A Possible Cure for Formless Presentations

All of us have experience watching student presentations that dance around a topic but never settle on a clear message.  Text-heavy slides are often symptoms of a student’s uncertainty about what he or she wants to communicate to an audience.  A very specific technique for designing slides for technical presentations that  I stumbled upon this year–“The Assertion-Evidence Model”–could be used to help our students.  The very act of shaping what they want to say to conform to this model compels them to find a central idea and illustrate it meaningfully.  You can find a site devoted to promoting the technique here.  You may find the site’s recommend books useful as well.  Two of them are accessible online through the Ryerson Library.  I’m going to ask our subject librarian to purchase another: Academic Slide Design.

The site was created by Michael Alley, who has written excellent, influential books on technical writing.

Admittedly, the contrarian in me thought that if all students used this technique, it would soon cease to appear fresh.  I’m also a bit hesitant to recommend that slide titles be full sentences, even if they’re concise, because an audience is all the more likely to momentarily lose focus on the speaker while reading.  Nevertheless, the model does clarify in very simple terms how to create a compelling and coherent speech.

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