Rethinking the Design of Presentation Slides:
The Assertion−Evidence Structure
Associate Professor, Engineering Communication
Pennsylvania State University, University Park
Presentation slides affect the success of a scientific talk much more than most speakers realize. In most scientific presentations, the presentation slides follow the topic-subtopic structure of PowerPoint—in other words, a topic phrase headline supported by a bullet list or by a bullet list and a graphic. Unfortunately, this topic-subtopic structure is not effective at communicating science. This talk presents a completely different structure, the assertion-evidence structure, which our research has found is much more effective at helping the audience to understand and remember technical content. In the assertion-evidence structure, the slide begins with a succinct sentence headline that states the main takeaway of the slide. That sentence headline is supported not by a bulleted list, but by visual evidence: photographs, drawings, diagrams, graphs, films, or short tables.
About the Speaker
Holding a master of science in electrical engineering and a master of fine arts in writing, Michael Alley is an associate professor of engineering communication at Penn State. He is the author three textbooks, including The Craft of Scientific Presentations (Springer, 2003), which has been translated to Japanese. Over the past decade, he has taught technical presentations to scientists and engineers across the United States and in Europe, Asia, and South America. Sites include Penn State, Google, the Environmental Protection Agency, MIT, Harvard Medical School, the University of Illinois, Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory, United Technologies, the Army Research Laboratory, Simula Research Laboratory (Norway), the Institute for Energy Technology (Norway), Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Seoul National University, the University of Barcelona, and the University of Seville. Alley’s web-site on slide design is the first google.com listing for the topic of presentation slides.
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