Solving Font Substitutions

Ever start your eval presentation, peek behind you at the screen, and notice it doesn’t look anything like what you designed back in your office? Or open a report from an email attachment and wonder how your colleague PDFd it looking that way? The issue is typically due to a font substitution.

Font substitution occurs when the computer you are using doesn’t recognize whatever font is the in the file you are trying to view. Each computer houses its own set of font files which means the set of recognizable fonts varies from computer to computer. If the computer isn’t friendly with the font used in the document, it subs in something else and this font substitution is what throws all formatting out of whack in your evaluation report. You’ve probably also realized that PDFing does not always take care of this problem, particularly in Mac-PC translations.

To solution to this headache is font embedding. Here’s how it works on my computer (a PC running Windows 7). When I click to save my document, this dialogue box appears:

See the dropdown arrow next to Tools, to the left of the Save button? Click it and pick Save Options. That’ll open up this dialogue box.

Check the box at the bottom next to Embed fonts in the file and give yourself a high five. Note that this process will increase the file’s size. Checking the first subbox is a lighter weight option I use for slideshows that are going to be uploaded to a webinar or projected from a conference session room laptop, because in those situations no one is going to attempt to edit the document – thus I only need the characters that are in the file.

Either way, the receiving computer will not be able to download the fonts from the document and keep them. Nope. The font file just travels with the document so that it ends up looking the way you intend when you send your report to your client or plug your flash drive into someone else’s computer.

In older versions of Office on PCs, it looks like you can take this path: Tools > Options > Save. Macs, believe it or not, don’t yet have this capability. It’s a cruel world.

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Why I’m Not In Love with Prezi

It’s time to write this post. This may be the most frequently asked question in my workshops on evaluation reporting, data visualization, and graphic design.  What do I think about Prezi?

Most people’s first reaction to being in the audience of a Prezi presentation is “Wow, that is so cool. This is going to change my whole life.”

But that’s not what we want people thinking when they are in our audiences.

We want them listening to us. Digesting our words. Relating our message to their own experiences. Getting activated to go make changes in the world. We don’t want them distracted by our dizzying presentation software. This, sorry folks, is probably the same reaction audiences had to the introduction of those clever fly-in animation tools in PowerPoint.

I understand Prezi is working to provide more control over the quick zooming in and out, after early reports that some audience members were getting motion sickness. That’s a good development and a smart response to user feedback.

Even still, I find Prezi vastly too limiting. While all manners of media can be embedded in the show, the predetermined font choices are insufficient in that they’d threaten an organization’s existing identity and branding system.

Prezi also crashed around May 9. A desktop version is available, but for those who had relied on the online version of Prezi so they only had to be concerned about an internet connection, there may be a bit of a false sense of security in the platform. Prezi crashes seem rare and the company offered free 1 year trials of their Pro version for all who were affected. Nice handling of a tricky situation. But I’m not in love.

Slow Reveal

Most of the time I advocate for replacing words with images when presenting slideshows. But sometimes the slide just needs to have a lot of words, like this:

But when we have a lot of words on a slide and we’re truly trying to get people’s minds oriented toward our presentation content, overwhelming their field of vision with so much at once can cause them to just mentally check out (or check their email).

Here’s a strategy for presenting those word-filled slides that can better support audience comprehension – the slow reveal.

Basically, just reveal one point at a time. You start by constructing the full slide, as I’ve shown above. That slide has 3 objectives plus 1 title, so I’ll duplicate it such that I end up with four slides that look the same. Then, just delete one item from each slide, working backward:

This way, when I start at the beginning and work through the slide deck, I’m presenting just one point at a time. This lets my audience focus on what I’m saying (instead of reading ahead and not fully paying attention). The slow reveal also better helps the audience build the mental concept I’m trying to convey.

So ultimately, I end up with four times the number of slides. But don’t let that scare you. It’s the exact same amount of content, same number of minutes talking.

Hot tip: Make each element on the slide a separate text box. So the final slide shown above has four text boxes (and a star). Using separate text boxes makes it a million times easier to delete individual items so the slideshow can build. I’ve seen people try to keep all the objectives in one text box, while attempting the same type of slow reveal. But keeping them in the same text box often introduces the chance for spacing errors. If just one space is different during the slide build, it’ll totally get noticed (in a bad way). Just use separate text boxes.

Related hot tip: Don’t try to compile it all into one slide and use animation to reveal each element. Animation distracts when you want the audience to focus. Animation is also often slower than anticipated, and sometimes doesn’t work at all in certain webinar platforms. Just use separate text boxes.

Evaluation Report Layout Checklist

A graphic designer, I am not. A laborer of long words and awkward sentences structures, I am. That’s why I became super fascinated by the world of report layout and formatting. Maybe the geekiest hobby, I hear you. But so important!

I’ve detailed the importance of good communication elsewhere on this blog. For evaluators in particular, the packaging and presentation of our content are often dealbreakers. Indeed, at times our choices in font and line length actually impede our clients’ ability to comprehend our findings. Yikes! Not our goal!

After reading a bazillion books and getting input from a panel of graphic design experts (Kevin Brady, Peter Brakeman, Christy Ennis Kloote, and Chris Metzner), I’ve compiled a checklist of graphic design good practice specifically for written evaluation reports.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want a copy? Send me an email.

But be warned, I’m about to use the checklist on roughly 90 evaluation reports as part of my dissertation. Surely in there I’ll find good reason to make a tweak or two. I’ll post the revised version then. But in the meantime, go forth and make good work!

I Think Powerpoint Just Did Something Right

It is so awesome to see Microsoft addressing the misuse of Powerpoint (I mean, did they really have a choice? One of their main tools has been so badly knocked in the media for its contribution to harming understanding, it was either address it or repackage!).

Though the storylines were insulting and they mistakenly referred to only males in the first sentence, good gracious they got it right!

1. Keep your chart simple

2. Don’t overdo the animations – use them when you are changing sections or topics

3. You can kill your presentation by overdoing bullet points

4. Move supporting data you would put on the slide into the notes section or in a printout

5. Ask yourself: Can I make my point with an image (Hint: YES!)

6. Please don’t read off your slide

7. Cut slide text wherever you can (then go back and cut more)

8. Distribute your handout at the end of your presentation so the audience stays focused on you

9. Help your slide content stand out by using simple, unpatterned backgrounds (but avoid their recommendation to use the preloaded templates – everyone recognizes them as a template!)

10. Step away from the computer to see if your text is large enough for the audience to read (Hint: Pick size 30 or larger)

See all 5 short videos here: http://www.microsoft.com/office/powerpoint-slidefest/do-and-dont.aspx?WT.mc_id=oo_enus_eml_videos

Looks like you can also submit your best slideshow for a contest starting soon. I’d love to see how this gets judged because in my view the best slideshows are completely uninterpretable without the presenter. If a slideshow can stand on its own, you need to cut text.

Nevertheless, it looks like the folks at Microsoft have finally figured out what some of us have been screaming (and begging and pleading) about for a few years now. Sweet! The more, the merrier.