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January 09, 2009


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Saved as a favorite, I really like your blog!


This page certainly has all of the information I needed concerning this subject and didn't know who to ask.

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Excellent research summary! Thanks.

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I agree with your main point that we should pay attention to research and consider it when developing presentations. And I appreciate that researchers (mostly) follow rigorous protocols.

Jennifer Kammeyer

I appreciate the interest in this topic. There are many valid points made, with which I completely agree:

1. Research has its limitations and shouldn't be used as the end-all for creating presentations.
2. A good speaker with a poor presentation is better that a bad speaker with a good presentation.
3. Any one method of presentation creation is not right for all situations.

Thanks for giving the conversation lively.

Dave Gray

Hi Jennifer,

I agree with your main point that we should pay attention to research and consider it when developing presentations. And I appreciate that researchers (mostly) follow rigorous protocols.

But I think there is a difference between applying these principles and following them slavishly. For example, limiting yourself to Gill Sans or Souvenir might make sense for an academic researcher with no design training. It's a safe bet, you could say. But as a general prescription for all presentations that just seems silly to me.

I took a look at the research paper you mention, and in this case the researchers tested ten fonts out of the thousands available. In addition, their research was survey-based, which means that the conclusions the researchers came to were based on opinion -- in this case the opinion of the test subjects.

I think it's also a good idea to take into account that a lot of this research is conducted at Universities, with students as the study participants, which is hardly a representative sample of presentation audiences in the wider world.

In this case the study was based on the survey responses of 37 participants.

So first we have to look at the bias introduced by the researchers' selection of the original ten fonts. Second we need to consider the additional bias introduced by the selection of the study participants. Third, we should consider the bias introduced by asking participants for their opinion of what is "comfortable to read, professional-looking, interesting and attractive."

For example, a recent Princeton study (http://web.princeton.edu/sites/opplab/papers/Diemand-Yauman_Oppenheimer_2010.pdf) concluded that student retention was significantly higher when information was more difficult to read. Does that mean that we should make our slides more difficult to read? Not necessarily.

I'm not saying we shouldn't pay attention to research and try to apply research-based principles in our presentations.

But the meaning and potential applications of research are often hotly debated by the researchers themselves, and it behooves us, I think, to consider the research carefully before we apply it, to read the research, and to try to understand the assumptions and methods behind the conclusions before we act on those conclusions.

Kevin Kane

Excellent research summary! Thanks.

M Snow

I'm currently a student in an online class learning how to teach online classes. Many of the other students are excited about bells and whistles, but this article and subsequent comments bring my thinking back down to the basics.

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i will take this into consideration. thanks.

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