My Technology Tools to Support Learning course is continuing our overview of elearning this week.  But I also wanted to link elearning to some of the other topics we’ve been discussing over the semester.  As we move from using Powerpoint for presentations to building interactive learning modules, I thought we would consider what we should bring with us from presentations., one of the Internet’s largest archive of slides and presentations, holds a competition each year for the World’s Best Presentation.  The topic for the slides can be on anything.  The winner this year, Dan Roam, built a presentation about healthcare in America, and it’s all written on napkins (sort of).  See for yourself; I’ve embedded it below.

But the second prize, “Sheltering Wings” by Sarah Cullem, and third place,  “Feels Bad on the Back” by Mohamad Faried, are also excellent as well.  These are the overall winners.  There are also winners for different categories. So, you may want to take a look at those, too.  In particular, you might want to take a look at the one for education.  Here’s the list from Slideshare:

The question…

So after taking a look at a bunch of these (and some of you may have seen them through Twitter, etc. as they came out), I’ve got some questions for you to consider.

  1. What can we learn from these presentations about how to design and develop presentations? In other words, what’ the take away for instructional designers?
  2. What can we learn about how to present a message to others, particularly when we’re not there to elaborate?
  3. How do these (or some of these) presentations echo principles of message design, graphic design, and instructional design?  Or how do they break them usefully?

Let me know what you think.  Jump in and leave your ideas in the comments below.

About Michael M Grant

Dr. Michael M. Grant is a passionate professor, researcher, and consultant. He works with faculty members, schools and universities, and districts to integrate technology meaningfully and improve teaching and learning. When 140 characters just won't work, then he blogs here at He has a beautiful wife and three equally beautiful daughters, who will change the world.

8 Thoughts on “The year's best presentations: What can we learn?

  1. Okay, so I feel just a little overwhelmed trying to recall the details from the various slide shows while also trying to figure out how to answer the questions posed by Dr. Grant. But here are a few thoughts.
    About the takeaway for instructional designers: I felt like I just endured an intense onslaught of ‘design’-a-mania. They were all trying so hard to make their presentations work that I ended up just feeling like every trick in the book was thrown at me. So my take away on this is not to try to build in too much in a single presentation—choose an approach and stay consistent in the production.
    About not being there to elaborate: Some of the best work done in these slide shows wouldn’t need any one to elaborate. In particular, the one with the greatest impact on me was the monstrous crime production. And it certainly did not need anyone to say anything audibly. The emotional impact of the carefully selected images about people trafficking spoke volumes. I think the important decision to make about a project is to consider the venue and audience. Some great impacts are achieved with few words; however, other messages have a greater volume of information and they might be best delivered with a narrator/elaborator who uses the slideshow as a support/interest system.
    About principles of design: It was fascinating to see some of these slide shows with the principles, actions, and tools we have been discussing in Lohr’s text (in particular)–the effective use of figure-ground (Simplicity, slide 5—focus on lights and blurring of the person hold them); contrast (focal text modified in size and color throughout Sheltering Wings); rule of thirds (placement of the tree silhouette in Simplicity, slide 1); shape (the recurring kidney shape pointed out in Feels Bad on the Back); closure (Eco-nomics, slide 14); and what I considered to be poor use of proximity in Eco-nomics (slides 40-42) because the heading was too far away from the bullet points and line spacing could have been better if there had been more space between the bullets and less space between the multiple lines of a bullet entry; and poor use of selection in Healthcare Napkins (see especially slides 33+ where he just kept adding more and more to the slides until I didn’t know what to look at any more). There was poor user control on Sheltering Wings (beginning especially with slide 26; the slideshow was set on automatic advance and didn’t give enough time to read the slide before it changed on its own).

  2. I completely agree with Linda’s takeaway about being concisisent when creating a presentiation. I agree that we should chose one approach and stick with it throughout. That is very good advice. I know I can get carried away and try to use too many “tricks” when creating something visual.
    When I watched these presentations I noticed they all start with an engaging and “hooking” title page. They all invoke curiosity, making the learner wants to click play. I LOVE how the Kidney care designer used 1+1=3 in the beginning with the kidney shape to interest the learner. He found everyday items that are shaped like a kidney to evoke the learner’s schema and, therefore, made them confident and self assured. He used the methods described by Alessi and Trollip in Multimedia for Learning, “Relate what the learner will study to previous knowledge.” As did Sarah Cullen in her “Sheltering Wings” presentation when she compared Burkina Faso to the United States to put into perspective and make comparisons the learner could relate to.
    In addition, all of these presentations watch their choice of words and use wording that does not intimidate the learner. The language that each presentation used is definitely in the learners’ comprehension level. In addition, their choice of text evoked curiosity. For example, in the presentation entitled, “Eco-nomics, The hidden costs of consumption,” the author takes a complexly title and breaks it down into clear text. He defines the hidden costs with short, concise sentences, as well as a graphic the correlates the message.
    In Jackie Goldstein’s “Who’s this guy?” she uses a variety of colors throughout (especially in the graphics), which is usually a ‘no-no’ of design. However, her use of breaking this rule conveys her message further. For instance, she uses yellow and orange on this slides 22-27, and, according to Linda Lohr in her book Creating Graphics for Learning Performance, she states, yellow “is considered a least favorite color along with orange.” However, she uses these two least preferred colors together, and she conveys clarity and a warmth to her message, creating a friendly feel about the description of “this guy”.
    These designers all designed their presentation with the reader in mind. They follow much of the guidelines that Alessi and Trollip state, such as:
    keeping their message consistent, maintaining good color contrasts, arousing and sustaining curiosity, providing an appropriate level of learner control, allowing forward progression and backward review, and using coherent layouts.
    We can learn from each of these designers that an effective message MUST be engaging. If the learner’s interest is not peaked, then they will immediately tune-out. In addition, we must relate the information we are conveying to the learners’ previous knowledge, and most importantly, think ‘outside of the box’!

  3. @ Linda and Logan, really great ideas and comments. There certainly is a lot to be said for consistency and simplicity when it comes to communicating a message. These seem to also be at the heart of many of the Presentation 2.0 ideas as well.

  4. Kellyn Bryce on November 5, 2009 at 7:12 am said:

    Dr. Grant, This Slide Share technology is wonderful and definately a step up from Microsoft Powerpoint. It reminds me of technology that I have recently been using fro tasks to complete in my EDU 250 class. We are using a diffrent site called VoiceThread which seems to be very similiar. Voice Thread has a bit more features but this is a well developed site as well.

  5. Dr. Grant,
    I’m a student in a class about integrating technology into the classroom at union University in Jackson TN. I really enjoyed this “slideshare” blog because it proves to me that these things that I am using can be put to use quite effectively! I’m really excited to be able to add slide share to my Web 2.0 list!

  6. Courtney on November 7, 2009 at 11:10 pm said:

    I am a student in Dr. Clifford’s “Integrating Technology in the Classroom” at Union, and I am looking forward to learning from you this week. Overall, I think these recognized Slideshare presentations displayed excellent data with gripping pictures. Even though the presentation was conveyed without interaction, the point was clearly presented. “Sheltering Wings” was especially effective because the creator used charts and images to illustrate statistics that distinguish between Burkina Faso children and American children. They also directed the viewer throughout by creating texts that “popped” with varied sizes and colors. Another principle demonstrated in these presentations is that sometimes what is simple can be most effective. The first prize, “Healthcare Napkins,” involved stick figures and elementary drawings. Elaborate effects and images can detract from the core message.

  7. Samantha Dodson (UU) on November 9, 2009 at 4:56 pm said:

    This was a very impressive slideshow presentation! Like Kellyn said, it is definitely a step up from Microsoft Powerpoint. It is a good thing the slides did not have a timed transition or I would have missed a lot. The drawings were very clever, and the plot of the “story” was easy to follow, however, on a few slides I could not read the small writing. I am working towards becoming a teacher, and this Web 2.0 tool will be very helpful in the future! It would be nice to create slide shows such as this one to explain the plot of a story or characters in a story for teaching a reading class. Actually it will be very useful for any subject in the future!

  8. Jordan Marks on November 10, 2009 at 12:47 am said:

    I am a student in Instructional Technology in the Classroom at Union University. I found it very interesting how someone is to come up with such an informative message but only using stick figures in a slide show to portray it. I have not seen anything like this before mainly because I am so used to using Microsoft PowerPoint and just inserting pictures with text. With this new slideshare system it seems Dan came up with his own drawing methods and somehow used paint or some other means to illustrate his points in his presentation. “Healthcare Napkins” taught me things that I didn’t already know and it was easy to understand through simple illustrations that were distinguished through the use of colors and short messages. I hope to someday utilize this system to teach my students.

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