Sunday, December 14, 2014

Review, Edit, Repeat

When preparing a talk, how many times do you review or edit it? How many times does a director watch a movie she is making? How many drafts does a writer have of his latest novel? You know where am I getting at.  But I'll say "Juan, I'm not a professional speaker! This is not my real job, I have more thing more important to do!" Well, I have bad news for you. If you are reading these lines, it might be that communication is fundamental to your job. In fact, your might be complaining right now, this month, or the coming one about your company's management bad communication skill and know that's affecting you. But seriously, how good are you at communicating if you don't review your material or you don't edit it enough? Let that sink in.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

How to crop images with circles in Keynote

Here is a way to deal with images that come in different sizes and/or orientations: mask them with circles.  Here is what I mean

You have probably already seen this with Google and Apple productions. Circles are fun, dynamic, harmonious, and they are also points. Now, there is a whole visual grammar behind points, but that's not the topic of this post. Let's do the before-after thing. Consider this fake slide

By the way, also Featured pictures from Wiki Commons. The images are very good, but we can take them to the next level.  Their sizes are around 700px, so I'll mask them with circles with a diameter of 300px. This is the result

Certainly better, but how did I do it? Most Slideware packages allow you to crop an image with a shape.  Google it and you'll get the technical know-how. I'll demo with Keynote 6.  
  • Select a Circle: Insert > Shape > Cicle. Make it the size that you want. 
We'll rescale all images at the end, so don't worry. Concentrate on getting an good crop for each image. Also, the color doesn't matter. Remove the fill and leave the stroke, or reduce the transparency of the circle to see what soon will be crop. Think about what is interesting and leave enough white space.  
When are done with placing the shape on top of the image select both objects: the circle and the image. 
  • Hold Shift Key and click on each object to select them. In Keynote the order in which you click doesn't matter.
  • Crop: Fomat > Image > Mask with Selection.

I'll recap with the keyboard, since we need the extra step of duplicating the shape and match the background. 
  • Place shape on top of the image

  •  Mask it

  • In this case we need to to complete the shape. Duplicate the shape match the background.

  • Align it to the middle/center

 You can mask with all sort of figures. Remember to keep it simple. squares and circles work best. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Storyboarding and the collective progress

Garr Reynolds posted today on Storyboarding, and as usual it was a great post. After reading this post I strongly recommend you check Garr's out! Watching the videos in Garr's post brought me to two important thoughts.

Not all presentations are equal(lly good). Our effort producing a presentation is based on a priori estimate of the possible benefit or risk. This mindset leads to self fulfilling prophecies. Most scientific talks are looked at as been low-stake, low Return Of (academic) Investment (ROI) , and therefore the amount of time and resources we spend are little. That explains why some people slideware their presentation the day or night before they present it. And as a result we have "Death by Powerpoint".

The value of a scientific talks and posters are seen as inferior as the value of an scientific paper, so way to invest on producing a  high quality talk?  Now if you were to present for a grant, you would obviously spend more time on pre-producing, producing and post-producing that talk. Sure, you might have the wrong approach to Presentation Production, but nonetheless you would give it more effort.

Add time to the equation. Even if we would like to produce a high quality talk, some real-world time constraints would make it very difficult, or even impossible. 
Developing a presentation must be a collective progress. Garr's post and its videos therein reminded me that presentations are best when more than one person are involved. Take the Storyboarding example. Pitching in front of people allows you to get instant feedback and a new perspective of what you are presenting. This is not Design by Committee. You listen to the feedback and new perspective, but you decide what to do with it.

This collective progress also allows for catching errors, fine tuning your content and story, anticipate questions and check of body language. All-in-all it rises the quality of your presentation. The ROI of rehearsal and pitching is huge. Besides most people are willing be helpers and give their opinion.

The value of rehearsing for one presentation extends beyond one presentation. Rehearsing becomes a habit because its results are proven. The time you spend rehearsing is better time than the time you spend in front of a computer.

 In short, to make your presentations equal(lly good)  bring people into your production. It is a worth investment.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Full bleed and full of beer. OK, Beamer might be not so bad!

3 things are wondering on my mind: The spread use of full bleed images on websites, drinking beer before and during a talk, and using LaTeX/Beamer to show computer code on slides.

I was watching this Java 8 talk last night and  I was astonished  that the presenter was drinking beer, before and during the presentation. What The Fuck? I get it,  the talk was scheduled at night, clearly this brogrammer thought that might get him some street creed points… or maybe he thought he was James Hetfield. Please don't drink before going on stage.

Speaking of Metallica, the Guns 'N Roses website features full bleed images and backgrounds.  Full bleed images are more and more common these days, and that's cool. Heck, even the Germany's  Tagesschau changed it studios to show full bleed images on the background. Sadly, people still heavily rely on Bullet Points. Here is one example of using full bleed images:

A learning connection that relies on emotions (partly driven by images) is a better learning than uses only text and information dumps.

Finally, LaTex/Beamer. I think it can be used for showing source code on a slide.  Lots of presentations on CS don't color nor even typo-graph computer code. Let that thought sink in.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Presentation Gurus: Podium

Here is great free source of public speaking! YouTube's Thnkr, let's call it meta-channel, is a source of valuable entertainment. In its own words  
THNKR gives you extraordinary access to the people, stories, ideas that will change your mind.
Among these extraordinary people and ideas,  public speaking through their Podium section.  The basic techniques and best practices of public speaking shown here extend to scientific presentations. This video on basic tips is a good place to get started. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Visual Examples: White Space and Repetition from SOTU 2014

It is February, time from the State Of The Union (SOTU) and again Obama's team nailed it on the slide design. The design is very similar to last year's. This year I want to focus on only two things: repetition and white space.

Although there is no theme or template, the slides Obama used make such a rigorous use of repetition and consistency, that it in itself creates a theme, an identity.  Obama's team take repetition even further with this slide /
 The icons on the bottom were highlighted as the speech progressed, as in this case mentioned infrastructure /
 This is an excellent example of how photographs and icons can be combined. Also note how the slides makes use of white space on the bottom. This was repeated across the presentation stack /
The slide of the right is simple, with only one element in the image plus the text. With only one element in the foreground, there is enough space on the background to add some text This is how slides explode the use of white space.  Lets take a look at other examples:
 While in the previous slide the point was Opportunity/The American Dream, in this slide the topic was infrastructure. Once again one element in the image plus text, lots of space for some text.
Note how in both cases (statue of liberty and bridge) the images are anchored at the bottom. /
Another two examples. On the left, the amount of white space was less than in the previous examples.  On the  right the, the interesting thing was happening at the bottom. There was lots of text for a slide, but the hierarchy and the message remained intact.  This slide looked like an ad.

And the last example /
I hope you get the idea.

Here is whole slide stack, I suggest you compare it with last year's stack. I hope it inspires you as it inspired me.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A word on visuals: Transitions

Transitions are problematic. Most presentation software come with more transitions than wanted. The people at Duarte already covered with in a series of videos called The Trouble with Transitions. The best transitions are the simple ones and are best used when used scarcely. Here is a small collection. I chose these because they are similar to small set simple cuts editors used when putting a film together.

  • Dissolve

Note that a slide can dissolve to black or white. The technical term is fade-out. Fading out to black is also known as black-out, and similarly fading out to white is known as white-out. Using a combination of fading out and in, might help the speak force a well deserved pause:

This "white pause" is appropriate when the speaker ant to signal that the next topic is weakly coupled to the previous one.
  • Move-in

This might also be known as cover. Read below to see why…
  • Push

If the whote pause signaled weakly coupling, the push transition might indicate a strong connection between two slides:

  • Reveal

This transition is the opposite of move-in. Reveal could also be called move-out, and move-in cover.

When to use transitions

Transitions are used to signal the direction of a talk: continuity or change. It can also help to force a pause. Transitions are not decoration. Use them when you need them. It is  a bit like the slow motion effect in many of Hollywood's action films, if you use it in the right moment and it will leverage your talk. The white pause can be repeated a few times to give the audience the chance to breathe and to signal them that a new topic is about to beginning, but again, don't over use it!