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A Digression: What Makes a Good Visual Presentation

Good slide design is all about focusing the audience’s attention on what you’re talking about. Your goal is to minimize the distractions that will divert eyeballs to things that aren’t relevant to your all-important topic. This means:

  • The design should have as few extraneous elements as you can get away with. Everything on the screen should have some explicit purpose to your discussion (Figure 1). (“Purpose” includes graphic elements that make your slides at least minimally attractive; ugliness is distracting.)
Figure 1

Figure 1 Keep the distractions to a minimum in your overhead slides. Extraneous doo-dads and what-nots may seem to dress up your presentation, but they are usually much more distracting than attractive, as you can see from the two examples of the same slide here. This example is contrived, but I’ve seen slides used that are almost as bad.

  • There should be as few application controls in view as possible; in Acrobat’s case, this means hiding the navigation panes, toolbars, and other visual elements that have nothing to do with the topic at hand. Of course, with these controls hidden away, there needs to be some way for you to move around in your presentation; Acrobat, happily, provides such button-less navigation, as we’ll seen in a moment.
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