Quickly add an average line to a chart
I got a question today about how to show the average value for a series of totals on a chart. I’ve seen people calculate the average and then draw a line on top of the chart which works, but it won’t adjust automatically if the totals are later revised.
A quick way to get the average line to appear is to add a column of data with the average value copied all the way down the column as shown at the right side of the chart. By default when you create the chart it will have bars representing both series of data. If you select the second series (or whichever series contains the average) you can change the type of chart for that series to line and presto, you’ve got a line running at the average.
On the day he died, at 96, Pablo Casals had put in several hours of practice on his beloved cello. The quote above: “I think I’m making progress.” had been his answer a few years prior to the question of why he stills practiced every day. One of the most accomplished people ever at his craft and he still saw progress to be made. What a wonderful lesson for us all.
Well two lessons at least. There is the lesson of the importance of practice which we have talked about before but which bears repeating. In a recent Forbes article “9 Public-Speaking Lessons From The World’s Greatest TED Talks,” one of the tips is to practice relentlessly.
Practice relentlessly. Harvard brain researcher Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor had this “stroke of insight” that has been viewed 15 million times on TED.com. Dr. Jill rehearsed her presentation 200 times before she delivered it live. Practice relentlessly and internalize your content so that you can deliver the presentation as comfortably as having a conversation with a close friend.
Another is on lifelong learning and the never ending journey. Learning is about preparing for the future. Preparation in terms of planning and also practice are too often short-changed in the equation. I like the “math” that Scott Berkun included in Confessions of a Public Speaker:
Put another way, when 100 people are listening to you for an hours, that’s 100 hours of people’s time devoted to what you have to say. If you can’t spend 5 or 10 hours preparing for them, thinking about them, and refining your points to best suit their needs, what does that say about your respect for your audience’s time? It says that your 5 hours are more important than 100 of theirs, which requires an ego larger than the entire solar system. And there is no doubt this disrespect will be obvious once you are on the stage.
I’m doing some research today for a presentation I’ll be giving on Personal Learning Environments and I came across this diagram which I really like in the following paper.
Caldwell, Glenda, Bilandzic, Mark, & Foth, Marcus (2012) Towards visualising people’s ecology of hybrid personal learning environments. In Brynskov, Martin (Ed.) Proceedings of the Media Architecture Biennale 2012, Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Aarhus, Denmark, pp. 13-22. (download from eprints)
I like the way is divides the environmental components into three categories: technology, place, and people. I like that is shows how different individuals will piece together their personal learning environments differently. The question I am dealing with, however, is whether the current diagram is suitable for the venue of my presentation. I may use the original diagram or I may recreate a variation of it but I wanted to take a few minutes to analyze it and mention a few things about it. These are the kinds of things that I would think about.
First, there is a lot going on so I have to decide if it is appropriate for inclusion in a mostly lecture-style presentation. Maybe this diagram is better suited for a print pieces rather than displaying it on a screen. Things are a bit cramped and it could be more distracting than helpful. My initial instinct is that I’ll recreate a variation.
This idea is further pushed by the colored lines. Yes, the lines going from the three HPLE “people” are different colors but they are not clearly delineated colors and could have more impact.
Ultimately, decisions like these are sometimes dictated by time constraints and the purpose of the presentation. If it were a one-time meeting with a few people where I can leave the slide up and we spend time talking through it, then I can make do with it as is. If I’m using it in a written report I may be able to stick with the original.
But if I am building a presentation that will have some shelf-life and be viewed on perhaps a variety of types of devices, I would likely take the time to create one that is less cluttered, or at least breaks this image down into multiple slides to focus on different parts and then shows the whole image to show how it all fits together.
The bottom line is that a perfect image for one use may not be perfect for another. Experiment. Analyze. Rework. Repeat as needed.
Don’t Present Like a T-Rex
The cartoon above was used in an article I read today and it reminded me of a post I wrote some time back. So today we’ll go a little retro and revisit the piece called Don’t Present Like a T-Rex.
I was visiting the natural history museum this weekend and made a stop at the T-Rex exhibit, among others. Of course, one of the first things you notice about dino boy is how small and seemingly ineffectual his arms are.
But he’s in good company. I’ve seen a series of speakers recently who are trying very hard to get past the “I don’t know what to do with my hands” issue. They are making valiant attempts to gesture but they are so uncomfortable that they try to move their arms without letting their elbows ever stray from their sides. Their arms are pinned down from the shoulders to the elbows and then their forearms are flailing about like a T-Rex trying to clap.
So shake it out folks. Put your arms down by your sides and shake them loose. Let them hang there and get comfortable with that. Then move your arms, but your whole arms. Let some air under there. It will feel funny at first. It will feel scary. You’ll feel like you are taking up a lot of space. You’ll feel like your gestures are too big. That’s OK. You can tone it down if you need to. But first go big.
Be big. Take up space. Be a T-Rex and command attention. But you don’t suffer from short limbs like T-boy so don’t gesture like a T-Rex or you may find your presentation turns your audience to fossils and your message may become extinct.
"PowerPoint and its imitators have become the Comic Sans of instructional tools." Rebecca Shuman in PowerPointless: Digital slideshows are the scourge of education
Just as Comic Sans started being used everywhere, whether it was appropriate or not, PowerPoint has become ubiquitous and abused. There is nothing wrong with Comic Sans as mentioned on Comic Sans Criminal. All fonts have a personality which may or may not match the message you are using them to display. Be thoughtful and purposeful when selecting your fonts.
The same goes for your slides. Is a comic book metaphor appropriate to the given situation and audience? Are your slides adding value to your course or are they just copies of your outline? Do they help the students to learn? Are you using them simply because it’s easier to throw a slide up than to write on the blackboard? Are your slides really instructional tools?
Background image from Flickr
Sometimes the best slide to put on the screen is no slide. There are times when you want to draw all of the attention to yourself or to the discussion you are having in a meeting. Maybe you want to tell a story. Maybe you want to do a big reveal after you do the set up. Maybe you just don’t want the distraction of an image hovering the background if it is not immediately relevant and needed for the discussion. You can press the B key at any point to black out the screen or you can simply put a blank slide with a black background at the appropriate spot in the presentation.
I found these quotes in Stephen Kosslyn’s Clear and to the Point: 8 Psychological Principles for Compelling PowerPoint Presentations. William Faulkner said of Ernest Hemingway that “He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary,” while Hemingway questioned Faulkner’s approach with “Poor Faulkner. Does her really think big emotions come from big words?”
So which of these talented writers’ approach would translate best to presentations? Hemingway’s simple language approach would certainly win in most situations. And he is right to point out that it is emotions you are going after. Logic and facts are great and necessary but to change people’s minds you really have to change their hearts and beliefs, something that facts alone will not accomplish.
But Faulkner’s approach isn’t completely without merit. If you are speaking to an audience that expects complex language, fine, use it. That doesn’t mean you can’t still structure an interesting and compelling story. It just means that you need to make sure the style of your content matches the audience.
Today is Mardi Gras and since I am originally from New Orleans, it’s a holiday that is near and dear to my heart. Today’s slide contains a bizarre image but it makes a point that is relevant to a couple of the topics I have touched on during this project 365 slide parade. Primarily this image reminds me to keep looking at the tools I have and try to figure out different ways to use them.
You might notice some ladders in the image above. But they aren’t just ordinary ladders, they have a wooden box attached to the top. These are used as seats for young children attending the parades, to get them up high where they can see and be seen by the float riders. I don’t know who first came up with this idea but it’s a common scene in the uptown part of the parade routes that travel along St. Charles Avenue.
People didn’t stop there though. Some decorated the box seats. I saw one this year that used cushioned upholstery. Others added wheels so the ladder contraption can be rolled to and from the parade site. Another I saw a few years ago had a PVC pipe systems attached so that beads the kids caught could be dropped down a chute into a bag below. The possibilities, it seems, are endless.
So what tools do you currently have at your disposal and how can you use them more creatively or supplement them with other things?
"Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after." ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Coffee cup image from Flickr)
I prepared today’s slide in StarOffice Impress because I’m traveling and working on a netbook and because I like to experiment with different tools. Impress is enough like PowerPoint to be easy to use but just different enough to take me some time to find certain tools. One of the big limitations is with the colors available. I’m spoiled with PowerPoint, I admit it.
Another limitation, which had nothing to do with Impress was that I didn’t have a great font collection on the netbook. I wanted something that was more personal, more like a handwritten note for today’s slide but we should all be careful with novelty fonts. They have to suit the mood, tone and audience. They also have to fit the media being used.
For instance, this font would not be great if these slide were projected. It would take more effort to ready this font on a big screen. On a computer screen it would likely be OK. For a small mobile device, again not so good. This is increasingly something we have to think about as our slides go off without us and get repurposed, and as we repurpose others’ slides.
I was going through some pieces I wrote a few years ago and found one that I thought deserved to be brushed off and re-shared. It has to do with listening, really listening. And I thought the image I selected for today’s slide was particularly appropriate since it has a child-like quality to it and hearkens back to our days on the playground. So whether you are the speaker or the audience member, student, coworker, etc. becoming a better listener will improve the results you receive.
From an April 2010 post called What did I just say?
Which of us didn’t hear that phrase from our mothers as we were growing up? We all do it. The fake listening thing. Uh huh, uh huh. If we make some verbal response that’ll signal we’re listening, right? And it’s not just when we’re kids that we do this. As we grow up and go out into the world we continue the uh huh tradition. And we have all these reasons. Gadgets at every appendage. Information streaming in from every angle. We’re all so busy. Really?
You can actually accomplish more in a short amount of time by doing less. Next time someone tries to talk to you, snap to. Actually look at them. Listen to them. The smartphone will wait for you. It’s not going to run off the desk away from you crying because you ceased looking at it momentarily. But the person you don’t pay attention to when they are trying to speak to you does notice and react emotionally and psychologically to your apparent indifference.
Image from Flickr