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Making Readable Overhead Displays

Wainer, Howard
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Audiovisual Aids, Public Speaking, Statistics


Noting the poor quality of most overhead displays, the author suggests, as a guideline, "trying to provide a clear view of material to someone of poor eyesight, sitting at the back of a long and smoke-filled hall, on a too-small screen, using an aging projector of inferior quality," and with that goal in mind, makes the following basic suggestion for creating overhead displays: 1) center all material in a 6" by 9" frame; 2) use no more than 30 characters per line; 3) use no more than 15 lines per overhead; and 4) use 36-point type for major headings, 24-point for the rest. In addition, he suggests; 1) limiting the number of fonts used; 2) limiting the use of color; 3) applying these rules with limited flexibility; 4) limiting the number of equations presented to a maximum of two or three per overhead; 5) limiting the number of digits shown in any numbers to two significant figures; and 6) pointing to the screen and not to the transparency when referring to the data during a talk.

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