For those interested in presentation best practices the issue always arises what is the most effective way to avoid stale bullets and sameness in slides. Inevitably the issue of creativity and resourcefulness leads to the concept of metaphors and analogies – using images or diagrams. The problem for non-artists or designers like me is where to get the nuts and bolts building blocks of these types of tools.
Recently a colleague, Gene Zelazny, the author of Say It With Charts! put me together with an entrepreneur who has launched an interesting site in this space. PowerFrameworks is an online gallery of conceptual metaphors in the form of PowerPoint shapes, professionally designed and ready to download into your presentation. The site also features concrete examples of how the metaphors can be implemented, and even a best practices section mirroring many of Zelazny’s own principles.
Kathy Villela, the site’s founder, actually worked at the consulting firm where Zelazny has worked for decades before beginning this site. Her concept, and what I like about the site, is that it is more than a gallery of shapes or clip art; it is also well constructed and searchable and mentally stimulating.
Posted by Tom Bunzel at 2:49 PM .
1 Comment »
I’ve struggled with the dual-screen (multiple) monitor feature in Windows for the past year. After a coworker showed me this feature on a job I was working, I was anxious to learn how to do it because it looked so cool! Well I found out that it wasn’t such an easy task… Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Mary Waldera at 9:40 AM .
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Very cool “multi-touch” screen technology. Watch the Quicktime video.
“While touch sensing is commonplace for single points of contact, multi-touch sensing enables a user to interact with a system with more than one finger at a time, as in chording and bi-manual operations. Such sensing devices are inherently also able to accommodate multiple users simultaneously, which is especially useful for larger interaction scenarios such as interactive walls and tabletops.”
Posted by Robert Befus at 4:53 PM .
I asked the founder of PixelCorps, Alex Lindsay, what his organization uses to create their very personal and useful software tutorials.
Snapz Pro X 2 allows you to effortlessly record anything on your screen, saving it as a QuickTime® movie or screenshot that can be emailed, put up on the web, or passed around however you please.
This easy software package costs $69. Upgrades from Snapz Pro X 1.0 w/ movie capture are $20.
Great for making a static screenshot with automatic drop shadow or size perimeters; creating a movie is just as easy. Fantastic for on-line tutorials that feel natural and unscripted.Download a free demo version from our web site today or check out the demo movies we’ve created and see for yourself.
Posted by Peter Durand at 11:53 PM .
[Thanks to Jason Simmons of GradientLabs, who sent in this site in an email titled, "Yowza!"]
If Edward Tufte is the master teacher of visualizing data, then VisualComplexity.com is the treasure trove of data-driven visuals.
"Complexity is a challenge by itself," writes Portugal native, Manuel Lima. This project to map the maps that illuminate intricate networks has grown out of Manuel’s work at the Design+Technology program at Parsons School of Design, where he earned an MFA.
Currently working as an interaction designer at R/GA Interactive, Lima has created VisualComplexity as an integrated and extensive resource on the topic.
However, it often looks more like an exquisite butterfly collection. The resulting gallery of images is a powerful–and beautiful–filter through which one can see the invisible webs that connect the systems we depend upon: the biological, the cosmic, the financial, the social.
"Complex Networks are everywhere. It is a structural and organizational principle that reaches almost every field we can think of, from genes to power systems, from food webs to market shares."
Posted by Peter Durand at 11:45 PM .
This morning, Lee Potts (our Honorable Chief Visual Being), and I were both chatting via the swank new Speaker Ready chat room. And checking our email. And listening to the NPR stream from Chicago (I live in Pittsburgh). And looking out the window at a stellar Fall day. And thinking I should hurry up and take a shower before my wife gets home from dropping the kiddo off at school.
There was a time in my life when I lived in Eastern Europe in the early ’90s; I had no phone, no fax, no doorbell, no email and sometimes no electricity. My friends and I had to walk across town to see if the other was home. Or, more often or not, we’d troll the bars to find each other. Sometimes, we’d leave notes on tiny rolled up pieces of paper and put them in hiding places for the other to find days or weeks later. News traveled via word of mouth. And, thankfully, I did a lot of walking and thinking in solitude.
Of course, all of society was operating in the same modality, so these patterns of communication were no more, or no less effective than the general population.
So in a society of hyperconnectivity, in which the accepted patterns are tenfold as frenetic, what should we do? Drop out or amp it up?
A fascinating panel discussion took place during this year’s SuperNova conference on that very topic. Successful entrepreneurs and talented corporate managers debated those patterns of the Interruption Society and technology’s culpability.
They also discussed sane patterns of media filtration that we can blend into the present patterns of multitasking. Some examples include email-free Fridays and meetings with tiered levels of attention (ex. eavesdropping while working, back-channel chatrooms during presentations, and full on media-free engagement).
Listen to the full panel discussion at IT Conversations:
In a world where information overload is common, attention is a very scarce resource and there is an increasing need to manage it efficiently. In this panel discussion, Steve Gillmor, Glenn Reid, Doreé Duncan Seligmann, David Sifry and Linda Stone talk about the problem of coping with more information than one can handle and the possible solutions.
In a connected world it is becoming very difficult to filter out the information that really needs our attention from that which is irrelevant to us. The panel discusses the work that they are currently involved in and tries to come up with answers to the problem of overwhelming information, only some of which deserves our attention. They talk about the tools, practices and new technology being developed to effectively use data which matters to the end user.
As creators of (and vehicles for) content-packed presentations, we need to understand the context in which the content will be shown. Will it be a typical “sit-n-get” PowerPoint conference? Will there be wireless in the room–an option that has now become ubiquitous? Will there be structured dialog either on-line or via live facilitator? Will there be a need to house content generated spontaneously in a form that is accessible to a larger community?
And most important: Is anyone paying attention?
Posted by Peter Durand at 9:48 AM .
I like to maintain a fifty-fifty balance between writing and consulting/training, but lately I’ve been doing the former and I need to get out more.
Fortunately last week I had a three hour session with about 30 attorneys – a group I have been targeting for some time. (I always hear that attorneys use PowerPoint a lot, but every attorney I ask says they never use it). So finally I found a live audience and there were some very interesting developments.
First I made the mistake of assuming that they actually knew PowerPoint. Many did but in a group of this size I had to go back to some basics, Layout, Task Pane, Animation, etc. Then they played Stump the Professor and had me figuring out how to animate a single data series in a chart with an Emphasis Effect. At the break one attorney set me straight.
“Look,” he said, “everything I do is about telling a judge or jury what I intend to prove, proving it, and telling them that I just proved it. I need tools for that.”
“So you use tables a lot,” I replied, insightful as ever.
“Bingo,” he said, “And I put a checkmark in there when I’ve proved it. But I need to learn how to use pictures and video to make the case.” Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Tom Bunzel at 1:32 PM .
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.”
Posted by Lee Potts at 12:39 PM .
Cutting-edge and in the forefront as ever, this week the BBC introduced the New Zealand-designed Weatherscape XT system to their TV weather forecasting in the UK .
Now we Brits would copyright weather if we could; without it what on earth would we talk about? Messing with our national weather forecasting system by introducing yet more ‘fancy presentation graphics’ doesn’t go down well – and it certainly doesn’t improve the quality of weather we get.
Joking aside for a minute, the NZ-designed graphical display is actually very good, but it does beg the question as to whether it improves our ability to absorb information which, at best, is still only tentative. In the days when they used a large map board and stuck a fridge-magnet in the shape of a raincloud over London, you knew that the degree of accuracy with which it was placed reflected the degree of accuracy in the forecast of rain for that area. Every time the BBC has changed their presentation system there has been a flurry of complaints. In the end we get used to it and it becomes the norm. The new motion graphics show detailed, moving areas of rain, snow or sunshine over a representation of the country on a spherical surface. This has already introduced a series of complaints in the national press along the lines of:
- the moving image induces motion sickness in viewers
- Scotland is marginalized by being shown at reduced size due to the curvature of the earth
- why is everything presented in brown when we are a green and pleasant land ?
This has prompted a wonderful statement on the BBC’s web site :
“Today’s media industry is like a shark. Either you keep moving forward or you are dead in the water. The new graphics are clearer and engaging. We have created clearer, more involving images of weather conditions without sacrificing the science behind those forecasts.”
The Disability Rights Commission said that accessibility was a prime objective and complaints about difficulties experienced watching the new-look forecast would be investigated.
Isn’t it great when the general mass of population take so much interest in presentation graphics?
Posted by Roy Hammans at 8:49 AM .
1 Comment »
For a first post this is slightly historical, but I wanted to share this clip of how our recent UK election results from May 5 were broadcast by the BBC. I was entertained and impressed by both the technology and the presentation.
For a little bit of background: Peter Snow, the presenter in the BBC video clip linked below, has been forecasting and broadcasting election results for as long as I can remember. He has always been known for his innovative presentation style, adopting visual aids that have since entered into the national consciousness. He will always be associated with the ‘Swingometer’, a device co-invented by David Butler and the Canadian broadcaster Professor Robert McKenzie and first used in the BBC television broadcast of the 1955 General Election in the UK. Then it was a piece of cardboard propped up on a desk against a semicircular scale and was manually adjusted to indicate the changing fortunes of each political party as results came in.
It was ideally suited to indicate trends in a two-party battle but was not so good once other political parties began to increase their share of the votes. Now the Swingometer has entered the virtual, multi-dimensional age. Spare a few moments to watch the video of the results linked below.
Unfortunately I can’t give a direct link due to the way that the BBC embeds their news player into their web site. Visit this BBC page, and select the button top right ‘Election News in Video’. In the window that pops up, select ‘Results explained: Peter Snow analyses the election outcome’ in the Special Coverage section, bottom left corner. Stay with it, as it gets more theatrical as it progresses and do view it full screen – but make haste, it may not be posted in this way for long.
Does all this visual technology make the results any easier to interpret? Well, the entertainment value is high and it compresses a lot of data into a short visual experience – ideally suited to those of us that sat up all night watching through a caffeine-supported stupor. In the past the Swingometer was wildly inaccurate in its predictions. In 2005 however it proved to be a pretty accurate measure of the final outcome.
There is also a Flash on-line version of the Swingometer (illustrated), complete with an introduction by the inimitable Peter Snow.
Posted by Roy Hammans at 8:21 AM .
This is fascinating stuff. Will we someday be able to fill a PPT object with a “spatio-temporal gradient”? I sure hope so. Check out the video on the Khronos Projector site linked below.
KHRONOS PROJECTOR – Alvaro Cassinelli
The Khronos Projector is an interactive-art installation allowing people to explore pre-recorded movie content in an entirely new way. A classic video-tape allows a simple control of the reproducing process (stop, backward, forward, and elementary control on the reproduction speed). Modern digital players add little more than the possibility to perform random temporal jumps between image frames. The goal of the Khronos Projector is to go beyond these forms of exclusive temporal control, by giving the user an entirely new dimension to play with: by touching the projection screen, the user is able to send parts of the image forward or backwards in time.
(via Boing Boing)
Posted by Robert Befus at 1:12 PM .
EurekAlert reports on visual information processing research taking place at Kansas State University. Apparently all those scrolling screens and news tickers that have become very fashionable on TV news broadcasts actually decrease a viewer’s ability to process information.
We discovered that when you have all of this stuff on the screen, people tend to remember about 10 percent fewer facts than when you don’t have it on the screen,” Grimes said. “Everything you see on the screen — the crawls, the anchor person, sports scores, weather forecast — are conflicting bits of information that don’t hang together semantically. They make it more difficult to attend to what is the central message. … The human brain is today as it was in the 1880s, the 1580s and in the time of the Greeks and Romans. It has not changed. We are no better able to parallel process conflicting information now than we were 300 years ago.
These techniques migrated to the news outlets after having much better success on MTV. As the MTV generation makes it’s climb up the corporate ladder, we are seeing an increased call to adopt techniques like these to presentation formats that would traditional be more static. Although the conclusions reached in this study are not completely surprising, they serve to remind us that the audience and the message must be the most important considerations in every decision regarding every element placed on the screen.
An article based on this research is slated to be published in the July issue of Human Communication Research.
Posted by Lee Potts at 1:48 PM .
1 Comment »
One area which readers of this web site may want to address is the flip side of being visual — namely the occasional or frequent need by a presenter to show actual numbers. There is still no excuse, however, for not using some creative tools and techniques to show data in a dramatic and effective way. Three tools that complement PowerPoint in this regard are:
Infommersion Xcelsius — which creates interactive dashboards out of Excel spreadsheets and allows for instant scenarios. The product is exported in shockwave which makes it work in PowerPoint or a web page. I cover a complete Xcelsius solution in my article “>Taking on Tufte at the InformIT web site. There’s also an article on Getting Fancy with Xcelsius.
I am also a big fan of Microsoft Visio, which goes beyond PowerPoint in enabling smart diagram objects that actually hold data and can generate reports as spreadsheets from visual objects in the diagram. The InformIT site also has a brief intro to Visio, and I suggest the piece on Creating a Report.
Finally when it comes to presenting data a resource I highly recommend are the books by Gene Zelazny, namely “Say It With Charts!”. Zelazny has some very specific ideas on how and why to create certain visuals, and if you follow his logic you will generally have the perfect visual for the set of data (and argument) you want to present. Again, at InformIT, I cover his material in an introductory article.
Gene has a new workbook out now based on his concepts.
That’s my take on creative and effective data display. Comments are welcome as always.
Posted by Tom Bunzel at 12:46 PM .
Kevin Kelley’s Cool Tools blog points out these terrific Write-on Poly Static Cling Sheets. The folks who suggested these seemed pretty enthusiastic:
Polysheet instant whiteboards are thick, static-laden sheets of plastic, like ultra-heavy garbage bags. Just unroll one, slap it on the wall, and instant whiteboard! Best of all, in the corporate world, at the end of the meeting, you can roll them up, take them back to your desk, and process them. After capturing the contents in your computer, wipe them off for next time!
Posted by Lee Potts at 4:05 PM .
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