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January 13, 2008

Indicating Progress During Presentations

In my job in Engineering Excellence, I occasionally put together slide presentations. I think it's important in a presentation to give the audience some notion of how far through you are. But I hate those intertitle slides that show "these are the five things we are going to talk about, and the current one is highlighted." So I try to be a bit more creative than that.

This is a talk I gave in 2006 about interviewing. The talk was split into 3 sections. In the intro slide I assigned each of them a shape (circle, square, and triangle). Then at the bottom I put three lines, each one representing the relative length of the sections (Cranky Kong appears in a few slides to remind me to tell a story):

Sp here we are starting out, we are in the first section which is denoted by a circle, and it's the first slide of that section so the circle is all the way to the left of the line:

Now we're near the beginning of the second section (there's Cranky reminding me to tell a story about an interview candidate who didn't know how many days there were in each month):

And then here is a slide in the middle of the last section:

Here's another example. I gave a talk last month about code reading, and to give it a seasonal gloss I decided to use a melting snowman to indicate progress. So here at the beginning is the full snowman (which originated as Microsoft clip art):

Now he is starting to melt:

Towards the end he is hardly there:

And (my final flourish) at the last slide, all that is left is his hat:

I really like the effect of both of these, especially the snowman if you flip through the slides quickly. The big problem is that if you add or remove a slide, you mess everything up. The first one, with the symbols moving over the bars, isn't that hard to do. But the snowman one took me about half an hour. I had to split the clip art into the snowman and the hat (since the hat didn't shrink), then shrink the snowman part by a precise amount each time, then move the snowman and the hat down (since when you scale something down it keeps the top border at the same spot, but I needed the bottom border to stay put). Hopefully at some point Powerpoint will add support for this kind of thing, since it wouldn't be that hard to do and then of course it could automatically adjust for slide counts.

Incidentally, if you work at Microsoft and you want to see the talks, they are both on mylearning. The first one is called "Choosing Technical Interview Questions" and the second is called "How to Read Code for Fun and Profit".

Posted by AdamBa at January 13, 2008 10:33 PM

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Looks like some scripting could be used to create an automated version of each of these. One for a status bar across the bottom and another one that pulls apart an annimated GIF and uses it to show progress.

Posted by: Charlie Bess at January 16, 2008 10:06 AM

I guess I could use a bus that's making its way from one end of the line to the other... When you scale this off, do you take into account how long you expect to spend on each slide, not just the number of slides (otherwise, this isn't a lot more informative than the "slide x of y" approach)?

Posted by: JEB at January 16, 2008 01:57 PM

Charlie, I guess I could script it if I was a Powerpoint automation guru. Might be a good job for a PowerShell script (whenever I've tried to script using the Office object model, I find it very hard to even find the content, let alone change it).

Joe, I just do it per slide. It's not much different from slide x of y except I think it's more visually interesting.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at January 16, 2008 08:48 PM