AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

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This is Jean King, professor of Evaluation Studies at the University of Minnesota and mother of the Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute (MESI—pronounced “messy” because evaluation is that way). MESI began 20 years ago to provide high quality evaluation training to all comers: evaluation practitioners, students, accidental evaluators, and program staff and administrators. We are fortunate to have had Minnesotans Michael Quinn Patton and Dick Krueger as regular MESI trainers from the beginning and, with funding from Professor Emerita Mary Corcoran, guest sessions from many of our field’s luminaries. Over the years MESI has taught me a great deal. This entry details three learnings.

Lesson Learned: Structured reflection is helpful during evaluation training. Experiential educators remind us that merely having an experience does not necessarily lead to change; reflection is the key to taking that experience and learning from it. At MESI plenaries we regularly build in time when the speaker finishes for people to “turn to a neighbor” (groups of 2 to 4–no larger) and talk about what they took as the main ideas and any confusions/questions they have. The reflection is easy to structure, and people engage actively. If appropriate, the facilitator can ask people to jot down their questions, which can become the basis of Q&A.

Hot Tip: I never ask an entire large group, “Are there any questions?” At the end of sessions in large conferences/training sessions, the facilitator/presenter will frequently ask the entire group if there are any questions. In these situations there is often an awkward pause, sometimes lasting long enough that people start glancing nervously at each other or at the door, and then someone who can’t stand the silence thinks of a question, raises a hand, and is instantly called on. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief. When I facilitate a session, I instead use the “turn to a neighbor” strategy (briefly—just a couple of minutes) so that everyone can start talking and generate potential questions. You can even call on people and ask what they were discussing in their small group.

Cool Trick: Create Top Ten lists as part of a meeting or training session. Since MESI’s inception, attendees have participated in an annual tongue-in-cheek Top Ten competition where they submit creative answers to a simile that describes how evaluation is like something else (e.g., the state fair, baseball, Obamacare). We provide prizes for the top three responses, and I am continually impressed with people’s cleverness. This year’s topic compared evaluation to interstellar space travel, and the final list is posted at www.evaluation.umn.edu. The Top Ten is a useful activity because it spurs creativity and helps a group come together around a common, low-key cause.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating MESI Spring Training Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from evaluators who presented at or attended the Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute Spring Training. 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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Hello! I’m Sheila B Robinson, aea365’s Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor. Evaluation is my newer career. I’m actually an educator, having taught in K12 schools and at a university. I’m also a professional developer, having provided PD courses, workshops, coaching, and mentoring to educators and evaluators for more than 15 years, so I’m no stranger to presentation design.

Lessons Learned: Check out p2i tools before designing any presentation! I’ve learned so much from AEA’s Potent Presentations Initiative (p2i) – AEA’s effort to help members improve their presentation skills, particularly around delivering conference presentations with specific advice about how to make your presentations more potent by focusing on three things: message, design, and delivery – and have incorporated these principles and strategies into my work.  

Rad Resource: Coming soon! The new p2i Audience Engagement Workbook. I’m honored to be able to share my experience in designing and facilitating presentations and professional learning opportunities as we add to the family of p2i tools with the Audience Engagement Workbook, featuring the WHY, WHAT and HOW of audience engagement, along with 20 specific strategies any presenter can use with limited investment of time or money.

Each strategy is described and rated on a number of dimensions such as ease of application, materials needed, cost, and the degree of movement for participants. There’s even a special section on engaging audiences in a webinar environment!

Hot Tip: One strategy to try now!

Four Corners: Choose just about any topic or question that has 3 or 4 positions or answers (e.g. In your family are you a first born, only child, oldest child, or in the middle? In your evaluation work, do you mainly use qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods? Do you consider yourself a novice, experienced, or expert evaluator?) and ask participants to walk to the corner of the room that you specify. Once there, give them an opportunity (3-5 minutes) to discuss this commonality, then return to their seats. If time permits, call on volunteers to share some insights from their brief discussion.

Variation: Ask participants a question that requires them to take sides (usually two sides, but could be three or more). Ask them to walk to the side of the room assigned to that position, and discuss with others who share their views. You can ask them to form two lines facing each other and have a debate with participants from each side presenting support for their position.

Stephanie Evergreen, information designer, dataviz diva, and p2i lead is putting the finishing touches on the layout and design of the workbook and we’ll have it up and ready for you well ahead of Evaluation 2014! In the meantime, look for Stephanie to preview additional strategies in the next AEA Newsletter!

Do you want your audience doing this? (Image credit: zenobia_joy via Flickr

Do you want your audience doing this? (Image credit: zenobia_joy via Flickr)

 

Or this? (Image credit: Chris  Hacking via Flickr)

Or this? (Image credit: Chris Hacking via Flickr)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

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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Hello! It’s Sheila B Robinson, aea365 Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor with a fabulous and  free sign tool for polishing your presentations!

Great presentations are complemented by great visuals. Using icons on your slides are one way to organize information visually, and direct your audience’s attention to the topic at hand.

There is no shortage of help out there for downloading and even creating your own icons for use in presentations. Want some ideas? Check out Stephanie Evergreen’s blog. Just type “icon” in the search box there and you’ll have the opportunity to read several posts about using and creating icons. In fact, it was Stephanie who turned me on to iconfinder.com, my new favorite free tool!

chalkboard

Lesson Learned: I recently had to create a presentation reporting evaluation results from several data collection points. There was a telephone interview, an online survey, and a paper survey. As I created my presentation, I added icons to each slide – a phone icon, a computer icon, and a paper icon. Using these ensured limited text on each slide, as they eliminated the need for “Phone interview” or “Online survey” to appear on each.

tools

Rad Resource: Try iconfinder.com for all your icon needs! While there is an excellent selection of free icons, they also have a huge selection of low-cost high quality icons. I found prices ranging from $0.48 to $1.98. You can filter your search by price and by license. You can also search specifically for vector graphics, a favorite among graphic artists and presentation creators for their inherent flexibility.
toolsRad Resources:  Presentation-Process.com has a great tutorial on creating your own icons in PowerPoint, and Haute Slides features a tutorial  on creating custom icons from clip art.

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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My name is James Coyle and I am the Director of Performance and Evaluation at the Interior Health Authority; I’m also involved in the Evaluation Mentoring Canada initiative and an active evaluation podcaster. Even though the AEA annual conference is right around the corner, I want to tell you how I’ve used AEA resources outside of my conference sessions.

I’ve always tried my best to avoid the most common pitfalls associated with ‘death by PowerPoint’ (DBP). However, ever since an interview with Stephanie Evergreen for a podcast about p2i I’ve been even more concerned with the quality of presentations I’m delivering in my own organization. After reviewing the p2i resources I couldn’t ignore the fact that there was there was still plenty of room to improve my presentations. The good news was that all of the resources I needed to help me were in one place.

Rad Resources: AEA’s p2i website and tools are great yet I tend to focus on 3 resources for non-AEA presentations in my organization.

  • The 2-page Presentation Assessment Rubric is a great checklist that helps people give you feedback on your presentation and generates scores on 3 key elements of your presentation: 1. Message, 2. Design and 3. Delivery. Try using it during practice sessions of your presentation.
  • The Messaging Model Handout is critical in helping me structure my presentation and figure out how much time to spend on each part of a presentation. If I’ve only got 15 minutes to present to busy Senior Executives I really need to plan out the structure and timing of my presentation ahead of time.

Coyle

  • Lastly, the Slide Design Guidelines are an indispensible checklist to ensure your slides’ graphics, fonts, color, and other elements support your audience’s learning.

Hot Tip: Share these resources with your non-evaluation colleagues in your own organizations.

I share the p2i resources with my health care colleagues whenever possible because the principles behind giving great presentations apply to their roles too.

Lesson Learned: If you are giving a webinar test your slides on the software platform ahead of time.

After spending hours (days?!) of hard work creating a presentation recently I was very sad to learn that the high quality graphics we used for our slides were distorted on the audience side of the webinar (even though the slides looked fine on my local screen). I didn’t test the presentation on the platform ahead of time; that won’t happen again!

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 from beautiful Boise, Idaho! We are Bryon Welch (principal evaluator) and Rakesh Mohan (director) at the Idaho Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations.

Working for a state legislature, we are always trying to come up with different ideas on how to effectively present our analysis. Because our reports are used by policymakers whose attention is constantly in demand by many competing interests, we wanted to ensure that we communicate our evaluation report’s message clearly, concisely, and convincingly. Presenting data in new, interactive ways helps us literally put the data behind our analysis with a click.

Rad Resource: A couple of years ago we were introduced to Tableau, a data visualization software that allows interactive, immersive visualization of data. Both paid and free versions of the software are available. Perhaps the most useful function of the Tableau software is its ability to publish data visualization to the web.

Hot Tip: Begin by looking through the Tableau public gallery for ideas on how you might present your data. The gallery has dozens of data visualization examples including government and public data and health and science data.

Hot Tip: Tableau offers training and tutorials to assist you in learning different ways in which data can be presented.

Hot Tip: Before publishing any data through Tableau, read their Public Data Policy. Of particular note are these words from the policy, “You should not publish confidential data that you want to keep private… Once it is posted you should expect that data to be no longer private.”

Cool Trick: Beginners can start with a summary of data that they have already completed and then, using Tableau Public, they can transform that data into something interactive and visually appealing. For example, our office recently published a report on state employee compensation and turnover that included an appendix on agency turnover. We took that same data and turned it into an interactive chart that we published on our website for policymakers and members of the public.

Presentations that tell a story: Bringing an interactive element into a presentation can help you summarize a long, complex report for your audience. When it came time to present our report on employee compensation to various legislative committees, we put our data into Tableau Public. Tableau transformed the data into an interactive chart that showed policymakers and the public how to customize the visual representation of the data we presented—something that our appendix could not do. By including the data visualizations in our presentations, we were able to quickly summarize some of the main conclusions of the report. We believe the interactive data provided policymakers with the information they desired in a more meaningful format.

Clipped from http://www.tableausoftware.com/products/public

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 and I am the Executive Director Emeritus of the American Evaluation Association. I am a student of the act of presenting, always on the lookout for ways to improve.

Rad Resource – Haiku Deck: I have been trying out Haiku Deck, an alternative to PowerPoint for creating presentation slide decks. I had read about it in this blog post from Stephanie Evergreen, and Karen Anderson (blogger at On Top of the Box Evaluation), prompted me to give it a try. What a wonderful surprise!

Lessons Learned – Haiku Deck Capabilities: Haiku Deck allows the creation of two basic types of slides:

  • Type I – Photo-based Slides: These slides consist of a full-bleed photo and limited text. You have five ‘themes’ from which to choose that change primarily the font, as well as multiple options for text placement. Here are three examples from an upcoming presentation on survey question development at the AEA Summer Institute.

    photos

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

  • Type II – Graph-based Slides: These slides take one of three forms – number callouts, donut graphs, and bar charts. I made an example of each of the three below.graphs

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

Lessons Learned – the Pros of Haiku Deck:

  • Outstanding photo search, selection, and recognition: The process of selecting Creative Commons licensed photos from Flickr was easy and fun, and the selections it recommended were excellent without having to wade through hundreds of pictures. Thinking on how much time I have spent finding and cropping pictures, I wish that PowerPoint had this functionality.
  • Good design principles for photo-based slides: The photo-based slides look sleek, clean, and modern. They follow the designe guidelines suggested by AEA’s Potent Presentations Initiative. The pictures are high quality and full-bleed – going all the way to the edges of the slides. Text is kept to a minimum. Only two fonts are used and they are complimentary. Things are well-aligned.
  • Extremely easy to use: I made a demo deck in the car!
  • Free

Lessons Learned – the Cons of Haiku Deck:

  • iPad Based: No iPad? No making Haiku Decks, although anyone can view the final decks on the Haiku Deck website.
  • Requires Saving to the Web: Thus, you have to have an internet connection and potentially some patience as saving decks full of gorgeous pictures can take time.
  • Graph-based Slides are Limited and Less Well Designed: The graph-based slides come in only three flavors and, like the photo-based ones, have very limited editing capabilities, which for me created more of a problem with the graphs than the photos.  Quality design principles are adhered to less closely here, with often too-small fonts and the questionable use of the donut chart.

I will do a follow-up post delving deeper into Haiku Deck in a subsequent week.

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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Hello, we are Greg Lestikow, CEO and Fatima Frank, Project Manager of evalû, a small consulting firm that focuses exclusively on rigorous evaluations of social and economic development initiatives.  We champion impact evaluation that maintains academic rigor but is based entirely on our clients’ need to improve strategic and operational effectiveness and increase profitability.

We spend much of our time in the field, yet we often find that we have less time on the ground than we’d like. We have a lot to do and a lot of information to transfer to our clients’ field teams. Just as importantly, we are trying to build local buy-in to ensure a successful evaluation once we leave the country.  As such, we have developed and refined three basic workshops to involve key local staff early on in the evaluation process.

Hot Tips:

  • In the first week, cover the basics of evaluation. Given the diversity of field staff and skill sets evaluators work with, it’s important to lay out the basic groundwork of M&E so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the purpose of the evaluation. Our first presentation, titled “Measuring Impact,” covers:
  • Distinguishing between monitoring and evaluation
  • Discussing the importance of rigorous evaluation and the project evaluation process
  • Introducing methodologies for rigorous evaluation techniques
  • Drawing links between program design and program evaluation
  • Understanding how we measure change at the individual and community level
  • Second, (generally during the same week), give an in-depth presentation on evaluation indicators. This would be an ideal time to present an Indicator Framework if you have one (see our three-part series on our evalû-created indicators system) or give a general presentation on indicators (what makes a good indicator, SMART indicators, etc).  This presentation should provide practical training with participatory activities to engage the field teams and ensure that they understand the nuances and organization of indicators and requirements. This training helps M&E and program staff think about their projects and what indicators they want to use for the evaluation.
  • The last presentation should occur in the week or two before start of data collection. This presentation consists of specific training for survey enumerators and qualitative data collection workers.  We combine the training for surveys and qualitative data collection so that workers in both areas understand how the instruments support one another.  We’ve also found that this cross-training allows data collectors to take on different responsibilities if needed.  You never know when one of your enumerators will call in sick!

If you have other helpful evaluation training resources, please feel free to post them here or contact us directly.

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.

Greetings, I am June Gothberg and assisting with AEA’s Potent Presentations Initiative (p2i). Today, I want to share with you how to design presentations for all audience members. It is important that presentations are readable, navigable, and understandable.

Lesson Learned: Your audience is likely to be diverse.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates:
    • 7-8% of men and 0.4% of women are colorblind, across eight different strains (red/green, blue/yellow, full colorblindness).
    • 4% are low vision.
    • 4% are severely dyslexic.
    • Many are slow readers or processors.

Hot Tips:

  • Emphasize readability: Fonts should be large and easy to read.
    • Use Sans Serif fonts such as Helvetica, Arial and Verdana rather than font types like ‘Times New Roman’, because low vision people have difficulty with reading text in font types with serifs.
    • Avoid the use of italic font style; this style even hampers normal vision reading.
    • Try to use one font type per slide.
  • Emphasize see-ability: Color selection is important.
    • Use solid or near solid backgrounds.
    • Color contrast can improve see-ability.
    • There are two types of contrast – brightness and color.
    • The highest brightness contrast, thus increased see-ability, is black and white.
    • Use complementary colors (colors directly across from each other on the color wheel).
    • Red-green is the highest incidence of colorblindness, so use these colors sparingly.
  • Emphasize understandability: Graphics, figures, maps, and images are oft neglected.
    • Use oral support when presenting graphics.
    • Remember red is a color issue – laser points are red!
    • Legends are difficult for many to interpret.
    • Use text, arrows, or other indicators to emphasize important information.
  • Handouts may be critical especially for those with hidden disabilities.
    • Distribute handouts before you present; this especially assists those with low vision, dyslexia, and comprehension difficulties.
    • Bring an electronic copy.
    • If possible, bring a few large-text copies.
  • Attend Potent Presentations Initiative trainings on slide design at the conference.

Rad Resources:

  • To check overall accessibility. Instructions for using Microsoft’s Accessibility Checker
  • To check your design: Try Petr Stanicek’s Color Scheme Designer. Select your intended color scheme and then select the colorblindness button in the top right corner to check your scheme for each of the eight strains of colorblindness.
  • To check your slides: Try Vischeck. Once you create your presentation, create a picture image of your slide(s). This is very simple to do by using screen capture (PC and Mac instructions), open up your graphics editor, crop, and save as a .png or .jpg file. Next upload to Vischeck and viola you can now see your slide as someone else might.
  • P2i Presentation Slide Design Guidelines.

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 Associationand provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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I’m Susan Kistler, the American Evaluation Association’s Executive Director and aea365 Saturday contributor. Today I want to talk about one of the hot debates in presentation delivery: To Prezi or not to Prezi, that is the question.

For the uninitiated, Prezi is a presentation tool that is a possible replacement for PowerPoint. It allows the presenter to zoom in and out of various points on a larger graphic. Penny Black wrote about Prezi in a very popular earlier aea365 post that is worth reading in order to gain an understanding of its functionality. Stephanie Evergreen, projector director for AEA’s Potent Presentations Initiative (and substitute for me last week on aea365 – thanks Stephanie), recently wrote a blog post on “Why I’m Not in Love with Prezi” on her blog, and I chimed in about my own dislike for the tool. Then, at the AEA/CDC Summer Evaluation Institute, at a workshop session on low cost tech tools, we discussed when Prezi might be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Rad Resource: It is difficult to explain what Prezi is without taking a look. If you haven’t seen Prezi in action, you need to see an example to understand. Colleagues from New Zealand presented at Evaluation 2010 using Prezi and their presentation may be found online here.

Lessons Learned: My dislike of Prezi stems from a two key issues:

  • It can literally make the audience queazy watching a Prezi presentation
  • Using Prezi requires a level of design skill that is rarely in evidence on the part of the presentation creator – to make a great Prezi you need to attend to both the whole and the parts

Yet, it is a new platform, and platforms evolve over time. It is a tool, and like any tool, it can be wielded well or poorly. Our workshop discussion tried to consider the strengths, and two came to mind:

  • It adds novelty to a presentation – a bit of uniqueness. Evaluation presentations can be stodgy and benefit from tools that capture and hold attention. Although we discussed the downside, in that people may be attending to the process rather than the presentation content, this was still felt to be a strength.
  • In the hands of a good designer, it likely can illustrate well parts of a whole, moving back and forth between the two. Look at the New Zealand example, about half way through there is a lovely diagram of a tree and the Prezi presentation moves us in and out from its components to the full illustration.

Get Involved: Have you tried Prezi? What works for you? I am, in particular, in search of a Prezi presentation of a logic model – moving between the parts and whole to good effect. Do share!

The above is fully my own opinion and does not reflect that of the American Evaluation Association.

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