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Do It for the Polar Bears

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Institute on the Environment communications director Todd Reubold hates nothing more than bad PowerPoint presentations. Realizing that not everyone shares his strong feelings, Reubold began his recent Frontiers in the Environment presentation about communicating science with something he knew his audience would care passionately about. Rising sea levels caused by global warming reduce sea ice needed by polar bears. The electricity required for the estimated 30,000,000 slide presentations given each day around the world results in about 94 million kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions each year. If presentations induce audiences to sleep and fail to inspire them to respond to global climate change, then the energy used only hurts those polar bears. The bottom line, according to Reubold, is that slide presentations had better make an impact. 

Since people remember just 10 percent of what they hear but 65 percent of what they see AND hear, the ubiquity of the slide deck makes sense. The beautiful and arresting photos that are part of Reubold's slide deck - of a still-smoking remnant of Amazon rainforest, an oil derrick against a blue horizon or a group of children rapt at story hour - illustrate the power of visual communication. Take a look at Reubold's own slides in "Fight the Power(point)" or peruse through the Frontiers in the Environment archives, which let you see both past presenters and their slide decks.

An audience member at Reubold's Frontiers talk asked whether crafting a good presentation requires professional staff or years of training. That helps, Reubold said - but added with a laugh that simply attending to some basic principles would go a long way toward saving those bears. Easy stuff. 

  • Never, ever, use clip art
  • Focus on what you want your audience to learn from each slide
  • Use one main point per slide
  • Solid white, black, dark gray - that's all that you need
  • Let some of your emotion in
  • Think of a presentation as being on stage and move around
Above all, Reubold says, just simplify.

To learn more, download Presentation Best Practices, Reubold's list of tips and additional resources.

Photo courtesy Ansgar Walk via Wikimedia Commons

1 Comment

Thank you for the useful information. I agree that people will understand things and remember the presentation if it is simplified.

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  • London: Thank you for the useful information. I agree that people read more

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Hoff published on April 26, 2012 2:07 PM.

Can We Make Plastics Sustainable? was the previous entry in this blog.

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