Friday, August 9, 2013

Making presentation slides flow

Today I gave the first practice talk for my defense presentation to my research group. Prior to today I had been dragging my feet with working on it because making a presentation is fairly boring. It also requires a lot of work, so yesterday I put together quite a few, rather dense slides without taking the time to ensure that the content on each side had a certain "flow," that is,  a logical spatial order to the information presented on them. Now, the slides made sense in the order that they came in, but the information on each individual slide was not so well ordered with respect to other text and figures on the same slide.

Of course, being the first practice, it was a bit rough. But one thing in particular struck me as insightful. I had attempted to tell a story for each slide based on the information that the slides contained. However, since the information was mixed up on any given slide, I often stumbled with the explanations because my attention would jump randomly from one region of the slide to the next.

In prior presentations I took the time to add animations such that graphs or illustrations would appear on a slide as I talked about them. This was a good thing since it automatically gave some nice order to each slide. More importantly, it kept my speech coherent because I wouldn't get confused about what point to talk about.

The downside to making slides like these is that it takes a lot more time. For example, if I have one plot with three curves on it and I want to make the curves appear one at a time as I click the mouse, then I have to in reality make three separate plots!

In the end, though, I think it's worth it. It keeps me talking coherently, it makes the slides aesthetically pleasing, and it enforces a flow with which information is communicated to the audience.