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Nick Tierney's (mostly) rstats blog


A guide to awesome slides

Categories: Blag

3 minute read

Recently on Twitter I saw Jenny Bryan post this guide to slide design by Melinda Seckington

If this spares me but one beamer presentation, it is worth it 😬
The Art of Slide Design @mseckington ht @sjackman

— Jenny Bryan (@JennyBryan) July 29, 2017

I think that good design of slides is super important, and this slidedeck does a really great job of discussing good principles in a digestible manner, stating that the goal of a presentation is:

To allow your audience to absort your information.

It then goes on to describe 4 excellent principles of slide design, which I won’t repeat here - you should go through the slides and read them, like, right now. They are excellent.

BUT, if I were to take one thing from the presentation to recommend it would be this:

Focus on one purpose per slide

Don’t distract

I find it very frustrating when a speaker loads up a page full of points that seem to exist to remind them what to say. Instead, key points should be separated into individual slides, EVEN IF it means that you have upwards of 60 sparse slides for a 15 minute talk, this is far better than 15 information dense slides.

What to build slides in?

I really like using Yihui Xie’s rmarkdown slide package, xaringan, it is simple, quick, and fun, and I think that you can follow most of the design slides principles quite easily. However, for me to use 100% of the principles I think I would have to use a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor like Keynote or Powerpoint. I say this as I’m just not really across HTML/CSS/JS - I would get bogged down in the details, and also probably make some web designer somewhere cry when they read my CSS. There are probably also tools or tricks that make it easier to get the control I want in HTML/CSS/JS, if so, I’m keen to hear about them!

That being said, I’m actually really pleasantly surprised with what you can do with xaringan. Not having all of the bells and whistles that keynote and powerpoint do forces you to present your work simply, and I think that when you do this properly, it is very powerful.

I’m interested though - what do other people use to create their slide decks?

Other tips/resources for presentations