What I Am Reading: Better Presentation Design Version

Oct 10 2012 Published by under [Information&Communication]

When I first started in this business, slides were actual slides. With our early model computers, we carefully printed out our slides, had them photographed, and collected our 35 mm slides for loading in carousels. If the presentation were a big deal, like a national meeting, our art staff would generate blue diazo slides.

Soon we had PowerPoint. For a hefty fee, we could purchase full color slides. As the cost of slide printers dropped, we began to see the unfortunate consequences of eliminating designers and artists from this process. Now, with inexpensive digital projectors (some of which can present from your iPhone) we not only face the dilemma of unlimited colors, but also the potential for motion sickness from ill-advised animations and transitions.

Click to Amazon

I cannot remember where I stumbled across the recommendation for slide:ology by Nancy Duarte, but I am grateful. You probably know her group's work; they designed a little slide show for Al Gore called An Inconvenient Truth.

I have made my way through 80% of the book now. In general, it recommends a "less is more" approach. Uncluttered backgrounds, limited words, and striking images improve most presentations. Most chapters include before and after slides. If I could boil the book down to one line, it would be something like:

Step away from the templates!

My favorite part so far is the chapter on creating movement. We need to view our presentations not as a series of slides, but with a more cinematic approach. Careful use of animations and transitions can achieve this effect. I have screenshots of a double-paged spread below, illustrating a series of slides:

Click to enlarge

For those of you who cannot see the movement generated through transitions, color, and graphics, I captured images of each slide and put them into PowerPoint to generate this video. Please forgive the fuzziness of the enlargements!

Academics depend on clear presentations to get our message across. When was the last time you felt inspired by a slide show?

I thought so.

slide:ology is available in both dead tree and electronic format. Click, buy and make your slides better.

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Tweeting Congress

Sep 20 2012 Published by under Politics

Today I received a most interesting email request:

Click to enlarge

Usually these advocacy requests take us to CapWiz or other sites that let you enter your zip code and send an email to your representatives.

This is the first time I have been asked to contact congress critters via twitter. It helps that the issue can be summarized succinctly. Hashtags are pretty easy to count as well.

As of writing this post, I found 43 tweets using #sequestration that I have Storified.

How about it? Will you join in on Twitter, or do you think old school technology would be more effective?

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How to Take Vacation

Jul 05 2012 Published by under [Etc]

Me and my sprogs on the Golden Gate during last summer's vacation

Today I found this piece from the New York Times on How to Take a Real Vacation.

Before you say, "Duh!" the article is directed at small business owners. When the business is your baby, you may disengage reluctantly, if at all. However, I have found that aspects of academic life (for example, running a lab) can be comparably difficult to leave behind.

If  you do not periodically recharge  yourself, though, your work eventually suffers (take that, St. Kern). The article lists some good ideas to plan ahead with your employees and clients.

One recommendation I have is to check email periodically. Huh? I do not leave all the gizmos behind?

Nope. How else would I tweet my vacation photos and work on Pretty Cocktails?

For me, going through emails a couple of times a day is reassuring. I became convinced of its value once my husband got a smart phone. Up till then, he made fun of me for staying even a bit wired during time away from the office. However, his mood became increasing irritable as the return to work loomed closer. Just knowing that a week away could mean 500 items in his inbox screwed up his mood. The trip home became quite painful as his level of dread rose.

Taking 5 minutes 2 or 3 times each day to clean out his inbox has made our breaks much more relaxing. Quick questions are answered, and those FYIs get deleted. That 2 hours of digging through messages that may no longer have relevance is gone.

Seriously, you can do this while you use the toilet.

Some people may get more anxious if they do not completely disconnect; for us, this strategy works best.

What vacation relaxation techniques do you find useful in the academic (or not-so-academic) life?

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Outcomes, Not Tools

May 17 2012 Published by under [Information&Communication]

Earlier I wrote about my time at the meeting of Women Executives in Science & Healthcare. We do have and welcome male members, but the vast majority of this group are like me, middle-aged women who have achieved a leadership position in science or healthcare (including hospital management, academic medicine and dentistry, biotech companies, PHARMA - you get the picture).

In short, not the most "online" group in the world.

The earlier post included a Storify summary of a presentation by Kevin Knebl, a networking guru. He walked the group through LinkedIn, and the participants ate it up. He coached them through their fear.

Aside from the nuts-and-bolts of the networking site, he had one major message: don't focus on the tool (social media); work on the outcome (networking).

LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and others are just new ways to connect to other human beings, something people have done since the dawn of time. Yes, it makes us more visible to others, but it also widens our networks. These networks are merely new tools, not a mysterious new process or world. My own husband sees them wasting time, but I see them as a valuable extension of what I need to do anyway.

Since that message seems to escape a lot of folks in my demographic (not just the one I married), I figured it could use repeating here.

And if you have a techno-phobic group you want to embrace social media, then Kevin may be the guy to help you do this task. He certainly worked for WESH.

If you want to learn how to get started with LinkedIn, click here for my introduction to the service.

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#EB2012 #apsACE: My First Storify

Apr 22 2012 Published by under [Biology&Environment], EB2012 Meeting

I attended an excellent session on the need to increase transparency and public outreach in animal experimentation. I tweeted throughout the session, and I have assembled the highlights using Storify. I had hoped to include original observations from others in the room, but most of the other tweets were retweets of me (or the others tweeting forgot to use the hashtag).

I am reminded of the following facts:

  • People are programmed to want the world to make sense
  • Nature abhors a vacuum
  • If there is no story to make sense of something, people will supply their own
  • If you want the truth to be known, you should supply the story

Until scientists supply the stories to justify their research on both scientific and ethical grounds, people will remain suspicious of our intentions. We must reach out to the public and let them see and feel and hear our stories; not hide in a vivarium-bunker.

[<a href="http://storify.com/PHLane/apsace-public-outreach-and-animal-research-toolki" target="_blank">View the story "#apsACE Public Outreach and Animal Research: Toolkit for Investigators" on Storify</a>] 

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#EB2012 #apsComm: Using New Communication Tools

Apr 22 2012 Published by under [Information&Communication], EB2012 Meeting

Yesterday, April 21, I had the pleasure of serving on a panel at Experimental Biology discussing the use of blogs and other social media to do public outreach. Yes, I got to be the old lady on the stage with Dr. Isis, Danielle Lee, and Jason Goldman at the session moderated by James Hicks. A good time was had by all (although Isis got a bit sweaty in her headdress replete with golden cobra) as we pontificated on our own uses of the brave new world of the internet. By unanimous request of the audience (OK, more like there were no objections) we have each agreed to share our slides on a number of platforms. I am also placing mine here.

Thus far many other sessions have addressed the use of these relatively new tools for communication. At their heart, Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs merely provide the latest pigment to spread on cave walls. Since the dawn of time humans have desired to tell their stories; these new media let us do it more widely and permanently than ever before.

The Animal Care and Experimentation Committee provided a Toolkit for Public Outreach (#apsACE) that addressed the need for transparency and engagement, rather than the bunker mentality that has prevailed at most institutions. Even this morning in accepting the Claude Bernard award, William Galey mentioned all the education resources available online. For today's students, access to information is not a problem. However, we must make sure that they learn to evaluate the reliability of information and sources before they use them in critical applications like patient care.

I ended my slides with a still from the movie Meet Me in Saint Louis. In its early scenes, a suitor calls the eldest sister, Rose, on that new-fangled invention, the telephone. A prolonged discussion ensues over whether or not a respectable girl should accept a proposal via an "invention". Similar attitudes toward the phone can be seen in the first season of Downton Abbey. All of the technology we use today was once considered radical, experimental, and unnecessary (I can remember when email elicited similar reactions to those about the phone). Social media will soon be just how we communicate, and we will move onto sessions on other cutting-edge topics, like flying cars or Star Trek transporter physiology.

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Meeting & Greeting

Apr 09 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

An interesting post at Science News addresses the costs of conferences. All sorts of issues arise, including shrinking travel budgets, environmental costs of all that air travel, preliminary work that becomes "permanent", and even the number of trees used to generate program books. Having been in the biomedical science biz for 20+ years now, I have survived several waves of "let's quit meeting and just do this online." Conferences will never go away for one reason: we like them.

Bumping into new contacts in the Exhibit Hall

Oh, I hear people complaining about taking time away from their work and family. We all gripe about time spent in airports. Yet we all keep submitting and accepting and going because nothing replaces face-to-face interactions for us human beings.

There is value in meeting potential colleagues and reviewers. Some of the best ideas and collaborations get built around informal conversations when you toss a group of people with something in common together. Big keynote addresses could just as easily be done via the net, but those do not keep me on the road. No, it's the chance to meet new people who will help me think about things in a new way. I always consider a meeting successful if I get one new idea to explore.

Last month my department had a panel discussion about working a meeting, directed at our trainees and junior faculty. Those of us on the panel all agreed that networking (there's that word again) was why we paid for attendance. You never know who may be important in reviewing your work or getting you hired sometime down the line. Even if you really only connect with other trainees, you will learn more stuff about what other programs are like (you may be in nirvana and not know it). You may meet someone who will be hiring when you are ready for a second job. You may meet someone who will be reviewing you on their first study-section assignment. You will learn something from everyone you meet. Think of it as being mentored by a hive of "E-Bees".

There are some tips we gave our n00bs to make their networking easier. First, get a professional non-university email. You do not want all your job offers and conversations going through your university accounts. You also do not want to use an address that is too personal; "lovesbeer@yahoo.com" or "partygirl@gmail.com" will not impress potential colleagues. If it does, you probably do not want that job. Figure out some permutation of your name and/or science and get that gmail account set up now. As someone who recently changed jobs, it was wonderful to have a "permanent" email to use as my university account went dead.

Next we suggested business cards. Even in the age of the electronic frontier, the humble piece of dead tree remains the most accepted method of exchanging contact information. You're a trainee and they don't make cards for you? Do it yourself! Anyone with a computer and printer can buy a pack at the office store and have reasonable cards in less than an hour. Yes, some people will exchange cards and then throw yours out in the airport. Some new acquaintances will put you in their contacts. That's the way it works. You will do the same.

Finally, consider starting an online presence. If you aren't up to a full-fledged website, at least start on LinkedIn (this link takes you to my public profile as an example). The networking site for professionals essentially puts your resume into your profile. Upload a nice photo of your face, and you're in business. Eventually, you will make connections on the site. Some of us even get the odd job offer via LinkedIn (wrong place, wrong time, but otherwise something I would have jumped at). It will not yet replace emailing your CV, but it does give you an online presence that should not provide any embarrassing personal details. Eventually you will find useful information here via interest groups and discussions.

Finally, remember that the real meeting takes place away from the microphone. Casual discussions in hallways and restaurants and bars are more important than plenary sessions (unless you are on the platform, and even then...).

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Countdown to EB: 14 Days

Apr 06 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

Two weeks from today I board a plane and fly to San Diego for Experimental Biology. As one of the official bloggers for the American Physiological Society I find myself doing more prep work than any other year. The Online Itinerary Builder is now live, allowing attendees to search the program by track, presenter, society, keywords...or any combination of the above.

I have identified a few sessions, and some suggestions have been made by you, my loyal readers.

I will not be "live" blogging. I attempted that a couple of times, and I just do not have that skill set. Watch my twitter feed in the right column (or follow me on twitter; you really should, you know) for real-time updates on what I am attending. Some sessions will get full coverage a bit later; others may not.

Some sessions will be covered with twitter feeds via Storify. This web-based service will let me collect tweets, facebook updates, photos, videos, and other thoughts on various sessions to tell a more completes version. The first session I will use for this technique is on Saturday, April 21, at 3 pm in Room 25C of the San Diego Convention Center. The APS Communications Committee has convened a discussion about the use of social media to communicate about physiology. James Hicks will chair the symposium, while the panel is staffed by Dr. Isis, Jason Goldman, Danielle Lee, and yours truly. Since I am on the platform participating, I will look to the audience for thoughts and impressions.

So how can I track down your thoughts and impressions? Hashtags. On twitter, thoughts can be mapped to topics via #keyword. We can use those same hashtag/keywords on other platforms to mark relevant content. Here are the ones I will be following for Saturday events:

  • #apsACE          Animal Research: A Toolkit for Investigators (Sat, Apr 21, 1pm, 25B)
  • #apsComm    Using Social Media to Communicate About Physiology and You (Sat, Apr 21, 3pm, 25C)
  • #Navar              Physiology in Perspective: The Walter B. Cannon Memorial Award Lecture (Sat, Apr 21, 5:45pm, Ballroom 20A)
  • #apsParty       APS Beach Party (Sat, Apr 21, 7pm, North Embarcadero)

Since I cannot be everywhere at once, some sessions will not get my blog treatment. If anyone wants to see a session immortalized online, just let me know what hashtag you and your colleagues are using; I will be glad to assemble coverage here!

For photos and video, you can also add your stuff to a Flickr group (http://www.flickr.com/groups/eb2012/).

Don't be shy; consider this your scientific outreach!

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Back in the Saddle

Mar 19 2012 Published by under [Etc]

After a glorious week of spring training baseball in Florida, I am back at the office proving that no trip goes unpunished. Slowly but surely I am slogging though piles of email, snail mail, and other little chores that found their way to one of my many inboxes.

Today I briefly share my thoughts on the app that took South by Southwest by storm, if the twitteratti are to be believed: Highlight. The app sounds simple enough; you install it on your mobile device. When it encounters nearby people also using Highlight, it shows you their profiles and, in turn, shows them yours. Sounds like a cool way to find people you might want to meet, right?

I love the idea of using this at large gatherings, such as conferences. I would love to see professional profiles of others nearby.

Unfortunately, Highlight only links via Facebook.

I have used Facebook as a personal service. My friends there are really people I know with whom I want to share social stuff (like photos from the recent vacation in which I am sitting in the sun, sipping beer). That's not the stuff I want readily available to the general public or potential medical/scientific/professional colleagues when I am out and about.

I hope that the app eventually allows professionals to mingle via LinkedIn. I would love to turn that on during Experimental Biology.

For now I will skip the Highlight. And (sigh) get back to work.

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42 Days and Counting

In just over a month thousands of life scientists will gather in San Diego for Experimental Biology, the meeting formerly known as FASEB. In addition to being the annual gathering of the American Physiological Society, this year also celebrates the 125th anniversary of the APS.

Yes, I am proud to be a physiologist!

Of course, I am also honored to be one of the APS's official meeting bloggers! I have access to the press room (I don't suppose that includes a hot tub and wet bar?). This status means I am looking at the meeting in a whole new light. Instead of focusing on my own interests (and using the down-time to relax at the Marriott's poolside bar), I want to communicate things that my audience will appreciate as well.

What things will I definitely cover?

  • APS Communications Committee Symposium: Using Social Media to Communicate About Physiology and You (I'm on the panel, so I have to be there)
  • Physiology in Perspective: The Walter B. Cannon Memorial Award Lecture (Gabriel Navar, a renal physiologist, is the speaker at this opening event)
  • Renal Section Awards Banquet (Another I-have-to-be-there)

I will also likely attend and blog some of the teaching of physiology sessions. As I transition from physician-scientist to physician-educator-administrator (with physiology research as more of a hobby), these sessions have become important for me.

What would you, my loyal readers, like to hear about? I cannot guarantee that I will cover it, but you never know...

Use the links to the meeting sites above to explore the program and exhibits and activities. Provide suggestions in the comments, and I will see how it all fits together.

If you have a student presenting, let me know. I may want to blog their science!


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