TED Prize: Sylvia Earle on protecting our most precious resource
Visualization of the credit crisis

SETI's Jill Tarter: Putting things in perspective

Stage Jill Tarter, Director of the SETI Institute and TED Prize winner, gave a very nice presentation on SETI's mission and why it matters a few weeks ago in Long Beach. Jill could have given her speech without visuals and it still would have been good, but I think the slides really did help illustrate and illuminate her message; the visuals certainly helped her audience put things in perspective. And putting things in perspective is at least one of the ways SETI research is influencing the world. "If SETI does nothing but change the perspective of humans on this planet, then it will be one of the most profound endeavors in history."

The visuals Jill used were completely reworked by one of the Duarte designers and the slides provided powerful visual support to her speech. There were a few times, especially at the beginning, when the slides were out of sync with the narration (Jill was controlling her own slide advances), but when she got her timing down, it was a very engaging talk in every respect. Perhaps the best illustration came, however, not from slides but rather when she used the TED Conference name badge (which she placed on the floor) to illustrate how many stars there are in the universe (this begins at about the 5:30 mark in the video). If the flat name card represented a billion stars, you are not going to believe how many miles the stack would have to extend into the sky to represent all stars. Watch below or here on TED.

"SETI is a mirror, a mirror that can show ourselves from an extraordinary perspective and can help to trivialize the differences among us."
                                                    —Jill Tarter, SETI

Sample visuals from Jill's talk
Here are just a few of the slides that Jill used during her TED Prize presentation.

400b
"Our numbers suggest a universe of possibilities." Our sun is one of 400 billion stars in our galaxy.

Sun
Our nearest star, the sun. It takes over eight minutes for the radiation to hit the earth. (Note: yes, this is obviously not to scale.)

Proxima
The nearest star after that is 4.2 light years away.

Milkyway
The edge of our galaxy is 75,000 light years away.

Andro
The nearest galaxy to us is 2.5 million light years away.

History
We've been "the dominate form of intelligence" for only a very short time.

Duarte Design made a big impact
Duarte_sample TED has always had great presentations, though sometimes the delivery or the visuals were not always of the same high quality as the content. Over the years, however, I have noticed a great improvement in the design & delivery of the now famous TED short-form presentations. And while not all the presentations at TED were perfect or went off without a hitch, you could tell that something was different: the visuals were clearly up a notch. Even if I had not known Duarte designers were helping the TED Prize winners and Al Gore and others who wanted assistance, I still would have known. It was obvious to anyone who is crazy about presentations like I am (and perhaps you are). Yet most people at TED may not have noticed, and that's good. That's good because that's a sign of good design: If the design (including story structure, graphics, etc.) is good, people won't really notice "the design of it" — they'll be too busy engaged with the meaning of the narrative being expressed verbally and visually on stage.

Over on the Slideology blog this week they have a really nice post — including before/after slides — elaborating on the help they provided for the Barry Schwartz presentation below. Four or five really good takeaways. Check it out.

Comments

Gabriele Barni

WOW amazing keynote..

But making a amazing keynote on a outstanding interesting argoments like: SETI, Apple, the Future, technology.. it's a thing...
The question i have for you Garr is that:
i am writing a university thesis , on the "subsidiarity principle" in the european union (yes, sounds boring) .. do you have some tips for me and all peoples like me, that everyday work on keynotes without a ultracool theme behind?

thanks a lot
cheers :)

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