid the theater.
I believe that most great teachers and presenters have a great and profound respect for the audiences. Tufte said it clearly, “Audiences are precious.” Be grateful for their time and attention and engage them actively and vigorously. Always seek to elevate. Always be honest, even when you don’t have the slightest idea what the answer might be. Give respect and it will flow back to you. No matter the audience and no matter how expert I might think I am about the material I’m teaching, I always learn so much from the people I am teaching. To me, that is fundamental to respect: I am not here to give you my ‘wisdom'; we are here to share our ideas and learning.

Edward Tufte’s web site
Elements of Style