Since Thursday, I have been at the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) in Pittsburgh, PA. Why am I here you ask? This convention is an important part of educational leadership and along with presenting a paper with my advisor, I felt as though it is important for me to get a feel of how the leaders in educational research and training understand technology / data’s usage in their career field. If it sounds like a stretch… it is. On the other hand, I have learned quiet a bit about how our professors and research leaders are using visualizations within their presentations. My objective is not to dishonor the presenters or our leaders in educational administration, but to give feedback (hopefully helpful and not too subjective) for the improvement of both presentations and the use of visualization within these presentations:
(1) When presenting, there is the combination of speech and slides (typically). So the visualization does NOT need to convey everything you are going to say. Use the visualization as a tool for what you are going to say. If the visualization has more words in it than what you are going to say about it, then something is wrong.
– As a side note, when you are publishing a visualization (or just taking out the speech dynamic), then it is important to add a paragraph of explanation or to use words within the visualization for understanding.
(2) If you are using Powerpoint, that is awesome that you have chosen to have a visual representation of your information! HOWEVER… make use of Powerpoint’s animation, transitions, etc. to spice the visualization up! Do not simply import a picture; add individual elements of the visualization on one slide to have the option of animating the different elements independently.
(3) Bar graphs, pie charts, and line graphs are really cool… 10 years ago. It’s time to move on. The free presentation tools available online these days can do a lot for presentations. We are able to plug simple data sets into a program and it spits out a visualization that is useful, interesting, and new! Just Google it! http://bit.ly/rFW6JB
Overall, UCEA has been very wonderful, full of beneficial and intriguing research. The individuals here truly are experts in the field of education leadership. The majority of research focuses around superintendents and principals, but the common goal at UCEA is to benefit students through effective leadership. The reason I write this post is not to discredit the convention or the participants, but to make a push for more effective presentations and the importance of visualizations. You wonder why no one comes to your presentation? It’s not because the research you did is not interesting or important. It’s not because you didn’t work hard enough to be a presenter. And it’s not because you are not popular enough for everyone to know who you are. It’s simple… because your presentation is boring, full of wordy slides, and shows a lack of preparation to keep others interested in your research.