Wednesday, 1 July 2015


"How does one get images for a presentation?" is a question I am frequently asked. The answer is the same as so many other questions we have. Ask you friendly local search engine.

Click here.

I mostly use Google image search trying to be careful that the images I use are of good quality, freely available and, if necessary, appropriately referenced. How I make the individual choices is of course part of the creative process but I thought I'd share a few simple steps that have helped me in recent presentations.

The legal side of this is that one should ONLY use images that are available for reuse. Google can help you there. Let's work through an example.

I want to illustrate something with ice cream.

Got to Google and simply enter "ice cream". You should get 

There are 3 very helpful buttons. No1 will take you directly to images of "ice cream" with some (occasionally) helpful collections across the top. Before you get carried away (there's a lot of lovely ice cream) you need to filter the search using first the Search tools button No2, then the Size option selecting LARGE. Then under Usage Rights (No3) make your choice of appropriate options. THIS is the group from which you should chose your image. 

I then scroll through until I find one that I believe fits my purpose and click on it. Go to the individual image, make sure it is as zoomed in as possible by clicking on it and then save by right clicking. Then how you use the image within your presentation depends on your composition.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

No script.

At no time should you use a script when giving a presentation.

I know one should write paragraphs with three or more sentences that explain the initial statement but that statement stands alone. It needs no explanation, no justification, no clarification, no exceptions and no discussion. It stands entirely on its own. It is a fact. Do not use a script, of any sort.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

It's not about the slides

As Lance Armstrong famously entitled his book on "winning" the Tour de France, "It's not about the bike." So, with presentations, it is not about the slides. They are important. Without the slides it is just a talk. Ultimately the slides are supportive media (p2) and what carries a presentation is the story (p1) and its delivery (p3).

The evidence of this is at the current and amazing SMACCUS conference where great presenters were challenged by IT problems. Kudos to @emcrit and @cliffreid for persevering. What is important for a presenter to remember is that the show must go on and, as discussed earlier, if the slide set is your script or handout this will not be possible. 

The converse is also true. Extending the analogy of the bike, even the best road bike in the world will never get me on the Tour de France. Presenters must be careful that the slides set and video and visual aids (p2) do not become the show rather than the message itself. There can be little worse than people remembering you as "the man who blew bubbles in his TEDx talk" if the message itself failed.

It's not about the slides. They are important in supporting your message.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

One message per slide

In the last blogpost I suggested the best place to start improving #presentationskills is by deleting the slide set. The rationale behind that statement was not to suggest that presentations should be done without supportive media but in order for the beginner presenter to consider the purpose of their slide set.

"Once you have changed that aspect and re-established the very purpose of the media, then we can improve it."

The purpose of supportive media is in illustration of the story (p1) not annotation of it. One should illustrate the story with one single message per slide, preferably an image. One single message per slide. That's not two, or four, it's not a list, it isn't a picture of a journal article, it's not a huge spreadsheet or a complex diagram, it is one single message. The reason is because that's what illustrations do. 

More than one message will distract the audience. It doesn't matter how good you think they will be, just one at a time. A list will require reading. A picture of a journal article is worse and a massive spreadsheet will have the audience mining for something other than your point as soon as the slide changes. Just one at a time. All of these things are important but in a presentation what is essential is the audience listening to you. That is why you are there, not some furry slide changer.

When beginning the development as a presenter your first step in constructing media is to consider only one message per slide.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Delete your slides

I received a question via Twitter about #presentationskills and where I might focus beginning the journey of improvement. As with so many things, the more I considered the issue the deeper the answer became. I think a good place to start is by deleting your slides (p2). 

If you want to improve, get rid of your supportive media. Just delete it.  It is terrible. Your presentation would be better without it. You know it, your audience knows. Just delete your .ppt file. A good presentation does not need a slide set. A great presentation is made better by its supportive media: the vast majority are made worse. The best place to begin improving is by deleting your slide set.

No? The reasons you have already listed in your head as to why you won't do that show you the purpose you assign to your supportive media. Is it your script? It shouldn't be. Is it for the audience to read? That's a handout. Is it in case you forget where you are going or what you will say? That's lack of practise. Is it because everyone else does it? That's conformity. Is it because you think you need it? That's wrong. The purpose of the media is to illustrate what you have to say not a slideument

To improve your #presentationskills you need to re-consider the purpose of p2, not its design. Adding media (p2) to a presentation will improve the story (p1) and its delivery (p3). Once you have changed that aspect and re-established the very purpose of the media, then we can improve it.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

That's a paper, not a slide

As conference season gets into full swing more and more presenters are showing audiences that their thoughts are built upon previous work. That is often very important. What is not necessary is to show a screenshot of that journal article. It's a presentation, not a journal club.

The evidence is clear that written material will be read and often in preference to listening to the spoken material. Adding a screenshot of a journal article is seldom of value; the quality is poor, forcing the audience to struggle to read; the image is visually redundant and the evidence that a paper has been read needs no illustration, merely comment. It is not necessary to have a visual representation of every fact or statement in your presentation, particularly articles.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Design affects function

Simple design changes in the supportive media  make dramatic differences to the audience's perception of value in a presentation. The overall value of a presentation (p cubed) is the product of the story (p1) x the supportive media (p2) x the delivery (p3). Imagine how you would perceive the p cubed value if the presenter's shirt was untucked at one side? It doesn't actually affect his story or the media but the perception of sloppiness or lack of attention to detail will affect how the overall message is perceived. The style in the supportive media can make a significant difference.

A simple and effective design improvement is in the change of alignment within a slide. This may be images or text. There are many factors that can be improved such as image composition, framing, clutter, fontography, size and spacing. Rather than allow templates to "design" the supportive media there is opportunity influence interpretation both of the individual slide and the overall presentation by changes in alignment.

Centre alignment or justification of text, despite being default on most slideware is a poor way of presenting text. It "leads" the eye down the middle of the text and although it may be symmetrical (itself a poor design choice) it leaves an untidy look that is difficult to read. Particularly when projected on a large screen, the image above will be viewed as principally saying "inspiration" "not" "for". Go back and see how easily it is read and then immediately view the slide below.

Justification of text, preferably to the left, as this is the direction European languages are read from, delivers a stylistically improved image that is easier to read and therefore delivers more value. Even with the same words on the same lines, the simple act of left justification forces the viewer to read, with specific rhythm, the words as written. Design affects function.

For those that are interested, the phrase on the slides comes from a little piece I did at TEDx Stuttgart in 2013