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Steve Jones is the editor of SQLServerCentral.com and visits a wide variety of data related topics in his daily editorial. Steve has spent years working as a DBA and general purpose Windows administrator, primarily working with SQL Server since it was ported from Sybase in 1990. You can follow Steve on Twitter at twitter.com/way0utwest

Speaking and Presenting Tips - Handouts

I’ve given quite a few presentations, one keynote with another to come, and attended many more. I’ve read a few books on how to get better, and then in an Edward Tufte seminar recently, I got another one.

Dr. Tufte mentioned the idea of a supergraphic, an image with a ton of information in it. I think that some BI systems are starting to think of this as something to display to users. Dr. Tufte said that most screens, especially with projectors, can’t really put up the resolution, and I’d agree. Here’s an image I found online:

supergraphic

This is the idea. A ton of information on one piece of paper that you can give out to people. He said that as a presenter if you find one of these, you can likely “dine on it” for years. Here’s another example he showed from the course.

minard

It’s actually about Napoleon's march into Russia in the early 1800s. There were other examples, but I didn’t see any online and didn’t want to play with a scanner.

The idea here is that you give people a bunch of information. Most of it might not matter to each person, but each person will look at something. They’ll also begin to process the data themselves, and let you highlight, talk about, or even encourage debate on the material.

I’m not sure how I’d do this in a tech presentation, but I definitely can see that if you are presenting a lot of information, especially some type of report to others, this would make sense. I’m going to keep this in mind for future presentations I do, and perhaps even build a Modern Resume supergraphic.

Comments

Posted by Jason Brimhall on 18 June 2010

Nice tip.  I will definitely have to use this for future presentations.

Posted by Steve Jones on 18 June 2010

I've been trying to come up with one I can use. So far it's tough, but I'll work on getting a good one.

Dr. Tufte recommended A3 (11x17) paper for a large image. That's a lot of data.

Posted by Wendy Brittain on 18 June 2010

Strange coincidence...

I just ordered four of Tufte's books yesterday from Amazon because of the data presentation implications I come across. Heard they were excellent and that after reading his material, people never put together visuals the same way again.

Posted by jcrawf02 on 18 June 2010

I've been reading his books myself, great stuff. Jealous that you got to go to one of his seminars...

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