1

In academia we do a lot of presentations, it is the way we show our work to colleages. (I am a PhD in physics.) This is usually done with the help of slides (PDF, PowerPoint, etc). A slides presentation is basically a collection of images. Sometimes there are fancy animations (like the case of Prezi or its open source version Sozi, or even with PowerPoint) but in the end the concept of a slide is tied to an image. After the animation has passed, you end up in a static image to show to the audience and explain your stuff. And this, in fact, goes against a continuum and natural presentation, you are obliged to split your talk in slides which are discrete. (Maybe this is why slides have not replaced the even more old-school blackboard.)

I feel that this is an archaic way of presenting our work based on what our ancestors did on the past century using projectors, for example, because technology allowed to do that. Nowadays our slides are made and projected 99.99999 % of the times in a computer and, instead of exploiting all they can do, we are replicating an old fashioned way of presenting stuff using slides.

So, consider for example this plot which is interactive, you can zoom in, pan, see the values on hover the mouse, show/hide traces, etc. You cannot embed this plot in a typical slides presentation in PDF format. If you go to PowerPoint or something like this, you may have a chance (I doubt) but the result is barely portable between different platforms (Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, etc). Even if you make it, all these solutions still have the concept of a slide as a building block which, as I said, breaks the continuity and introduces a complication.

Furthermore, try to see slides on a cell phone, it is a pain!

So my question is: What is out there to replace the old-school slides?

I think that something with the format of a website that is self contained in a single HTML file would be the perfect next step, because it is super cross platform and as far as I know you can embed almost whatever you want (text, equations, images, videos, audios, interactive stuff, etc), you can open it with any browser in any device, you can put it online, etc. The plot in this link is an example of what I say, it is a single HTML file that you can open with any (modern) browser, and can be easily embedded in websites. And the size adapts to the screen so you can see it nicely on your cellphone too.

My inspiration for this question came after seeing this presentation by a guy which made a website instead of slides. As you can see, the plots are all interactive, for example. The pros: It can do all I want, the cons: It is not a single HTML file that you can download and save/share, you need hosting, etc. Is there an easy way to build something like this and end up with a single and self-contained HTML file?

4
  • 4
    You can convert a jupyter notebook into html, and it looks to me that the example you link to was created that way. See here: medium.com/@mjspeck/… – astronat Dec 13 '20 at 13:07
  • 8
    The whole premise here is wrong. Presentations do not consist of images because that's what archaic presentation software does. Presentations consist of non-interactive images and speech because that is what presentation audiences want/expect. If the audience wanted a web page, they would have gone to a web page instead of a presentation. And in fact, that's how most scientific communication is done now - web pages and PDFs. – Anonymous Physicist Dec 13 '20 at 13:10
  • 2
    Just to add to what @astronat said, a Juptyer notebook complied into slides should be able that animated and interactive vizulations embedded in them, which should allow you to explore the data in real-time with the audience. However, consider carefully what Anonymous Physicist said - In general an audience wants to be guided to the conclusion, rather than be told they have to find it for themselves. So a visualization should be tailored to make a specific point, rather than just show data. – Ian Sudbery Dec 13 '20 at 13:17
  • The point of a presentation aide is to help you tell a story. You can/should use all the tools you want necessary to tell a story. But there doesn't seem to be a technological issue with the currently used tools you are describing. For example, if you want to zoom into a plot you can record the animation/video and play it back at the correct position of your presentation. This needs to be premeditated, but any good story telling needs to be planned carefully ahead of time... – user2705196 Dec 15 '20 at 14:49
7

The best replacement for "old-school slides," I've found, is the more old-school approach of writing things by hand, either with markers on paper captured with a document camera, or writing with a stylus on a screen. (I prefer the former.) Even in formal seminars, I've taken to writing more in "real time," which many people have commented positively on. We're not machines; we react with remarkable sympathy to the cadence of human-delivered speech and spontaneous writing that appears at the speed of human processing.

6
  • 1
    This approach is as good as presenter's handwriting. But Dr's and MD's are notoriously known for their illegible scribbles. – Dmitry Savostyanov Dec 14 '20 at 12:05
  • 3
    @DmitrySavostyanov Any technique can be done badly... – Raghu Parthasarathy Dec 14 '20 at 15:45
  • Sure, but clear handwriting appears to be something a vast number of academics are particularly not good at. – Dmitry Savostyanov Dec 15 '20 at 14:10
  • Many times I have felt the same, that maybe writing on a blackboard for example makes it better than slides. However, this may be better for theorists than experimentalists. When you want to show a plot from a measurement you need "quantitative plots" and doing this by hand may take some time. Maybe a combination of handwritten and something like a website is a good approach. – user171780 Dec 15 '20 at 15:18
  • @user171780 . I use slides for graphs and photos (whose details I don't want people to worry about), switching between the slides and a document camera. – Raghu Parthasarathy Dec 15 '20 at 15:20
6

It seems to me you want to overload your presentation with information, and distract the attendees rather than use your presentation time to convey a simple message.

There’s a reason why “old school slides” are still in use: they work (at least the good ones do).

There are ways of making presentations more interactive: like writing on the slides in real time, or asking questions on the slides.

Of course, some of the better speakers actually do not use slides at all: check out this wonderful video of Patrick Winston on how to speak to a large audience. Admittedly public speaking is a gift that not everybody has, but it is amazing what this guys does without much technology.

2

Grant Sanderson, the man behind the popular 3blue1brown math videos, wrote his own open source Python library to produce mathematical animations. You may be interested in that.

2

Replacement taken not so literally might just mean altering the way you use preexisting tools rather than using completely different ones.

This TED talk was pretty influential on me.

The premise is most presentations fall flat because the slides people write split the attention of the audience. People will put slide counts. (This guy is boring, but at least we are on slide 15/20...) And add too many words and plots per slide. All of this takes away from the effectiveness of the presentation.

1

Consider asking yourself a question: why do you need sides?

Instead of trying to find a technical solution (what to replace them with), ask a more conceptual questions first.

  1. Can your message be communicated without any slides, as a simple story?
  2. Can you read a lecture by simply talking about your subject for an hour, and complete it with lecture notes or handouts provided for the audience?
  3. And when you are using the slides, what role do they play?
  • Do they hold information, essential for your audience to see during your talk?
  • Do they summarise the main points you made to keep the structure?
  • Or perhaps they provide emotional dimension for your narrative, by showing pictures and illustrations related to your main message?

Depending on the answers, you will then find a specific solution for your needs. Many of them are already listed in other answers.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.