One year ago I found out two very interesting books related to Power Point/KeyNote presentations "Presentation Zen" and "Presentation Zen Design". Through his books Garr Reynolds gives advices to deliver engaging and appealing oral presentations. I found it very interesting because sometimes it is not so easy to keep the scientists/biologists interested in the bioinformatics application we are presenting. In june 2010 I started to adapt an old excel plug-in dedicated to help scientists of our pharmacology group to analyze their Meso Scale raw data. Meso Scale assay technology provides a rapid and convenient method for measuring one or more protein targets within a single small-volume sample. Their 96-well plates supply a platform for the development of sandwich immunoassays.
When I was preparing my presentation related to the Plug-in I decided to spend some of my spare time to find ideas, pictures and sentences in order to produce a presentation zen that would keep researchers awake even if it take place after lunch time !!!!
So this article shows pictures that helped me to illustrate most of the messages/ideas I wanted to expose to the future users of the application. Hopefully it will give you inspiration for your future bioinformatics presentations. At the end you will find some good book(s) and Iphone application(s) related to the presentation zen philosophy.
Introduction slide 1 - why did I take care of the plug-in development : The Fake reason
In order to start my presentation I wanted to establish a connection between the audience and I. So I used two slides to explain why I did take care of the plug-in implementation instead of people from our IT department. And to bring some fun I provided two explanations, a fake one and a real one. The fake one is related to a colleague/friend of mine who was the initiator of this mission. Since he will work in Cambridge, Massachusetts next year (wish you the best Ronan) I decided to invent a joke related to the chinese fortune cookies and their embedded messages. I told that once Ronan was in a chinese restaurant and got two fortune cookies. The first message was that he would be soon linked to Boston. It is true in few days so that give credibility to my story. And the second message was about the my implication in the plug-in development.
It is the two fortune cookies that illustrate my story. If I remember well it was a free picture available at iStockphoto. Sometimes you are looking for pictures to illustrate your ideas. But this time it is the picture that bring me the story.
Introduction slide 2 - why did I take care of the plug-in development : The real reason
For the second slide I wanted to tell the truth. So I explained that few years ago I had already implemented a similar plug-in for our biomarker group. So starting from this version instead of starting from scratch would need less time of development. Then upon discussions, comments and suggestions I would be able to provide a new version that fit their user's needs in a short period of time. So it would save meetings, time and money for everybody.
I bought the original picture at iStockphoto. I wanted to symbolize that the solution to develop the plug-in internally was the best solution to get something implemented as soon as possible.
The User Guide
To say that the user guide is very friendly to read and that it contains a lot of nice pictures which explain all the steps to use the plug-in.
I took a picture of my kids reading the user guide in order to show how simple it is to read it. I have to admit that I still have users questions that can be answered by the yellow tips or red remarks that are in the user guide. But at least there is interaction between the developer and the users and it is fine because it brings new ideas of improvement.
Very easy to use
To illustrate the fact that the application is easy to handle in a minutes period of time.
I used a free available picture at iStockphoto showing a senior couple in front of a computer. They seem to enjoy the Excel Plug-in.
Speed-up your analysis
To highlight that by using the plug-in, users decrease the time for their analysis from 6-7 hours to about 1 hour.
I bought a picture at iStockphoto with two turtles. Turtles are very famous for their slow behavior. Here, one turtle is looking at the other one that wear a rocket on his back. It gives her the speed. So I used Photoshop in order to label the rocket with Excel plug-in .
Avoid the copy/paste boring operation
Analysis of the Meso Scale raw data with their 96- well plates format can be very boring. Moreover you can generate a lot of errors because of the copy and paste operations that you have to perform in order to associate information like drug names, concentrations, administration times, dilution, sample amounts, number of groups, number of samples by group, so on and so forth..
Once again I bought a picture at iStockphoto (even if retroactively I should have taken a picture of one of my kids). I wanted to symbolize the copy/paste operation by a kid using glue. this manual activity reinforce the sensation of boring operation in an adult point of view.
Generating uniform results among different users
The point is to demonstrate that whatever the person generating the result file it will respect a common format. Of course, there will be some differences such as color or information for the graphics and the tables generated because of user's personal preferences. But in general someone who open the result file will be familiar with the format and positions of the data even if it is a file generated by a colleague.
This picture is from my last summer vacation in Sweden. You can find these houses at Pixbo near Göteborg where my friend Lars lives with his family. As you can see all the houses look like very similar even if there are some differences like the color of the walls. I thought it was a good comparison with the generated files.
During the six months of development of the new version of the plug-in I did improve or add a lot of features thanks to user's comments, suggestions and questions. I wanted to express the fact that the ergonomics of the Plug-in was a lot better than the initial version I launched 4 years ago.
One more time the origin of the picture is iStockphoto. The evolution of the wheel over centuries is a good analogy with the improvement of the plug-in over time.
During the testing of the plug-in some users tried to analyze experimental raw data from other systems of protein detection in 96-well plates format. They just used a home made template where they pasted their 12 columns x 8 rows data. Then they launched the plug-in and get the same result as the one they used to produce in a less automatic way. Finally it turn out that it was possible to treat raw data from Luminex or Tecan technology. The question is what else ?
"What else ?" is the very famous slogan (at least in France) of the coffee machine brand Nespresso that have George Clooney as ambassador. So I decided to make a fake advertisement where George is promoting the Meso Scale Plug-in. I did it because this presentation was for internal purpose only and I don't think that Nespresso will sue me for that slide. So I just use Google images search to find out the picture that would fit my needs and used Photoshop to do the customization. As a bonus I appended below the first picture I wanted to use. It is a Swiss army knife that symbolize also the multi-task purpose of the plug-in.
Make the 96-well plates looks more interesting
A the beginning of the demonstration of the plug-in I wanted to show the 96-well plates in a less boring way than a simple 12 x 8 excel table. So I thought that transforming it in a game would me more interesting for future users. Then I choose the puissance 4.
I took a basic illustration that I modified in Photoshop to have the 96-well plates format with his 12 columns by 8 rows. Then I added some red and yellow coins that I labeled to discriminate different treatments : C for control, 1 for treatment 1, 2 for Treatment and so one so forth.
Since developer and users of the plug-in are in the same department I wanted to insist on the importance to report any problem or to ask any questions instead of being stuck at any step of the analyses. It is very important to take advantage of the fact that the "help-desk" is not anonymous and right beside the users.
I took this picture at iStockphoto. The man is desperate with his is computer. and it seems that he has wait too long before calling help to the right people. It is the situation that I don't want to see with the plug-in's users. Waiting too long before asking for help.
I wanted to say thank you to all the users that help me to improve the Plug-in through their comments, questions, critics and suggestions. They also tested the plug-in in order to see if I didn't miss a user behavior that would lead to a bug.
I wanted to show people more or less anonymous. Since these people are in the same department I wanted also to highlight their team spirit. The aim was also to symbolize that the plug-in was tested, challenged in rough conditions. Very naturally I choose this picture of players from the same American Football team at iStockphoto. As you can see there is a lot of place to write the name at the bottom of the picture.
Conclusion : Lesson learned from this first Zen Presentation
It was a lot of fun to prepare this new kind of presentation. It took some of my spare time and some bucks but it was well worth it. Indeed people didn't sleep at all and were surprised by most of all the big pictures that pop-up like advertisements. And most importantly it seems that they well received all the ideas I wanted to share.
On a the technical point of view I added few words with each picture to explain the message I wanted to deliver. In general it was on a rectangular layer with a semi-transparent white background located at the bottom of the slide. I used the font Garamond in black. But this font is not installed by default on every computer. So I had to install it on the computer I used for my presentation in order to avoid a bad surprise.
Recently I did another presentation related to an internal Antibody Database. I also used some nice pictures to illustrate some key points of such social and scientific web application. I will be the subject of an upcoming article.
If you want to share your best images and their related key messages feel free to add it through the comments feature.
Bonus 1 : Books suggestion
In my library
I learned a lot of good things with these two books. Actually their aim are slightly different.
The first one (Presentation Zen) educate you to the technics of delivering simple and efficient presentations. The main advices I got from it are :
- To sketch the presentations on Post-It using paper pen. This method free you mind from any technical constraints in order to allow you to focus only on your presentation.
- To avoid to produce "slidedocument". You know, the slide with three graphs and three paragraphs for which a Word document should be more suited.
- The fact than one slide with one big picture plus few words representing a main idea and your voice is more effective than a slide with ten bullets.
In my Christmas list
I don't have these books yet. But I hope the get them soon. Indeed "slide:ology" got nice reviews in amazon and I am very curious to see if it tend to deliver the same message delivered by Garr Reynolds. And a "Naked Presenter" is the last book from Garr : So I am sure this one is more focused on the speaker and may provide some technics to be quickly connected to you audience
Bonus 2 : Iphone applications suggestion
Concerning this topics there is PresenterPro is freely available. It reminds you some good principles to deliver nice presentations. It is in the same way of thinking as Garr Reynolds.