Presentation resources

Start with a few big-picture ideas to get the creative juices flowing.

Nancy Duarte has a short video on how to incorporate both story and reporting into a presentation:

Brain Rules for Presenters” has good advice for the creative process of developing a presentation, especially the focus on visual aspects:

The Institute on the Environment has a set of guidelines for presenters in their “Frontiers on the Environment” series

For data-specific advice, Colleen Sullivan has written a good recap of Naomi Robbins’ presentation, “Communicating Data Clearly.”


The best pictures are generally ones you take yourself, showing you and your fellow researchers, your setup, your field sites, etc.  But there are some great sources of free, Creative-Commons-licensed pictures you can find online:

  • Flickr: Browsing by category isn’t very useful.  Go to the “Advanced Search” feature, and you’ll see down at the bottom of the screen an option to search only Creative Commons content.
  • Wikipedia/Wikimedia: and All of these images are freely usable and well attributed.
  • Google Images search: Click on Settings > Advanced Settings, and look for “usage rights.” Choose “free to use or share.” Note that I don’t really trust this, since anyone can post an image on their website as freely usable whether or not they created it. Do a little more checking to make sure you’re not violating copyright.

I’m encouraging you to use lots of pictures in presentations.  Please compress the pictures so you don’t end up with a 53MB PowerPoint file!  (I was at a conference where one of those filestook over five minutes to load…the session ran rather late)  It’s a simple process but the button is in different places in different versions of PowerPoint, so see the help files. Another option is to export a PDF file of the slide deck, and present with that — PDFs are foolproof when going across operating systems, too.

Fonts and Typography:

The Takahashi method uses only words on the screen — but very few, large words that are visually engaging. Some people will present entirely in this style, but I tend to use it for specific points of emphasis:

Forty examples of beautiful typography:

Fonts common to all versions of Windows and Mac:

If you use non-universal fonts, here are a few technical tricks to help with compatibility issues:

  1. PowerPoint can embed fonts in a presentation (see the help files for details).
  2. You can save your presentation as a PDF, with embedded fonts.
  3. One of the “Save As” options in PowerPoint is to save slides as JPEG images.  You can output some or all of your presentation slides as JPEGs and then put them back into a PowerPoint presentation.


Adobe’s Kuler color-palette tool: and a Presentation Zen blog entry on how to use it:

Also check out these ideas of where to steal good color palettes:

I’ve written up advice for making graphics accessible to people with colorblindness. It also gives links to Coblis colorblind-simulation tools and a really good technical reference by Okabe and Ito if you want to learn more.

Many of these resources are excerpted from Scott St. George’s class, “The Art of Scientific Presentations.” 


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