Packing a Punch with Presentations! AKA Taking Crappy slideshows and making them CARPy!

The best visuals are often ones designed with an eye toward simplicity. (PresentationZen.com)

This Week’s Challenge: 

For COETAIL this week, we were challenged to take a visual we had previously created and update it. We were given a whole bunch of readings and videos on design principles in order to help us learn how to make our visuals better.

We were also instructed to get some feedback from others about what would improve the visual (a good idea, especially since we are trying to follow the steps of the Design Thinking Model when creating products for users).

Design Thinking Model (Source: Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

I had heard some of my COETAIL colleagues talking about CARP before, so I decided to look that up as well. Basically, CARP is an acronym for four principles of design (contrast, alignment, repetition, and proximity) that you can keep in mind when trying to create visuals that are not crap. Check out this cool poster if you’re a newbie to the term (like I was).

Principles of Design poster (Source: http://paper-leaf.com)

Step 1: Choose a Crappy Slideshow to Update

This step was easy because, after watching the video “How to avoid death by PowerPoint” by David JP Phillips, I realized that almost all of my past slideshows have been crappy. Epic fail, Megan. Epic fail.

The slideshow I chose to update was a presentation for our grade 7 advisory students called “Walk in My Shoes: An Exploration of Empathy”. The project asks students to create a shoe that represents their life journey. Then, all the shoes are displayed and the students step into each other’s perspective by silently reflecting on the shoes. It’s a powerful activity, but the slideshow visually sucked.

Check out the initial slideshow here!

Step 2: Gather feedback

I asked several people for feedback on this slideshow, including:

  1. My COETAIL colleagues Justin and Danielle since I have admired their visuals and graphics in their COETAIL posts before.
  2. The French and Mandarin teachers at my school – their classrooms are next to mine so it was easy to catch them, plus the French teacher is a Canva whiz.
  3. The Middle School Learning Coach at my school whose slideshows at our faculty meetings consistently impress me.

The feedback was consistent across the board in terms of design problems spotted. The most common comments I received were as follows:

  1. There’s too much text on the slides.
  2. The font is too small.
  3. There aren’t any pictures to support the text.
  4. The slides with examples are too crowded and the examples are hard to see.
  5. Key ideas and concepts should be bolded.
  6. Transitions and effects could be used more effectively to help highlight important pieces of information.

Step 3: Revise and make it better

I took all of this feedback and turned the crappy slideshow into a CARPy one (at least, in my opinion). The most important changes I made were to:

  1. Use a theme that matched the project concept. Here’s the Slidesgo template I used.
  2. Get rid of unnecessary words and instructions and put those in the speaker notes.
  3. Make all the font sizes larger than 24.
  4. Bold keywords.
  5. Add transitions and animations to a few slides that were a little text-heavy.
  6. Find a few compelling photographs to support the text.

What do you think? Check out the new slideshow here!

Step 3: Reflect on the process

As my colleague, the French teacher, said when I showed her the new slideshow, “You see what happens when you get feedback.” And she was right. The presentation was better. Plus, I felt proud of what I had created.

The problem is, making that CARPy slideshow took a lot of time. I spent a few hours soliciting feedback. Then I spent a few hours creating the new slideshow. Then I spent an hour or so revising and polishing the new slideshow after receiving some more feedback.

Is it a quality product? Yes, I think so. But, as a teacher, I am perenially strapped for time. I’m not sure I can always find five hours to create an awesome slideshow.

However, my hope is that the next time I have to create a slideshow, I’ll use design thinking and CARP from the get-go. If I continue to mess around and play, I’ll become more proficient and faster at making slideshows that don’t kill the viewer.

I can’t help but come back to the “4 Stages of Learning” Model by Noah Burch that I referenced way back in COETAIL Course 1. I was unconsciously unskilled. But now I might be moving from consciously unskilled to consciously skilled. Which is pretty cool.

Who knows? By this time next year, if I keep it up, I might be unconsciously skilled. Check back in with me next October please and let’s see…

4 stages of competence (Noel Burch).