Getting your Points Across
I recently took the opportunity to view and score posters at the AAPG Student Expo in Houston, and the AAPG Student Chapter Rice Industry Geoscience Series (RIGS) annual presentations.
Poster sessions have evolved during my career as an alternative way to present data and interpretations from the traditional oral presentation in a dark room with slides and video. This poster format allows discussion with the presenter(s), and the conversation can delve into details of interest to the observer, in addition to the story presented by the researcher about their data and interpretations. A much more personal seminar than possible in the traditional oral presentation format.
The posters keep getting better and better. And the slides in oral presentations often seem to be getting poorer and poorer. Back when there were drafting (later graphics) departments, the slide artwork was done by professionals who had defaults and rules for slides that were projected for viewing to support technical presentations. These guidelines could sometimes seem heavy-handed, but these pros knew what would work graphically, and were always correct. Now that folks often compose their slides a few inches from their eyes on a screen, it is easy to compose a slide that looks fine onscreen or on a report page, but is a hard-to-read image when projected. And report pages projected as slides without redrafting never communicate well. This is not a problem for geosciences only, as I have see poor slides in many public presentations of diverse topics and seminars.
We have challenges not shared by other professions. Well log information is a perennial challenge, as are seismic record sections (often without scales). Photomicrographs and other micro-information require clear careful labeling and scales. I have worked with IBA teams the past few years on their slides and communicating, and emphasize that they know the story they want to tell, and make their graphics support their story. One of the best “rules” came from guidelines published by the Oklahoma City Geological Society in the 1960s (if I recall correctly). Take your slide copy, and pin it on the wall. Move back the number of feet that your artwork is in inches in its larger dimension. If you cannot understand the slide, work on it some more. If your audience is squinting at your slide, then they are not listening to your story.
This month starts an occasional series of “Lessons from a Career”. Submissions are invited, since we all have something useful we can share. Please send the text file to firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, work on your slides, volunteer for something, and have a safe month.