Friday, May 21, 2010

Caution when animated PowerPoint graphs are delivered via Live Meeting

I recently delivered a webinar using the Microsoft Live Meeting system. I had not used this system before and it is one of the systems where you upload your slides to their site. My usual system is one where I share my desktop, so you are seeing my desktop exactly as I am presenting. The difference with the Live Meeting system is that they do some conversion of your slides to fit their system. And I found one type of graph animation that doesn’t get converted properly.

In one of my slides, I show a bar graph that has text in each bar explaining what that bar refers to. The text is actually a text box placed on top of the bar because it fit better that way and gave the look I wanted. In the animation, I animate each bar of the graph to come on one at a time so I can discuss each item individually. To have the text come up at the same time as the bar, I animate the text box and have it appear with the bar. In the Custom Animation task pane, I move the text box animation effect in the middle of the graph bar animation so the builds happen at the right time. And apparently that causes the problem.

Any time you have an object animate in the middle of a graph animation, Live Meeting does not convert it properly. It can’t handle splitting up the graph animation apparently. It resolves it by animating all graph elements at once and then the non-graph elements based on the timing set on those elements. In the bar graph, because the text box timing is set to happen with the bars, all the bars and the text boxes came on at the same time. In another graph, since the other object was set to appear on a click, I had to advance to get the object to appear. In both cases, I had advance warning because in our practice session the issue had cropped up. So I spoke to the slide as Live Meeting decided to present it.

The lesson for you is that if you are using Live Meeting to deliver your presentation over the web, make sure that you do not animate other objects in the middle of a graph animation, because it will not work the way you expect it to. Redesign your slide, use exit animation effects to reveal each part, or use multiple slides with one build on each slide to get around this issue. Now I know better for next time.

9 Comments:

Blogger Jon Thomas said...

Dave,

While I haven't used Live Meeting, I've used others like WebEx (primarily), ON24, and GoToWebinar. They all post distinct threats to your PowerPoint because none of them offer graphic engines that support all of PowerPoint's features.

One neat thing about WebEx is that you can download a UCF (Universal Content Format I think) converter, so you can find out (without launching a new meeting) if your PowerPoint will work. Often times I have to go through 5 or more iterations until I get everything correct. Once you get it right, since it is a UCF file, it uploads in seconds instead of a few minutes if you have a large PowerPoint.

Most problems stem from incompatible fonts, images that leave bounding boxes, and tables/graphs/charts/shapes that don't draw correctly in the Webinar platform. I've actually spoken to colleagues about hosting a webinar about the obstacles of presentation design when using an online webinar platform.

Great post and a good heads up!

Jon Thomas
Presentation Advisors

1:44 PM  
Blogger Dave Paradi said...

Jon,

I have used the GoToMeeting/GoToWebinar platform for many years and what I like is that I can share my desktop to present. It shows exactly what is on my screen, so I have never run into any issues showing anything in PowerPoint. It is just showing the same as what you would see from a projector in a meeting room.

I delivered one of these slides using GoToWebinar last week and had no problems, so that's why it was a little surprising to see the issue crop up.

Dave

3:24 PM  
Blogger taotechuck said...

Dave,

Personally, I think the more important lessons are to take the time to run a practice session, and to not tie any crucial information into animations.

Problems like this are a big part of the reason why I encourage my clients to skip animations if at all possible.

Jon's comment also raises a point that I make to my clients: Unless you know how to guarantee your fonts will appear on different machines in different environments, stick with Arial or Times New Roman.

Thanks for the interesting post. I've never used Live Meeting, so this is a great heads-up.

Chuck

6:28 PM  
Blogger Dave Paradi said...

Chuck,

I also advocate practice sessions. In fact, that's where I first noticed the issue and thought it could be fixed by resetting the PowerPoint file. I use simple animations to be able to explain each item one-by-one as I build them on the slide. I agree that the fancy animations are distracting.

With fonts, I also recommend sticking to standard fonts so that you don't have strange things happen. I advocate sans-serif fonts like Arial since the research shows that sans-serif fonts are easier to read when projected.

Thanks for your comments and contributions.

Dave

7:04 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

Dave, it may have been worse than you even realized. Attendees who chose to download and install the local client for Live Meeting saw your animations. Those who connected through the web client interface (such as all Mac users) saw your slides as static, with no animation effects at all. Microsoft doesn't publicize this discrepancy in the viewing experience and it has tripped up both presenters and audiences. The presenters think everything looks great since they practiced using the installed client. Then they get comments from audience members asking why the presentation is so hard to follow.

12:41 AM  
Blogger Dave Paradi said...

Ken,

Wow! I never thought of that issue. Another reason that sharing my desktop is my preferred way to deliver presentations over the web.

Dave

5:32 AM  
Blogger Shane said...

Dave,
First up, I love your emails and your advice. Keep it up!
However...sharing a desktop is not a good way to do a webcast as the resolution of the host machine is kept for all of the clients. This means that some of the attendees will see a small box taking up a corner of their display, or even worse, attendees with low resolution (such as when it is projected for an audience) will need to scroll around to see the entire display.
The advantage to uploading the presentation is the resolution is adapted to the client's screen, and everyone sees a full-screen display.
I have just been forced to move to live-meeting, and the graphics engine does cause a lot of issues. For example, shadows don't work at all... I would love it if MS would give us a tool to preview presentations in the client and web browser interfaces, like WebEx does.
Once again, keep up the good work.

Shane

9:30 AM  
Blogger Dave Paradi said...

Shane,

Thanks for the comment on screen resolution. I usually set my screen for 1024 x 768 when doing a web presentation as that seems to be a setting that both higher and lower resolution screens can manage. I look at the stats on my web site and I see that most people are using that resolution or slightly higher, so I think it is a good compromise.

Dave

9:34 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

Dave, you inspired me to write a long blog post exploring this question in more detail. You might be surprised at how many considerations come into play when showing slides in a webinar! Here's the link: http://bit.ly/9kQjW1

Enjoy!

7:38 PM  

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