A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint

I am trying to evangelize the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. It’s quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points. While I’m in the venture capital business, this rule is applicable for any presentation to reach agreement: for example, raising capital, making a sale, forming a partnership, etc.

Kawasaki, Guy. How to Change the World (2005). Articles>Presentations>Information Design>Typography


Absolute PowerPoint

Before there were presentations, there were conversations, which were a little like presentations but used fewer bullet points, and no one had to dim the lights. A woman we can call Sarah Wyndham, a defense-industry consultant living in Alexandria, Virginia, recently began to feel that her two daughters weren't listening when she asked them to clean their bedrooms and do their chores. So, one morning, she sat down at her computer, opened Microsoft's PowerPoint program, and used it.

Parker, Ian. Ohio State University, The. Articles>Presentations>Software>Microsoft PowerPoint


Anxiety and Public Speaking: What You Ought to Know

You think that you sound terrible but people who don’t know you don’t know that that’s not your normal voice. People who know you well may be able to perceive a slight difference. This is not to say that an audience doesn’t perceive anxiety at all – just that what they perceive is at a much lesser scale than you. The best way to convince yourself of this is to video yourself and then watch yourself.

Mitchell, Olivia. Speaking About Presenting (2010). Articles>Presentations>Rhetoric


Are There Vultures Among Us? Is The Recent Re-Emergence of Videoconferencing Suspect?

What are the reasons videoconferencing seems to be flourishing when so many other technologies are being challenged? The following will be the world according to Max and five reasons why I think videoconferencing is having its heyday.

Kopsho, Max. Presenters University (2002). Articles>Presentations>Teleconferencing>Videoconferencing


Assessing Visualizations in Public Science Presentations   (PDF)

Natural resource agencies and other technical and scientific organizations face an immense challenge of when communicating complex technical information to diverse publics. The laptop computer, presentation software, and projection unit have emerged as one of the primary presentation tools in many technical and scientific fields. Advances in software functions enable presenters to capitalize on a wide range of multimedia functions thought to make presentations more appealing, interesting, and effective. Our presentation reports on a specific research project and then provides guidance for enhancing their presentations.

Zimmerman, Donald E., Carol A. Akerelrea, Jane Kapler Smith and Garrett O'Keefe. STC Proceedings (2003). Articles>Presentations>Visual Rhetoric


Beetle Bailey and Presentation Skills

An audience, whether it is one person or many, wants speakers to provide maximum relevant information, delivered in minimum time and in the clearest possible terms, centered on the needs and concerns of the audience.

Tracy, Larry. Klariti (2005). Articles>Presentations>Rhetoric


Bridging the Gap Between Design and Engineering Cultures

Developers want details. They want information they can take back and talk about on their own. They want the space to decide, based on their own criteria, what is valuable and what is not. They make use of the divide between designers and developers to help maintain their boundaries.

Rodgers, Deborah. Cooper Interaction Design (2001). Articles>Presentations>Engineering


Building Presentations From the Ground Up, Part 2

I’ll discuss how Aaron and I get ready to give a presentation, how we actually deliver one, and what happens afterwards.

Nesbitt, Scott. DMN Communications (2008). Articles>Presentations


Building Presentations, From the Ground Up, Part 1

A look at how two technical communicators plan and prepare presentations.

Nesbitt, Scott. DMN Communications (2008). Articles>Presentations>Planning


Building Your Slides Online

Some Web entrepreneurs have made strides by developing Web-based tools for creating slides. The four that this TechTip highlights have a number of things in common.

Nesbitt, Scott. Tech-Tips (2009). Articles>Presentations>Online


Captivate Accessibility Hints

Adobe’s Captivate application allows one to create Flash based interactive demos and presentations. PowerPoint materials can also be converted in Flash using Captivate. Captivate has a number of accessibility features in version 3 and 4.

SSB BART Group (2009). Articles>Presentations>Accessibility>Adobe Captivate


Chalk Talk Checklist

This checklist summarizes how to approach content, delivery, white board management, and question handling in preparing an effective chalk talk.

conneXions (2008). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication


Challenges of Multimedia Self-Presentation: Taking, and Mistaking, the Show on the Road   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

One privilege enjoyed by new-media authors is the opportunity to realize representations of Self that are rich textual worlds in themselves and also to engage the wider world, with a voice, a smile, imagery, and sound. Still, closer investigation of multimedia composition practices reveals levels of complexity with which the verbal virtuoso is unconcerned. This article argues that while technology-afforded multimedia tools make it comparatively easy to author a vivid text, it is a multiplicatively more complicated matter to vividly realize and publicize an authorial intention. Based on analysis of the digital story creation process of a youth named 'Steven,' the authors attempt to demonstrate the operation of two forces upon which the successful multimodal realization of the author's intention may hinge: 'fixity' and 'fluidity.' The authors show how, within the process of digital self-representation, these forces can intersect to influence multimodal meaning making, and an author's life, in consequential ways.

Nelson, Mark Evan, Glynda A. Hull and Jeeva Roche-Smith. Written Communication (2008). Articles>Presentations>Education>Multimedia


Challenging the Common Practice of PowerPoint at an Institution   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Explores how to have a technical community adopt a new communication strategy that challenges the common practice of PowerPoint. Reveals the sources of resistance to that communication strategy. Finds that resistance is diminished when learners see the strategy being used effectively by someone with credibility in that learner's community.

Neeley, Kathryn A., Michael Alley, Christine G. Nicometo and Leslie C. Srajek. Technical Communication Online (2009). Articles>Education>Presentations>Microsoft PowerPoint


Review: Challenging the Presentation Paradigm: Prezi

Coming from a little start-up in Hungary, Prezi is a web app (Flas/Flex based) that lets you author and deliver what they call “zooming presentations.” The description is apt, as Prezi presentations aren’t actually based on a the traditional linear slide model. Instead, Prezi embraces a zooming user interface model in which blocks of content are arranged contextually in relation to other blocks of content – and the user can zoom in and out of the content, alternating between a “big picture” view and a “detail” view.

Watrall, Ethan. Prof Hacker (2009). Articles>Reviews>Presentations>Software


Choose Your Presentation Tools Carefully

These days, there are more ways to communicate a message than there have ever been – in the history of civilization. That's not an overstatement, it's an inescapable fact, one with which executives, educators, meeting planners, presenters and professionals of every stripe must grapple every day, whether they want to or not. After all, there was a time not so long ago when choosing the best way to inform, persuade or educate employees, prospects or customers was no more complicated than selecting from a modest appetizer menu: although some discernment was necessary, the options were hardly paralyzing. If you were holding a critical meeting, delivering a sales pitch or launching a training initiative, you'd gather the troops in a central locale for presentations by executives or instructors toting flip charts, transparencies or 35mm slides – or send a battalion of presenters into the field. If the objective was to communicate without forcing people to come to you, or you to go to them, you might select from a handy but hardly overwhelming number of choices that included videotape, CD-ROM or a workbook. But like the restaurant regular who arrives one day to find that his single-page menu has mushroomed into a constellation of new and beguiling food choices, today's presenters find themselves with far more options for interfacing with audiences, whether it be face to face or across time zones.

Zielinski, Dave. Presentations (2002). Articles>Presentations>Online



Chances are you have watched your best intentions evaporate under pressure, to find yourself tweaking PowerPoint slides in the desperate hours or minutes before your presentation, scrambling to make time for a quick rehearsal and hoping against hope that you'll be able to pull off a miracle. Indeed, if good intentions paid dividends, plenty of presenters would have tidy sums to add to their retirement nest eggs. Procrastination being the force of nature it is, however, no matter how much lead time presenters give themselves and no matter how many resources are at their disposal, more often than not, the presentation-development process devolves from noble ambitions to utter chaos.

Zielinski, Dave. Presentations (2002). Articles>Presentations>Software>Microsoft PowerPoint


Common Use of PowerPoint versus the Assertion-Evidence Structure   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Since 2001, harsh criticism of PowerPoint’s presentation slide structure has surfaced in several popular publications. Because Microsoft PowerPoint controls 95% of the market for presentation slideware (Parker 2001), its default structure certainly deserves scrutiny. However, what is more important than analyzing the default structure of PowerPoint is to analyze the slide structures that people actually use. For that reason, in technical communication, the key question is the following: what slide structures are commonly used for presenting science and technology?

Garner, Joanna K., Michael Alley, Allen F. Gaudelli and Sarah E. Zappe. Technical Communication Online (2009). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication>Microsoft PowerPoint


Comparing Powerpoint Experts' and University Students' Opinions About PowerPoint Presentations   (members only)

Technical communication instructors want to help students, as well as professionals, design effective PowerPoint presentations. Toward this end, I compare the advice of academic and industry experts about effective PowerPoint presentation design to survey responses from university students about slide text, visual elements, animations, and other issues related to PowerPoint presentation design and delivery. Based on this comparison, I suggest some topics, such as PowerPoint's Slide Sorter view, that technical communication instructors and other presentation instructors might address when they cover presentations in their classes or seminars.

Mackiewicz, Jo M. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2008). Articles>Presentations>Assessment>Microsoft PowerPoint


Conference Humiliation: They're Tweeting Behind Your Back

Conference speakers beware: Twecklers are watching. They're out for blood. And you may be their next victim. The Twitter "back channel" can be a powerful tool to quickly knit a gathering of strangers into an online community, a place where attendees at meetings broadcast bits of sessions, share extra information such as links, and arrange social events. But the same technology can also enable a "virtual lynching." That's the phrase one twitster used to describe what happened at last month's HighEdWeb Association conference, an event that has gone down in social-media history as perhaps the most brutal abuse of the back channel yet.

Parry, Marc. Chronicle of Higher Education (2009). Articles>Presentations>Social Networking>Ethics


Confessions of a Backchannel Queen

I posted some critical comments about a speaker's presentation, and a Microsoft Research employee who I knew only by name called me out on it. He expressed concerns about whether it was "fair" to criticize someone who wasn't there to defend his or herself, and pointed out that we were a scary audience, and should be more generous. While he was right in some ways, the comment had a chilling effect, and it made me reluctant to do the kind of stream-of-consciousness chatter in the channel that I find often sparks the best responses and conversations.

Lawley, Liz. mamamusings (2009). Articles>Presentations>Social Networking>Ethics


Continuity Bugs in Linear Slide Presentations

Whenever you take a non linear media and flatten it (make it linear), you introduce problems of two kinds: 1) Discontinuities in logic. The audience needs to remember what was connected to what, earlier in your presentation, to see the connection logic. 2) Discontinuity in time. As time passes, the audience remembers less and less of what they heard and saw. As a result, the memory fails to reconnect the time-broken strands of a disrupted argument.

When The Scientist Presents (2009). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication>Microsoft PowerPoint


Conversation is the New Attention

Baby's got backchannel! If everybody at the conference is staring at their Twitter stream instead of at the person who's doing the speaking, maybe the speaker should meet them halfway. Migrating speaker presentations to the backchannel can empower the audience while enabling the speaker to listen carefully to their responses. The broadcast model of presentations is dead! Long live the conversation model.

Fahey, Christopher and Timothy Meaney. List Apart, A (2011). Articles>Presentations>Social Networking


Convince the Crowd With Presentations and Diagrams

Why just get by with a boring presentation when you can create a dynamite Microsoft Office PowerPoint® presentation or a colorful Microsoft Office Visio® diagram? Get ready to impress the big boss or the new team with simple ideas that go a long way.

Microsoft. Articles>Presentations>Software>Microsoft PowerPoint


Review: The Craft of Scientific Presentations: Critical Steps to Succeed and Critical Errors to Avoid   (members only)

As the word craft in the title of the book suggests, the ability to give good presentations is not a genetically linked trait but a craft that can be learned.

Armbruster, David L. Technical Communication Online (2004). Articles>Reviews>Presentations>Scientific Communication



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