Document Design and Production



Oral presentations




From Thom Haller presentation

In my industry EVERYTHING is done in Powerpoint - we call it death by Powerpoint. I think there is some truth to Tufte's argument. The biggest difference between the days of the overhead projector and today is ease of use. Powerpoint can be a phenomenal tool when it is used properly. It is a presentation tool, meaning there has to be backside analysis and structure before building a presentation. The Powerpoint reinforces your presentation it is not a stand alone presentation. Overheads were typically a pain to make, expensive, and difficult to modify. If people were going to take the time and money to create overhead slides there was a process behind doing so. Analyze the data, develop your arguments, structure the arguments, make a conclusion, and present the data. Typically there was a technical report that backed the overheads up. With Powerpoint this is not the case. Everybody has access to it and it is extremely easy to make. It is not so much that the program is bad but rather everybody skips the process leading up to the presentation and just starts building their arguments in the brief. This causes people to go through the analysis and thinking simultaneous to making the presentation causing it to be unstructured and overwhelming.


Discussion questions


In "Visuals for Speaking Presentations" a consistent theme was that presenters acknowledge the importance of audience, but don't bother to research it and don't consciously apply what they do know. It also says they lack real training in how to perform the analysis. From your other coursework, you've should have heard repeatedly how rhetoric is all about understanding the audience. What have you learned in concrete terms about how to understand and design for an audience? (I'm thinking here of going beyond statements like "I'm always concerned that I use words the audience knows." Duh, but how do you know what words the audience knows?). How much of communication failure stems from failing to understand the audience needs? And for that matter, much superficial audience analysis tends to be demographics (ages 25-30, most of college education, etc). How does this fail to connect to and differ from audience needs.

weak answer Through much of the coursework, a central theme has been understanding the audience or user. It is imperative to understand how, when, and why the user will engage with the material you design. If you don’t understand your audience, you likely will design or write documents that are ineffective. For example, if your audience is comprised of advanced users, and you write a manual for novice users, the manual will be a failure due to inadequate understanding of the audience. While demographics may be helpful in some areas, if this is the only audience assessment that is done, it provides little useful information about the audience. Indeed, it would contribute to the creation of a stereotypical audience (30 year olds are X, 40 year olds like Y, etc.). This fabricated audience may have little in common with the real, target audience, and the document in question would miss the mark.



Thoughts to ponder


Here's a presentation that has good use of descriptive titles and supporting text on the slides.



How do deck authors illustrate hierarchical relationships in slide design? In what ways do overflow distortion, content cutting, and slide title flattening violate the deck’s logical hierarchy? How does an author maintain visual hierarchy in slide presentations?

Content cutting can degrade the visual design and cause unattractive inconsistencies. Slide title flattening violates the deck's logical hierarchy by presenting all slide titles at the same font size thereby masking the hierarchical distinctions.


The Gettysburg address rewritten as a PowerPoint presentation.



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