Category Archives: Presentations

New paper published

My most recent paper, titled “Textbooks for Responsible Data Analysis in Excel” has been put online at the Journal of Education for Business.

Abstract: With 27 million users, Excel (Microsoft Corporation, Seattle, WA) is the most common business data analysis software. However, audits show that almost all complex spreadsheets have errors. The author examined textbooks to understand why responsible data analysis is taught. A purposeful sample of 10 textbooks was coded, and then compared against spreadsheet development best practices. The results show a wide range of approaches, and reveal that none of the 10 books fully cover the methodologies needed to create well-rounded Excel data analysts. There is a need to re-evaluate the teaching approaches being used in office application courses.

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Globalization of the Halal Market

Dr. Angelo Camillo presented this at Woodbury’s weekly colloquium.

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Making your presentation interesting (or yes, you need a thesis)

What’s the point?  A common presentation mistake is to have slides with so much information on them that the viewer isn’t sure what to remember.

Below is a good sample:

This has a lot of information on the Khan Academy, but is too broad.  If asked “what’s the point,” how would you answer?

Every slide should express a single complete sentence.  For the Khan Academy, there are a variety that could be used:

  • Online videos are the future of education.
  • One person can do great things with technology.
  • Sal Khan has helped a lot of people with online videos.

Since the presentation is on how the Khan Academy is changing education through IT, a good thesis for this slide would be the last in the list above.

In slide design, it’s best to have a strong title.  This should be the thesis for the slide. A quick look at Khan’s YouTube channel and their homepage allows us to flesh out out our thesis with a few key points:

  • Sal Khan has had a major impact with simple educational videos
    • One-man’s non-profit started in 2006
    • 2,600 micro-lectures on YouTube with 107 million views
    • Expanding with exercises, knowledge maps, and badges

These key points should be turned into a story.  The presenter could start by describing how Sal made some simple videos to help his nephews learn calculus.  Then, they could talk about the expansion since 2004, the simple style of presentation and easy YouTube hosting, and end by describing the funding allowing him to create new features.

Once the story is designed, we need to finish the slide design.  While we could just use the bullet points as is, it’d be better to use visuals to increase the impact.

One option would be to try and show images of the people who have been helped.  Another would be to show a graph comparing the viewing hours generated by Sal’s budget with those created by another publisher.  But, the simplest way to highlight his impact is to show a short clip from a video and highlight the most critical numbers describing the organization.

Below is an plain slide with a clear thesis:

While plain, the above slide is easier for people to quickly skim, helps the presenter to avoid reading the slides, and has a much clearer thesis statement.

Ultimately, the goal of a presentation should be to have people remember it the following morning.  Which of these two slides would you remember?

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What emotion does your slide convey?

Do you sound like Ben Stein?

Compare that to Professor Lewin’s speech below (start at about 1 minute in)

One of the critical differences is that Lewin conveys a sense of emotion.  Ben Stein actually has some good content, and is (trying!) to get some audience interaction.  However, his lifeless delivery falls flat, while Lewin’s obvious passion helps us engage with him.

After deciding on an organizing thesis for each slide, and choosing a story structure,  decide what emotion the slide should convey.

This Bill Gates slide from is a typically bad example.  Beyond violating the first two rules, can you say with confidence if what feeling the audience has (beyond wishing for their reading glasses)?

Gates is probably trying to show the scope of his services.  Good emotions for him to convey could be:

  • happiness (we’re pleased to…)
  • satisfaction (it’s been a long road, but we finally …)
  • anticipation (it’s going to be great…)
  • pride (this is amazing).

He could also choose to be self-deprecating by being:

  • embarrassed (it’s been a while, but we finally ….)
  • show a problem (we have a lot of services, but haven’t connected them well).

If he decided that this was a happy slide, Mr. Gates could try to convey more enthusiasm, smile more, and make larger gestures.  If he wanted to be embarrassed, he could hunch a bit, look abashed, and moderate his gestures.

A second example slide from the cio article is below.  This slide is overly cluttered, but it isn’t immediately obvious how we are a supposed to feel about this visit.

One immediate way to improve the slide would be to change the title to a strong declarative sentence, such as “Fantastic Results from Beijing.”  In giving the presentation, the speaker could decide in advanced to convey their sense of wonder a the different things in China, or a sense of awe at the history.

If you want a slide to fall flat, hope for the panic of being in front of a crowd to bring your material to life.  Unfortunately, you’ll probably end up more like Stein than Lewin.

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How to find good (free!) images without stealing them

Lara Jade never expected to find an image of herself on the cover of a porn DVD.  The 18-year old had posted a self-portrait to an online forum, and ended up suing TVX Films for using it as the cover of “Body Magic.” (source)

While you probably empathize with Lara, the way most people use images makes them more like TVX Films.  Using the result of a Google image search in a work website, student paper or presentation, or personal blog is just as illegal (while not quite as distressing).

Free high-quality and distinctive artwork is available — you just have to know where to get it.  This guide presents 4 categories of images and gives a short guide on how you can and can’t use each.  While not legal advice, it represents my best understanding of the current laws.

1. All Rights Reserved

The bottom line is you can’t use any images without the owner giving you permission.   Unless you can find a note on the image stating otherwise, assume that anything you locate falls under this category.

To use an “all rights reserved” artwork, you must be able to:

  • Show that there is a compelling reason why this image, and this image alone, satisfies some need for reporting, scholarship, critique, or analysis.
  • Provide credit (attribution) saying where you got this image, and make it plain that you do not own the rights to it.
  • Ethically, if you are making money from something, you need to show a higher need to use a particular image.

Some examples:

  •  There is an image of the GE Board on  You could use this in a presentation or paper talking about GE’s specific board.  You can’t use it if you just need an image of people in business suits, or talking about boards in general.
  • You can use company logos when you talk about them.  For example, using the GE logo from Wikipedia helps to identify the company and would be fine to use in a paper discussing the company.
  • In a presentation on the company Evernote, using a screenshot, chart, or diagram from the company website would be fine (with proper attribution).  However, using their image in a presentation about laptops in general would not be acceptable.

 2.  Free and Paid Stock Photography Websites

There are a variety of stock photography websites on the web.  While iStockPhoto costs from 5-20$ for an image, others, such as Microsoft Clipart Online and stock.xchng are free.

As long as you don’t use the image as a logo for your company, you’re generally free to use them however you like.

3.  Creative Commons

While most of Flickr is not licensed this way under Creative Common’s permissive set of licenses, they do have advanced search option that gives access to some really interesting images.  There are some restrictions.  Look at each image to see if they have any of the following restrictions.

  •  Non-commercial.  If tagged non-commercial, you can’t make money from using an image.
  • Attribution.  Almost all require you to note the original creator.  Generally, a small link or note next to the image appears to be the best practice.
  • Alterations.  Some pictures do not allow alterations.

 4. Public Domain

Public domain is the easiest and least restrictive way to incorporate images into your work.  The best source for this is Wikipedia.  The major problem with public domain is that it’s complicated to release images into this license, so there isn’t as much out there included in this license. There is a decent amount of government-contributed artwork in Wikipedia, such as this 1937 image of Division of National Archives.

What you can do:

  • Use the image.
  • Attribution is not required.


Bruno Mercier found that a French Publishing House used his image as the cover for their latest book without paying.  In an email exchange, the publisher said that he thought he had the right to use any unprotected image posted online.  The author (a 70-yearold woman) even wrote him that it was on honor for his image to be used on her book.

Once lawyers became involved, he was eventually paid. But, it was a lot of trouble on everyone’s part for a simple, but complete, misunderstanding of how copyright works.

Posting an image online does not make it free, but there are good ways to find free images without putting yourself, your business, or your ethics in jeopardy.


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Having a clear thesis

Below is a quote from (emphasis added)

It is likely that you have done a lot of analysis and many calculations in order to come up with the conclusions that you want to present. The common view is that it is important for the audience to hear about all the assumptions, steps in the process, formulas, and calculations. You may also be tempted to include who did each step, how long it took, when it was done and even what office location helped out. While all of this information may be important to you, the truth is that the audience doesn’t need to hear it all.

Attend an hour talk by an academic, and you expect to get 30 minutes of literature review and background information, 20 minutes of how they set up their study, and only about 10 minutes of actual results.

I’m a big believer in a presentation having a strong point of view.  Jeff Attwood’s Strong Opinions, Weakly Held blog post describes his approach to blogging, but it applies just as much to presentations.

My students frequently approach talks in the same way.  They spend an hour or two doing Google searches for “Long Tail” and then dump the information into PowerPoint slides.  After a bit of massaging, they then add some generic clip art and call it a day.  It’s a low-risk approach, because just describing a concept doesn’t run the risk of being different than what the professor thinks.

As a listener, that’s not what we want.  The most significant critique I give of student presentations is that they lacked a point of view.  In opposition to Wikipedia’ NPOV (neutral point of view), a presentation has to have a strong argument.  In writing, we call it a thesis.

This argument needs to have some tension.  So, here are some other ways to have a more focused thesis:

  • Why the Long Tail will replace traditional Blockbuster movies
  • Why the Long Tail isn’t as important as Amazon thinks
  • How the Long Tail will transform TV

In each case, the student needs to take a more critical look.  I think it’s hard for many to do so, as the more interesting/provocative their speech is, the less likely the professor will agree with it.  Unless specifically pushed to have an argument, most students will simply do the easier thing and give a summary of the Wikpedia article.


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