An oldie, but goodie…

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As I was skimming journals for a lit search on another project, I came across this interesting article:

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This article appeared in BMJ in 2003 and it a little dated (a few paragraphs talk about the use of overhead projectors and 35mm slides) but still had some great pearls to pull out if it.

“The nature and qualities of the teaching materials that you use can have a substantial effect on the educational experience of your students.” 

Very true. This is the whole idea behind presentation design and now has research to support this idea (see articles by Dr. Issa).

“Highlighted information helps to emphasize important issues or pivotal points in a developing argument.”

Also very true. One of the most common mistakes I see in presentations is a lack of focus on key points. The presentations turn into “slideuments” that are just large amounts of text in slide format.

The other side of this point is to highlight too much…

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“It is important that both the type of educational event and the teaching materials that supplement it are targeted at what your students need to learn. Targeting, therefore, requires an awareness of what knowledge and skills your students already have.”

Perhaps the most important sentences in this article because they hit so many important points. First, this idea that we have to tailor our teaching to our learners. This is a critical first step in designing educational activities. As much as I love presentation design, there are times when it isn’t even the best way to teach, and we have to consider this first before reflexively creating a powerpoint anytime we are asked to teach anything. This also implies that the same topic may be delivered differently based on the learners and educational goals. Second, teaching materials supplement educational activities. They should never be the central focus. Third, the idea of finding out what your students know related to the educational theme of Organizing and Anchoring. Activating prior knowledge and using the zone of proximal development aids in learning.

“…remember, [technology] is just another educational tool.”

Always important to remember, especially given the explosion of technology in the last few years.

Overall, this article was a nice, quick read that hid some great pearls that are still true for presentation design, but also gave some historic perspective on presentation tools and design ideas at the time.

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HA! Numbering slides…. classic!


Farrow R. “Creating Teaching Materials.” BMJ. 2003;326:921-3

Presentation by Dr. Stacey Poznanski

At the Council of Residency Directors in Emergency Medicine meeting in 2013, I discovered a person that loves presentation design as much as I do. I am hoping that she joins me soon on this blog, as well. Her name is Dr. Stacey Poznanski. She was gracious enough to share some of her slides from a presentation she gave with 3 colleagues at the 2013 Society for Academic Emergency Medicine meeting. I was also humbled that she chose to use some of my slides in her own presentation.



Book Review – Presentation Zen

This is one of the other great “must-have” books for presentation design enthusiasts!


Presentation Zen is very complementary to Slide:ology and very different in many ways as well. It was one of the first texts that I read during my “presentation design fellowship.” Presentation Zen is “about communication and about seeing presentations in a slightly different way, a way that is in tune with our times.” It is described as an “approach” to presentations. In it, Garr makes the case for this approach and give many amazing examples of slides and people that have implemented these ideas with great success. Like Slide:ology, the “weakness” of this book (probably more accurate to describe it as my own need this book doesn’t cover) is the integration of these ideas with education principles. But, that’s what I’m here for, I guess.

Quotable quotes from the book:

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci

“Such power there is in clear-eyed self-restraint.” – James Russell

“Our lives are frittered away by detail: simplify, simplify.” – Henry David Thoreau

“By stripping down an image to essential meaning, an artist can amplify that meaning.” – Scott McCloud

“The more strikingly visual your presentation is, the more people will remember it. And more importantly, they will remember you.” – Paul Arden


Reynolds, Garr. Presentation Zen. 2008. New Riders.

Another Great Presentation by Dr. Trevonne Thompson

As I mentioned in the last post, I spent last weekend in beautiful Toronto, Canada for the annual National Medical Association meeting. One of the highlights of the meeting is always to learn from one of my presentation design mentors, Trevonne Thompson. He was gracious enough to let me add his presentation to the website.

His presentations are always clean, crisp, and concise. I plan on taking a few cues from this one as well, including the subtle white on blue slide template that doesn’t sacrifice a lot of the space on the slide while still adding color.


Good times.