It had perhaps less than six words per slide. It had high quality graphics. It had a systematic and consistent placement of elements. But something about the presentation today still bugged the kernel of a graphic designer inside me.

The presenter had clearly read some basic literature on slideshow presentations (Presentation Zen is my fave) or heard me rant about this topic in the hallways. Like many of us who are clued in to the need for better communication of evaluation topics, he totally thought he knew what he was doing. Two major issues still need to be addressed for those of us who have Graphic Design for Evaluators 101 under our belts.

1. Pick a metaphor or theme and stick with it. The presentation in focus was on nonequivalent dependent variables. Sheesh, right? Normally, I’d suggest thinking of an awesome and relatable metaphor for your topic that can be consistently carried throughout the presentation. I will give $5 to whoever can come up with a good metaphor for nonequivalent dependent variables. In lieu of a metaphor, pick some theme – but just one. Today’s talk featured targets. You know, bull’s eyes. It related to internal validity, I get it. And the target icons were repeated throughout the presentation. This is good. But then odd elements were also chosen, like writing slide text on graphic images of post-it notes. The post-it note communicates draft quality, office work, perhaps even organization. But it didn’t relate to bull’s eyes at all. The post-it note, while cute, was conflicting with the main message. It may have also been…

2. Graphic overload. Adding more graphic elements to the presentation decreases its communication ability. If it isn’t necessary, eliminate it from the slide. Don’t put a border around it and call more attention to it. Likewise, the presentation had extraneous arrows and excessive animation. Like “chartjunk,” these elements distracted from the message. Slidejunk! I’m watching the alien genderless being wave around a dartboard, not listening to your message, my friend. When a client thinks back to your evaluation debriefing, surely it is not the silver alien you want them to be remembering. The presentation should support the speaker.

While we’re probably still patting ourselves on the back for discovering the power of stock photo sites, let’s move ever upward.

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