Designing a Digital Presentation

For the AMATYC presentation on Cognitive Assessments for Math, I began from scratch (no prior slides to pull from). For me, an hour-long presentation will have something like 100-150 slides and it’s way too much to think about in a linear fashion.

You might find this odd, but when I go to design a new digital presentation, I start on paper. I began this presentation with about a hundred quarter-sheets of paper, each with a key phrase, main idea, supporting idea, or statement. I first try to organize these into some kind of cohesive structure – here’s what my first attempt looked like:

After some more playing with the structure of the presentation, I settled into three “groupings” that made up the meat of the presentation. You can see remnants of these groupings in the menu-structures of the final presentation.



At the initial organization seems right, I think about where I’d like to insert images that might enhance the ideas in the presentation, specific examples that make points, and other minutia. For each of these I make another placeholder sheet and insert it in the proper stack.

This is the point of the narration where I admit how horribly I procrastinated on this presentation. All of this on-paper organization took place prior to leaving the house. I got about 30 slides built at my house, and then the other 75 were built in the car (as a passenger), at the airport, on a plane, or in my hotel room.

Once all the slides were built, I went back through the whole presentation and built the two navigation menus (see below) and icons that link back to those menus.


The final slide in every presentation is typically the Questions slide, and on this slide I make it easy to get quickly back to other slides in the presentation by making simple links to the other two menus.

You can view the final presentation below (and all the menus should work in this, so play all you want.


Uploaded on authorSTREAM by wyandersen

Start to finish, I’d say that building this particular presentation (and just the presentation) took about 20 hours.

Is it finished? No, there are things I would alter before running the presentation again. I wish I’d had time to put in more “zooms” of the assessments I show towards the end. By that point I’d just run out of time and didn’t have time to do multi-slide zooms. I’ve had a couple requests for printed slides – so I may go back through and make a handout with selected slide material on it. In a complicated presentation like this one, there are slides that basically just repeat the previous slide with one more animation included (they run better on the Internet that way).

If you’re interested in learning more about effective digital presentations, I highly recommend the book Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. If you’d like to build an interactive menu-driven PowerPoint presentation of your own, check out this older post on that topic, An Experiment with Action Buttons.

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