The link that follows will take you to a single long web page from a site called TheOatmeal.com. Scroll through it to learn something about the way your brain processes things that you might not have known before.
Interesting, isn't it? Or perhaps you already knew this information. That doesn't matter, as I am NOT going to talk about the information itself. Instead, I would like to focus on it as a remarkably clear and straightforward example of how to think about Presentation content design (onstage or via webinar).
The web page as written makes an engaging reference work that is easy for you to take in and understand on your own. Short sentences present the key concepts in brief, easily separable chunks. You get concrete examples, backed up by source annotations (that you probably didn't bother to click on). Images break up the text with visual representations of some of the key concepts. When there is not a good image available, a nice big keyword acts as a visual eye-catcher on its own ("WHAT", "NOW", "THE POINT"). That's a technique most famously employed by Lawrence Lessig, whom you can look up on your own.
Most presenters would look at this and say, "Great! I've got my handout. All I need to do is put each framed rectangle on its own Slide and I have my slide show presentation done!"
But you would be doing yourself and your audience a huge disfavor. The beautifully simple, conversational style of the text is written as a script that could be read out loud to an audience. It speaks to the reader or listener in the singular, challenging that one person to take specific mental actions and to reflect on the information being presented. As any politician, news anchor, or keynote speaker will tell you - You NEVER show your Teleprompter script to the audience! Why on Earth would you print it all out on your slides?
To make the slide show version that would support your presentation of this material, you would remove almost all the sentences from the slides. You would be left with some images and some keywords that wouldn't make much sense on their own. And then you would SAY the rest of the text as your hidden script, giving you the role of the expert and leading the audience on their path of discovery. The slides would SUPPORT your presentation, rather than duplicate it.
"But what about the handout? I can't just give people a slide deck with a bunch of pictures that don't mean anything by themselves!" Easy. Instead of just deleting the script text from the slides, you cut it from the slide and paste it into the Notes section (or preferably never write it on the slide at all, and type it directly into the Notes panel). Then you create a handout PDF of your Notes Pages, acting as a complete reference with pictures and text.
There's one more thing to notice in our study example. Did you observe how panels do not follow a rigid design template? There are some unifying design decisions (graphics are comic drawings rather than photographs, there is a single font style). But one panel uses full color artwork, another is monochrome, and some use just a highlight color here and there. Some panels have full color backgrounds from the art, most use a white Background, and a few use a black background. Most include artwork, but a few are text-only. Don't be a slave to a single PowerPoint layout template, repeated on every slide of your presentation. You can introduce variance in the visual layout of your slides while keeping them within the general framework of an overall aesthetic. Viewers appreciate some visual changes and surprises. It makes them want to see what will show up next.
Oh my… There is yet another take-away from this deceptively simple example. I almost skipped over it in my third paragraph. Don't focus on your sources when telling a story. There are exceptions to this rule, but not as many as people think. In general, you don't want listeners to get sidetracked into running down background details while you are trying to give them the big picture and influence their perceptions and attitudes. Let them know that your assertions have citations and that they will get a document or a supporting web page so that interested parties can investigate and get more in-depth background later if desired. But keep moving forward while making your points. Leave the source citations as backup reference material (and have them handy in case someone challenges you during Q&A).
Those are a lot of practical guidelines from one short comic. Apply them to your next speech and you'll have a happier audience and a more effective presentation.
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