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Hello! I’m Sheila B. Robinson, aea365’s Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor with a new cool tool to spice up your evaluation presentations and reports!

Do you know the feeling you get when you stumble upon something so good you want to share it, but then again, part of you wants to keep it all to yourself? It will be apparent from this post which side won out for me.

Lesson Learned: Based on advice from respected presentation and information designers, I now shy away from canned, cliche, or clip art images, including charts and diagrams. I’m no designer though, and often find it challenging to start with a blank page when I have something to share that calls for a good visual representation of a relationship.

I’ve enjoyed Microsoft’s SmartArt graphics that come with Office, and they are quite customizable, but with only 185 choices or so, I find I start recognizing them in other people’s presentations, especially when they are not customized by the user, and they begin to remind me of the overused, 20th century clip art we’ve all come to loathe.

Rad Resource: Turns out, one of my favorite presentation designers, Nancy Duarte, has offered her expertise in a fabulous resource she has made available to all of us, and it’s FREE! Diagrammer™ is “a visualization system” featuring over 4,000 downloadable, customizable diagrams. Duarte, Inc. makes it easy to search for exactly what you need by allowing you to search all diagrams, or filter by relationship (flow, join, network, segment, or stack), style (2D or 3D), or number of nodes (1-8) needed.

Once you choose a diagram (and “shopping” for one is half the fun!), you simply download it as a PowerPoint slide, and fill in your text, or customize the various components. You can change shapes, colors, sizes and more. Diagrams range from the very simplest to somewhat complex. Here are just a few examples:

Diagram 1 Diagram 2 Diagram 3Diagram 4

Most diagrams you see come in a variety of configurations. Each of the above examples are also available with different numbers of nodes.

Hot Tip: Duarte’s diagrams are in a gorgeous color palette if you ask me, but often it’s the colors you want to customize to match your report style or the colors of your organization. Here’s a before and after with the original digram, and my redesign.

Network hub original

Custom diagram 2

Cool Trick: Take some time searching diagrams as you’re thinking about the relationship you want to communicate. This added reflection time will give you the opportunity to dig a little deeper into your data and you may be rewarded with new insights.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Greetings AEA365! My name is Gretchen Biesecker, and I am the Vice President of Evaluation at City Year. City Year is an education-focused, nonprofit organization founded in 1988 that partners with public schools and teachers to keep students in school and on track to succeed.

This year I competed in my first storytelling slam—an event where people tell five-minute, first-person, true stories. Constructing and telling my story was really fun. I started thinking about new ways our staff at City Year could think about incorporating numbers or data into our communications and reporting.

Lessons Learned:

  • Sharing findings in context is important, especially for audiences that may be unfamiliar with the data. To someone within a school, improving the average daily attendance rate by 2% may be a huge win, but to someone outside education, without context, that increase may sound miniscule.
  • Taking a look at some resources to organize good stories was really helpful to me. Reviewing the ways to construct a good story: 1) Helped me generate ideas for sharing different kinds of numbers and data to share our story; and 2) Emerged as a foundational step before I think about data visualizations and creating reports or presentations.

Rad Resource: Nancy Duarte’s book, Resonate, is now available for free! Duarte shares multiple examples of effective story structures, which may inspire you.

Resonate by Nancy Duarte

Resonate by Nancy Duarte


Hot Tips: Here are some additional ideas you might take from storytelling. You can use numbers to:

  • Create Drama—good stories may be formatted as a sweeping saga, and you can use numbers to convey scale (e.g., City Year serves in 242 schools, reaching 150,000 students). Pairing that with a personal story and results from one child or case is powerful.
  • Set the Stage—numbers can be used to share the problem or give the context for results (e.g., fewer than 40% of students in the nation’s schools score at or above proficiency in English/Language Arts and math).
  • Share the Transformation—good stories have a beginning, middle, and end, or conflict and resolution—so we can share the “before and after” through numbers. You can also “show your work” and the effort or conflict that it took to achieve the results (e.g., in 2012-2013, students in City Year schools spent over 589,100 hours in extended learning time programming).
  • Catch the eye or ear with Repetition—sometimes good stories or speeches have repeating rhymes, words, or numbers, so think about when repeating a particular number may be effective or impactful.

I encourage you to find inspiration and new ideas from the things you love. They may not be within evaluation, but translating them into our field will help us reach more people to put results into action.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Data Visualization and Reporting (DVR) Week with our colleagues in the DVR Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from DVR TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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My name is John Nash, and I am an associate professor at Iowa State University in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies with a joint appointment in Human Computer Interaction. I’m also a program strategist, evaluator, and design geek.

2014 Update:  I am now an associate professor at the University of Kentucky in the Department of Educational Leadership Studies and director of  the dLab (http://dLab.uky.edu).

Today I’d like to share ways to improve slide presentations.

Hot Tip: Know Your Audience – This is an oft overlooked tip from Nancy Duarte, author of slide:ology, a wonderful book on the art and science of creating great presentations. Duarte suggests seven questions to ask before developing any presentation:

  1. What are they like?
  2. Why are they here?
  3. What keeps them up at night?
  4. How can you solve their problem?
  5. What do you want them to do?
  6. How can you best reach them?
  7. How might they resist?

It’s easy to see how these questions would be important to answer in a business or sales presentation. However, amongst evaluators, they are often overlooked when designing a client briefing or conference presentation. I’m especially drawn to question 5, which reminds me that every presentation should be a call to action.

Hot Tip: Let Go of Text – Text can be a crutch for the time-pressed and insecure presenter. Duarte suggests three strategies to excising text as a crutch on your slides:

REDUCE: Practice presenting your slides a few times, then highlight one keyword per bullet point. Deliver your slides from only the keywords, using the rest as notes. Eventually, consider replacing the keyword with an image.

RECORD: Read your presentation out loud and record the audio. Play it back. Once you get over the horror of hearing your own voice, you’ll be able to concentrate on your content and not focus on the slides.

REPEAT: Practice, make note cards, draw a mind map, do anything that helps you visualize or create a cheat sheet. Then, look at your slides and delete as much as possible that’s covered already on your cheat sheet.

Rad Resources: If I could recommend only two books on presenting, they would be the aforementioned slide:ology and Gary Reynold’s Presentation Zen.

Hot Tip: Ignite! Ignite-style presentations are exactly five minutes long using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. Using Ignite means delivering the most salient content, from a point of passion, while remaining story-focused (and thus, I argue, more audience focused). For example, watch Molly Wright Steenson’s presentation on the otherwise arcane topic of pneumatic tube networks. Did you adsorb more information than in any other five minutes of your day? Notice how she uses minimal text, good images, and a great story to grab your attention.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Best of aea365 week. The contributions all this week are reposts of great aea365 blogs from our earlier years. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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I’m Kathleen Tinworth and I co-chair the recently re-named Arts, Culture, and Audiences TIG of AEA with Don Glass, who began this week’s AEA365 series. I lead the Audience Insights department at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and also consult via my alter ego, ExposeYourMuseum.

Lessons Learned

  • Don started this week with a truism about evaluation in arts and cultural settings: “outcomes and outputs…are sometimes inventive, innovative, and unpredictable.”
  • Jessica Sickler provided a great anecdote of exactly that, writing about interviewing while a child tied a stuffed snake around her legs!
  • The work lends itself to creative tools, instruments, and measures—for example, the timing and tracking method outlined in Amy Grack-Nelson’s post.
  •  That said, there are often real challenges associated with defining audience outcomes, gathering data in ever-moving, highly social environments, and promoting the value of evaluation to arts and culture organizations and stakeholders, as Joe Heimlich underscored.
  • “Performing arts organizations,” Jennifer Novak-Leonard reminded us “are in the business of transforming individuals through arts experiences, but evaluation is rarely on their radars and box office receipts and the number of ‘butts in seats’ are used as proxies of how their art impacts and transforms individual people.”

To combat the challenges above you might assume that arts, culture, and audience evaluators have mastered creativity and innovation when it comes to reporting, presenting, and dissemination– ensuring our communication is as vivid and inspiring as the environments in which we work. Here’s a secret: we haven’t. (Just asked Stephanie Evergreen, who critiqued more museum evaluations than any person should ever have to for her PhD dissertation.) As an evaluator in this sector, and as an AEA TIG co-chair and board member of the Visitor Studies Association, prioritizing good, clean, accessible evaluation communication tops my “OMG that’s gotta change NOW” list.

Rad Resources

Thanks for joining us this week and come visit ACA sometime soon.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Arts, Culture, and Audiences (ACA) TIG Week. The contributions all week come from ACA members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluator.

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I’m Susan Kistler, AEA’s Executive Director, and regular aea365 Saturday contributor. I was inspired by Dorian’s 4/28 post on 5 must-read blogs for those working in nonprofits, and thought I would share a few must see/hear webcasts and podcasts with which you may not be familiar.

Rad Resource – Videos on Evaluation Methods from UNICEF: Recorded during a 2006 professional development training session, each video may be viewed in your browser and is over an hour in length. The evaluation topics include from AEA members include:

  • Jim Rugh on Real World Evaluation
  • David Fetterman on Empowerment Evaluation
  • Huey Chen on Theory Driven Evaluation
  • Bob Williams on Systems Approach to Evaluation
  • Sanjeev Sridharan on Multilevel Models in Program Evaluation

Rad Resource – Nancy Duarte’s YouTube Channel: Nancy Duarte, author of slide:ology and resonsate, is a vanguard in the post-Tuftean movement to create great presentations. Duarte urges us to tell stories, to make the audience care, to get rid of the extraneous and focus on a central message clearly conveyed. Sound like advice you could use for your AEA, client, or stakeholder presentation? Her short YouTube videos illustrate and expand the concepts from her books.

Rad Resouce – Social Good Podcasts from the Chronicle of Philanthropy: Hosted by AEA Member Allison Fine, a 2010 keynote speaker at the AEA/CDC Summer Evaluation Institute, this podcast focuses on “how charities and foundations can more effectively use social media tools.” While not aimed explicitly at evaluation or measurement, Allison’s background as the founder of Innovation Network, a leading evaluation consulting firm, is part of the lens she brings to her interviews and discussions with leaders in the nonprofit sector.

By the way, this year we’re pleased to welcome 2010 AEA President Leslie Cooksy speaking on Quality and the Good Enough Rule, and Zach Gemignani, founder of Juice Analytics, talking about 10 Steps to Data Vizardry, as our keynotes for the 2011 Institute coming June 12-15 to Atlanta. Hope to see you there!

Rad Resource – Filmspotting Podcast: Time for a break? Adam Kempenaar and Matty Robinson review and discuss films each week – always a new release or two (and rarely the blockbusters but something a bit more esoteric) and then a look back into the best from the past. They feed my film lust. I’ve always been intrigued by activities like film critique and wine tasting that hearken back to Eisner’s connoisseurship model of evaluation. They also remind me about the role of judgment and critical examination in our day to day activities – I’ve now come full circle back to last week’s post on thinking evaluatively in your everyday life.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators

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My name is Susan Kistler, the American Evaluation Association’s Executive Director, and I contribute each Saturday’s post to aea365. One hot topic for me this year is data visualization – representing data in ways that are accurate, accessible, and appealing. My very first aea365 post identified resources for those with interests in data visualization – including the classic Periodic Table of Visualization Methods. Today, I want to provide an update.

Hot Tip: Stephanie Evergreen (who gave Great Tips for Graphic Design on July 16) is working to bring together evaluators, and those working in related disciplines, who have an interest in data visualization and reporting in hopes of forming an AEA Topical Interest Group. The group would strive to build capacity and expand the knowledge base in the evaluation field in order to expand stakeholder understanding, improve interpretation, and increase use of evaluation results. As a starting point, Stephanie is building an emailing list of interested individuals and if you would like to be on the list, add a comment to this post (click through back to the website if you received this via email). She’ll also be hosting an informal meeting at Evaluation 2010!

Rad Resources: I attended a presentation in Boston given by the wonderful team at juice analytics as part of their Viva Visualization tour. The presentation was free, definitely worth the 90-minutes of my time, and gave me great ideas for improving my own reports. They’ll be coming to Washington on September 16 if you are in the area. If you aren’t in the DC area, and even if you are, you can learn from their blog – some of the best content can be found on their visitor’s guide and you can subscribe from that page as well. A couple of my favorites? Check out the post on Lightweight data exploration in Excel (under Excel Tricks) to make super-easy inline bars and  Stimulus Bill Explorer (under demos) to see an interactive tree map in action.

Rad Resource: The vizthink group on LinkedIn (you’ll need to join LinkedIn if you aren’t a member but it is free) is a great place to learn from others, post questions, and gather feedback and suggestions.

Hot Tip: Nancy Duarte, author of slide:ology, a book recommended by John Nash in his April 9 aea365 post on Creating Outstanding Presentation Slides. Nancy has a new book coming out – resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences due on September 28. She has also created a series of short new videos on creating outstanding presentations, some of which may be found individually on Amazon, but as a set they were uploaded just this week to Vimeo for free viewing.

The above represents my own opinions and not necessarily those of AEA. This contribution is from the aea365 Tip-a-Day Alerts, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

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My name is John Nash, and I am an associate professor at Iowa State University in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies with a joint appointment in Human Computer Interaction. I’m also a program strategist, evaluator, and design geek.

Today I’d like to share ways to improve slide presentations.

Hot Tip: Know Your Audience – This is an oft overlooked tip from Nancy Duarte, author of slide:ology, a wonderful book on the art and science of creating great presentations. Duarte suggests seven questions to ask before developing any presentation:

  1. What are they like?
  2. Why are they here?
  3. What keeps them up at night?
  4. How can you solve their problem?
  5. What do you want them to do?
  6. How can you best reach them?
  7. How might they resist?

It’s easy to see how these questions would be important to answer in a business or sales presentation. However, amongst evaluators, they are often overlooked when designing a client briefing or conference presentation. I’m especially drawn to question 5, which reminds me that every presentation should be a call to action.

Hot Tip: Let Go of Text – Text can be a crutch for the time-pressed and insecure presenter. Duarte suggests three strategies to excising text as a crutch on your slides:

REDUCE: Practice presenting your slides a few times, then highlight one keyword per bullet point. Deliver your slides from only the keywords, using the rest as notes. Eventually, consider replacing the keyword with an image.

RECORD: Read your presentation out loud and record the audio. Play it back. Once you get over the horror of hearing your own voice, you’ll be able to concentrate on your content and not focus on the slides.

REPEAT: Practice, make note cards, draw a mind map, do anything that helps you visualize or create a cheat sheet. Then, look at your slides and delete as much as possible that’s covered already on your cheat sheet.

Rad Resources: If I could recommend only two books on presenting, they would be the aforementioned slide:ology and Gary Reynold’s Presentation Zen.

Hot Tip: Ignite! Ignite-style presentations are exactly five minutes long using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. Using Ignite means delivering the most salient content, from a point of passion, while remaining story-focused (and thus, I argue, more audience focused). For example, watch Molly Wright Steenson’s presentation on the otherwise arcane topic of pneumatic tube networks. Did you adsorb more information than in any other five minutes of your day? Notice how she uses minimal text, good images, and a great story to grab your attention.

Want to learn more from John about giving great presentations? He’ll be offering an AEA Coffee Break Webinar on Moving Beyond Bullets: Making Presentation Slides Compelling on April 15 as part of AEA’s Coffee Break Demonstration Webinar Series (free for AEA members!). Learn more at http://comm.eval.org/EVAL/coffee_break_webinars/Home/Default.aspx

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