Monthly Archives: July 2005

It’s Life’s Illusions I Recall…

Nothing to do with Joni Mitchell this, but the lyrics to ‘Both Sides Now’ came to mind when I first saw ‘Akiyoshi’s Illusion Pages‘ recently.

There’s been a few occasions when, whilst creating graphics for presentation, I’ve noticed odd visual effects that occur when certain repetitive elements are combined using certain colours. I’ve always understood the effects to be a result of our bilateral stereo vision and the brain’s inability to correctly interpret conflicting or overlapping data. I’ve never had a name for these peculiar visual aberrations before, but now I can amaze my friends with comments like “Oh that’s just a peripheral drift illusion” or “You’re probably experiencing vertical retinal slips”. The amazing body of work assembled (often created) by Akiyoshi Kitaoka of the Department of Psychology, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan, is quite remarkable and one can spend a lot of time exploring the phenomenon of ‘anomalous motion illusions’ on his site.

AlieneggsThere’s an important caveat to viewing here though. Akiyoshi states: “some of the pictures on the website can cause dizziness or might possibly (in rare cases) induce epileptic seizures. The latter happens when the brain can’t handle the conflicting information from your two eyes. If you start feeling unwell when using the website, immediately cover one eye with your hand and then leave the page. Do not close your eyes because that can make the attack worse.”

The BulgeAnyone who spends time creating repetitive patterns or graphic elements in varied colours can learn a lot from his work. And it’s useful for photographers to be aware of the phenomena associated with colour and pattern also. I first discovered Akiyoshi’s page through a link from a British photoblog that I subscribe to called Chromasia – Best European/British/Irish photoblog in the Photobloggies 2005 Awards and one of TIME magazine’s 50 Coolest Websites in 2005. The clouds in the picture displayed on this entry appeared to move behind the main subject when viewed peripherally – that’s the drift illusion.

The example above appears to move; the example at the right, composed of only horizontal and vertical elements, appears to be curved. Click either to see a larger version where the effect is displayed more clearly. Hopefully the majority will be able to view the hundreds of other fascinating visual effects on show at Akiyoshi’s site without experiencing any ill effects. Give it a try.

Tag, you’re it…

Pooya Darugar makes a connection that could create fundamental changes in the way every presentation professional does their job:

Tagging seems to be all the rage and I think I’m beginning to believe that it can be useful for certain situations; here’s an example of how I think it’ll actually help businesses. I was creating a powerpoint presentation today for a client and came to the realization that there’s really no good way to organize and search slides. I know I have slides that cover most of the points I’m trying to get across hidden in some previous presentations, but how do I find them? That’s where I think tagging could be useful. If we (or the marketing people that create these slides) could tag them with keywords AND there was a nice way to search through many presentations based on tags, I could easily have done my task today in 1/10th the time.”

Combine this idea a service like Technorati (more) or with RSS technology and the possibilities for slicing and dicing presentation material become seriously mind boggling. It seems to me that presentations could become very fluid, perhaps even to the point of being nearly self-assembling (at least for the first draft). Think along the lines of presenting by making use of a “cloud of slides”, rather than showing a traditional, static presentation. How would the skills needed to present successfully change when it’s possible to pull together a presentation while you’re giving it.

Of course, you would still have all of the problems inherent in organizing material using tags (how do you measure the confidence you should have in the way a particular tag is used for a particular slide). You would also have to radically alter the way Microsoft thinks about presentations and convince them they need to made very deep changes in the way PowerPoint works.

The possibilities seem very exciting. Or am I just getting caught up in the hype that seems to surround everything having to do with tagging these days. You tell me.

MakingRoom Magazine

One of the basic assumptions of this blog is that the difference between an ordinary presentation and a great one is often related directly to the strength of it’s visual elements. MakingRoom Magazine is all about powerful images and could serve as a source of inspiration as we strive toward being more visual.

“MakingRoom is a magazine about the process, intention and results of image-making. … It’s our hope to comfortably view and examine the range of individual processes that lead to powerful visuals. We plan to talk fairly plainly but with depth to artists at all stages of their practice.”

“The 1981 Wharton Study”

Without a doubt the most often quoted presentation related research is the 1981 3M/Wharton study. The second most frequently quoted research is the 1986 University of Minnesota/3M study. The purpose of this Presentation Facts article, and the one that will follow it, will be to provide brief overviews of these two studies.

What does this oft quoted but little understood research really say… and how does it relate to us today?

Both Wharton and UM/3M are foundational presentation studies, and much of the subsequent work I have read reference one or the other or both. A quick internet search returns dozens of Web pages that reference the Wharton study in some way. Often partial or erroneous information is attributed to this research. While still a significant problem among many who write about presentation matters today, overstating the Wharton study is not new. In 1986 Douglas R. Vogel wrote the following in the introduction to the UM/3M Study:

“Although there have been many claims made regarding how presentations are improved by visual support, there is little empirical evidence to back up the claims. The study conducted in 1981 at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is the one empirical study that is often cited, but frequently the claims exceed the study’s explanatory capabilities.”

The results from Wharton were used to aggressively sell presentation products and services, which may account for the often exaggerated claims. Another problem seems to be that once information gets distorted, subsequent published papers and documents cite the erroneous source. It is like the game you played as a kid where a whisper gets passed along through a dozen or so players and the final content has no resemblance to the original statement. Continue reading

The PowerPoint Wedding

Don Watson (pictured) has written a book called “Death Sentences: How Clichés, Weasel Words and Management-Speak are Strangling Public Language”. The Nesweek interview with him is pretty funny.

NEWSWEEK: What are some examples of the way business-speak has spread beyond the corporate world?

Don Watson: My granddaughter Sophie has been asked to write her English essays in PowerPoint. It’s shocking and terrible. And maybe when she grows up she’ll get married in PowerPoint: “Point one: Do you take this man for your lawful husband?” And maybe when she dies, she’ll even have her funeral in PowerPoint. [Laughs.] Her [class] spent their last week of primary education writing their “personal mission statement”—their “core values and key goals going forward.” And then there was an example from a Houston newspaper review of my book where births [at a hospital] were referred to as OB [obstetrics] product. Now we can say I was a seven-and-a-half pound OB product, which is a measurable item, not just a child.

While I think PPT gets needlessly dumped on a lot, there is no question many use it in rediculous ways. If one of my sons were asked to write an essay in PPT, his teacher would receive a nasty PPT file from me in response.

Tom Bunzel brought this article to our attention in his comment to a previous post. Thanks Tom!

What is a Presentation Professional?

At InfoComm this year the ICIA introduced an impressive document called “Audiovisual Best Practices”. Now before you get too excited, let me tell you this is not a a best practice document about designing or delivering presentations. It is best practices for “The design and integration process for the AV and construction industries”. Nevertheless, it is very well done and can serve as a model for the kind of best practices document we might want to see developed for presentation design and delivery. Altough not targeted to Pres Pros, “Audiovisual Best Practices” does recognize the important role we play and lists the following definition of a Presentation Professional in its introductory chapter.

Presentation Professionals
After hardware is installed in an AV system and staff training is complete, presentation professionals are often hired to produce strong, effective and creative presentations that use the AV equipment to its fullest potential. This ensures a solid return on the organization’s investment. Presentation professionals are often hired as in-house resources or as independent freelancers to enhance the message through graphics and video presentations, marketing expertise and creative application of presentation tools.

This is the first time that I am aware of that a Presentation Professional has been formally acknowledged and defined. I think this definition is a pretty good start…. but what do you think? What would you change or add if you could? Does this describe your profession?

Hack A Day: powerpoint on ipods and portable media centers

This technique might provide an convenient way to practice a presentation in the plane, the cab, the lobby or other places where you’d rather not have to boot up the laptop. And, as the author remarks, it might be a good way to get the boss to let you expense an ipod.

“there’s a new tool (for macs) that will export powerpoint, pdfs and keynote slides for use on the ipod photo, $18 or you can use my how-to to do the same. an ipod photo, portable media center or any device that plays photos will do. might be a good way to get the boss to let you expense one of these. in the how-to i pump the images out to a headset display, which is part of a cool project that’ll i’ll post about later.”

Presenting To Win

At the SuperTuesday session last month at InfoComm, Fred Barnes encouraged us to keep working on our own presentation skills so that we can increase the value we bring to our customers. One of the ways I do this is by reading good material. I am just starting Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story by Jerry Weissman. I started this book thinking that I would post a summary on VB when I was done. Then I had another idea. Why not post thoughts on this book as I go… or better yet why don’t a few of us read it and discuss as we go. If you can and want to… pick up a copy and join in.

I have often said that it doesn’t matter how well you say it… if you have nothing to say. This line in the introduction to Presenting To Win caught my attention:

“All the vocal pyrotechnics and animated body language in the world can’t improve a confusing story, while a clear and concise story can give a presenter the clarity of mind to present with poise.”

I will use the comments to this post to continue the discussion. Hope you can join me!

Image Resource

Looking for a good image and tired of going to Getty…..We have really enjoyed the quality as well as the affordability of the images from Liquid Library.

The best part about this site, they have the images available for print and presentation.

The yearly subscription is the best deal, however, you can download/purchase, 1 image at time, they are reasonably priced.

Forget What You’ve Heard About Remembering

How many times have you heard some version of the following?

“It’s estimated that we retain only 10% of what we hear. But by adding visual aids, the retention rate zooms to 50%.”

An internet search will lead you to dozens of different versions of this “statistic.” I quickly found this quote (or a version of it) used over a hundred times on presentation and education related Websites, and not once was any kind of reference provided that might hint at the source of the “data.” The 10% of what we hear numbers are usually given as fact and rarely even include the “it’s estimated” of my example. So is this oft quoted information a true Presentation Fact? Continue reading

Introducing: Presentation Facts

What started as a a little rant at the end of a long day a few weeks ago has become a quest.

For years I have been highly suspicious of quite a bit of the presentation related common wisdom that is so often given and received as fact in our field. It has bothered me that there is so little hard data in an area of communication that is so important. It’s also bothered me that what little data I was aware of was 20 years old.

So we have launched a new category of VB called Presentation Facts. Starting in the next day or so, we will begin exploring what is known for sure about presentations and presentation visuals. ..or at least what can be supported with reasonably well done research. I think there is more out there in terms of good research than I first thought. We will also explore presentation common wisdom and try to determine the origins and validity of some of the notions many of us have taken for granted.

We are committed to posting only well researched and referenced information in this category… and we hope you will join in with a lively and thought provoking discussion.

Formally a internet newsgroup, now a Google Group, focuses on “the discussion of the technical and backstage aspects of performance art. This includes lighting, sound, set construction and design, costume, stage management, production, pyrotechnics, props, and related areas.”

As the description indicates, most of the discussion deals specifically with issues related to theater-based show production. Some recent topics include rope inspections, bungee cord terminations, 12v DMX dimmers and wiring help for an old-model Kliegel fresnel. However, there are often topics of more direct interest to presentation professionals such as “The Right Slide Projector?“.

Google Groups have RSS feeds so it’s relatively easy to keep tabs on discussions relevant to your particular environment using Bloglines or another aggegrator.

Air Presenter

For some time now I have had a problem presenting from my tabletPC. I use a Motion Computing M1400. Hooking a VGA cable up to a tablet is not very practical, so when I want to present from my tablet I connect my Dell 8600 laptop up to the projector and control my laptop from my tablet wirelessly using pcAnywhere. This allows me the mobility to walk around the room advancing visuals as I need to and using my tablet as a portable preview monitor. It is not an efficient solution though because it requires two computers and a wireless hub to do what I want to do with my tablet alone.

A couple of years ago I bought a Komatsu Trilink AirProjector hoping that it would simplify wireless presentation. The AirProjector is a wireless peer-to-peer access point connecting the computer to the projector. The first AirProjector utilized 802.11B wireless and I found it to be too slow to keep up with even basic transitions. At InfoComm this year I bought the new 802.11g version to test. The faster wireless connection makes this device much more usable. Basic transitions occurred in near real-time with a delay that would not be noticed by an audience. Full frame images still drew up a little too slowly for my taste. For simple PowerPoint presentations however, I would not hesitate to use it with my tablet.

I wonder what the long-term outlook is for devices like this however as projector manufacturers are beginning to include wireless capabilities in the projectors themselves like the Toshiba TDP-TW300U and the HP mp3135.