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.
—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.
"Our numbers suggest a universe of possibilities." Our sun is one of 400 billion stars in our galaxy.
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.)
The nearest star after that is 4.2 light years away.
We've been "the dominate form of intelligence" for only a very short time.
Duarte Design made a big impact
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.