Tag Archives: PowerPoint

Updated Presentation Basics Worksheet!

Sometimes, I think we go wrong with our presentations because we don’t take just a few minutes to jot down the basic details and think through what our “goals” for the audience might be.

If you know your key points at the start of your preparation process, then you can use those to help you stay focused from script writing to slide design to the Q&A at the end of your talk.

Take a look at the Presentation Basics worksheet. You can type in your information on the form itself, or print a copy to write on. Feel free to share it if you find it useful, and I’d like to hear your feedback on it.

Peace and Good Presentations!



Advice on Slide Backgrounds

Before & After Magazine is one of the BEST resources you can use for design information presented in an easy-to-understand way.

How to Create a “Spotlight” in PowerPoint

I found instructions from Zara Lynn King this morning on how to create a “spotlight” in PowerPoint. This technique can be useful when you’re teaching your patrons how to use web-based resources and want to guide their attention to a particular feature or section (assuming you’re not conducting a live demo).




Fun New Way To Learn More About PowerPoint

Microsoft’s Office Labs have created a new add-in for Office 2007 and Office 2010 that is a game called Ribbon Hero. Here’s the description from the site:

“Ribbon Hero is a game for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel 2007 and 2010, designed to help you boost your Office skills and knowledge. Play games (aka “challenges”), score points, and compete with your friends while improving your productivity with Office. “

I downloaded it a few days ago, and a) found it addictive, and b) learned some new things about PowerPoint that I did not know before!

You earn points for everyday things like copying and pasting, but you can also do “challenges” that will help you learn more features and help you be more productive with Office.

I highly recommend giving it a try!


Peace out,


Research article “Less is More”

Photo #773427 by user:sofijab | http://www.sxc.hu

Mahar, et al. recently published an article describing some research on the effectiveness of static versus animated slides when introducing concepts. They conducted experiments where students saw either static slides, where all the information on the slide was presented at once, or animated slides, where pieces of information were brought in one at a time.

As a cognitive load theory “enthusiast” and an instructional designer, I would’ve initially averred that the animated slides would produce better results (i.e., better learning outcomes). According to Maher, et al., this was the exact opposite. Participants who received static slides performed better on the tests given at the end of the experiment.

 Here’s a quote (with some emphasis from me):

Even though the use of custom animation allows the introduction of new information incrementally the technique can adversely impact student learning experience when factual information is conveyed in the presentation. Subjects shown the static slides had better recall of graphics and text on the slides due to prolonged exposure to the information. The incremental introduction of concepts in dynamic slides’ was designed to prevent student exhaustion caused by visually presenting all concepts at once.

However, the dynamic slides lead to excessive processing demands and limited exposure time. In this study, we observed that static slides allowed better knowledge retention for male students, female students, students with academic excellence, students with poor academic performance, students in different academic years and students from different disciplines. The results are consistent with the aggregate results presented in Mahar et al. (2009) and Lowe (2003) who suggested that diminishing expected benefits of animations may be caused by excessive processing demands on learners and a reduced learner engagement (p.7).

So what does this mean practically? Reduce your “entrance” animations to an absolute minimum (in fact, get rid of any animation that does not convey “meaning,” though you can keep your slide transitions (but only “wipes and “fades,” please)). If you are going to cover complex concepts, show the students the entire concept, rather than building it up piece-by-piece. But be prepared to spend a lot of time on just one slide (this is not a bad thing, but a GOOD thing).

Remember that learners need time to process information, a precious resource that is often in short supply during a presentation. To focus attention on parts of a complex diagram or chart, use a piece of software like Pointer ($35-40.00 USD) from Netop. Pointer is a screen annotation tool that lets you “spotlight” areas of the screen to focus your audience’s attention to a particular image or area of a slide.

For extremely complex concepts, consider turning off the projector and guiding your audience through paper copies. This may be less “jazzy” than a slide presentation, but may prove to encourage much more effective and efficient learning of the content. Remember: a presentation doesn’t have to involve PowerPoint or Keynote slides!

Peace out, and be safe over the Labor Day holiday!






Mahar, S., Yaylacicegi, U. and Janicki, T. 2009. Less is More When Developing PowerPoint Animations. Information Systems Education Journal, 7 (82): 1-11. http://isedj.org/7/82/ISEDJ.7(82).Mahar.pdf.

Are You Ready for PowerPoint 2010?

Microsoft has an informational page on the latest version of Office, due out some time next year.  Looks like PowerPoint is getting some much-needed improvements in handling video and other media better.




From the Research Files…

Hi all,

I’ve just finished up a bunch of reading on presentations and related topics. Here’s a few items worth noting:

Gold, Rich. “Reading PowerPoint.” In: Working with Words and Images: New Steps in an Old Dance, Nancy Allen, Ed. Westport, CT: Ablex Publishing, 2002. ISBN: 1-56750-608-9. PP: 256-270.

I particularly liked this paragraph as it relates to the common practice of posting slide decks on the web:

“The obvious problem with reading PowerPoint slides sans presenter is…that it is the verbal gloss that contains the critical information to make the slides meaningful. The slides are often intentionally obscure (or at least so distilled as to be not more than the essence of the talk) precisely so that the verbal gloss will illuminate them. Furthermore, to the reader, without being part of an audience in the process of group formation, the slides become dry and dusty historical artifacts, the interpretation of which becomes almost arbitrary. In other words, read alone, PowerPoint slides are missing both the crucial commentary and the mammalian pack-formation pheromones.” (P. 266)

You’ll have to read the chapter yourself to find out about “mammalian pack-formation pheromones.”

Greene, Jake and Scott Schwertly. Deck ‘Em! A Novel Approach to Presentation Design. Available for $4.99 as a PDF download from http://www.slidemagnet.com/content/deck-em.

An “Extreme Presentation Makeover” in short story format. Lots of good tips (though I wish there’d been some pictures).

Zoladz, Phillip R. and Bryan Raudenbush. “Cognitive Enhancement Through Stimulation of the Chemical Senses.” North American Journal of Psychology, 7(1): 125-140. 2005.

I’ve been researching the literature for a while now on the cognitive effects, if any, of chewing gum. There is no definitive answer yet (some of the studies reported improved memory function while chewing gum, but others were not able to replicate the findings) but I found this interesting article among a set of items from a recent search.

There is stronger evidence for cognitive effects for odors (mint, jasmin, citrus, etc.) – that is, pleasant odors, while emotionally pleasing, may also help improve cognition. In their experiments, Zoladz and Raudenbush found significant improvements in memory recall tests for participants who had been exposed to cinnamon odor either through the nose or the mouth by chewing cinnamon gum (hence the reason it popped up in my search, but I digress).

How is this even remotely applicable to presentations? Well, I’ve been thinking about providing my audience with cinnamon gum and candies at the beginning of my presentations to enhance cognitive activity.  It might help, it might not – I’d have to do some experiments to be sure, but it certainly can’t hurt as long as audience members don’t stick their used gum under their chairs.  An invigorating piece of gum or candy might be especially useful for audience members when you’re presenting after lunch, or at the end of a long day of presentations.

Update, 4/23/09:

Here’s a link to a CNN story about gum and grades.  Sure, the research is sponsored by the Wrigley company so you have to keep your skepticism with you, but still, interesting stuff.