Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A post in another blog last week gave me new insight on a subject I had commented on in a previous post.

The author, Derik Badman, Digital Services Librarian at Temple University, addresses the question of balancing text and image in presentations. I had seen the question as one of balancing slides and speech. If the speaker is dynamic enough, he or she can carry the presentation, and the slides are simple and static so as not to distract from the real business of talking (and hopefully, listening and synthesizing).

Well, if something's worth doing, it's worth doing right. If a speaker is going to use visual aids at all, they should make a unique contribution to the presentation. As Badman puts it, the tools of a presentation are there to "convey information in a complete manner" - through all available channels of communication. Visuals for a speech-centered presentation serve merely as attention-getters. Not bad in itself, but not as useful as they could be.

Badman is a graphic artist as well as a librarian, so he speaks from experience of crafting words and images. "When visually appealing slides complement the speech, the presenter can engage multiple senses of the audience members." An aptly illustrated and captioned slide would serve the speaker's needs and even make sense for asynchronous review of the presentation, when the speaker isn't there to expand on the idea.

Wow, what a challenge! I thought I was on the cutting edge by reducing the content of my slides to just one heading and images. Maybe I liked that approach because it put the spotlight on myself as the live presenter. As good as a single speaker can be, hoever, the point is to serve the other participants. Minimal slides are better than boring slides, but effective slides are best of all. Now I have to think visually.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The downtown public library where I am employed has unveiled a new point of service in the building. Just inside the front entrance is a small, curved countertop with a high-seated chair and a sign suspended overhead saying, "Just Ask Me". The idea is to answer people's questions right away or direct them to another desk as needed. The Just Ask Me - or "JAM" - desk is occupied by professional and paraprofessional staff who are assigned to cover an hour at a time.

I put in an hour on the first day of this new venture yesterday and it was pleasant duty. I answered a few questions but the biggest part of the job was the exchange of greetings with persons entering the building. This new desk creates a useful first impression, I hope. I didn't mind smiling and saying a few words to each person for an hour, though it would get to me if I had to do it all day.

First-time visitors would get the most out of this service, I imagine. At our location we get a lot of out-of-towners, and they need orientation. The regulars know where they're going.

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