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The Presenting Data and Information course

Yesterday I attended a one day course, Presenting Data and Information given by Edward Tufte. It was only a few months ago that I heard of him when I saw the term sparklines and was trying to figure out what that was. Then my friend David told me about this course. I thought it would be interesting to me because I have a strong interest in user interface, usability, and data visualization (although not specifically in statistical data). My employer, BEA, was nice enough to send me.

There were a large number of people at the course. It was in one of those hotel function rooms that could easily be divided into four. The room was wider than it was deep and there were two large screens on either side. It seemed clear Edward would be speaking from the middle of them. I usually like to sit up front in presentations so I can easily see the screen. A rainy morning commute into Boston kept me from arriving early so there weren’t many good seats left. I picked one in the first row right in front of one of those big screens. I thought “I may not be able to see him well but at least I’ll have no problem seeing all the information up on the screen”. Being in front of the screen was of no value what so ever. They were hardly used. This makes perfect sense by the end of the day.

Everything I needed to see was right in front of me in the four books you receive as part of attending the course. He is a clear speaker. The sound system was excellent. The screens were used just the right amount – for a few animations and video, and the occasional graphic not in one of the books. They were turned off when not in use.

He practices what he preaches. No Power Point. Use the high resolution medium of print for your data rather than the low resolution computer screen. In this case the “handouts” were his books. Have people read the data before the presentation starts. There was a reading period and assignment prior to the course starting.

It was a very interesting course and I enjoyed it completely.