02 September 2011

The Zen of Presentations, Part 45: Down in front

You often have to give presentations in rooms where the floors are flat, the room is full, and the projection screens are always too low.

This was a curse at the recent Ecological Society of America (ESA) meeting. The screens were too low in many of the rooms, and people noticed and remarked upon it.

I knew this... and I blew it.

Because the organizers of the conference were adamant that presentations needed to be able to run in PowerPoint 1997 format, I actually ended up with multiple versions of my slides. I had one done in PowerPoint 2010 with some of the graphic effects and typefaces I wanted.

In retrospect, I was stupid to show this slide. About 20 percent of the slide is taken up with the title, pushing the image, which is what I want people to see, further down so it’s more likely to be blocked by someone’s head.

I had another that was PowerPoint 1997 compatible, with almost no text, because I was not sure if the fonts would show correctly, as not every computer has the same fonts installed. I should have used that one, because the slide would have looked more like this:

The image is bigger, and shows more of what I wanted people to see. I’d okay with the first one if I knew I was in a room with stadium seating and everyone having clear eye-lines. But I wasn’t.

Sadly, you can probably only count on the top half, or maybe two thirds, of your slides being consistently and clearly visible to all. Don’t put anything important in that bottom half or third; someone might not be able to see it. Better to start a new slide and put it at the top.

Screen photo by ChrisM70 on Flickr; crayfish photo in slides by Mike Bok on Flickr; both used under a Creative Commons license.

1 comment:

Critical Wit Podcast said...

I work for a company that installs audio/video products, and whenever we have clients for universities telling us where to install screens, almost 50% of the time, their location would make the screens too low in the room. Most of the time, they take our word for it. A few times they don't. And unfortunately, only a few times out of that group will admit they were wrong and ask us to re-install the screens or switch them out for something more fitting.