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Based on my experience with the grand opening of Virtualis (see my review), the conference center in Second Life, I’ve put together what I believe to be the first set of guidelines for creating and delivering PowerPoint presentations in Second Life. I’ll add to this as I get more experience. 1. Use a plain, white background In real life, a slide projected onto a screen has its own light coming from the projector. In Second Life, everything is pixels on your computer screen. As a result, resolution and contrast aren’t as high. Light text on a dark background “bleeds,” making it hard to read. Forego your usual background and stick to the default white. If you need some decoration, make it bold. Fine lines and detail won’t show up. Decoration should not take up very much space, because of point #2. Here you see an example of two types of slides. It’s obvious that the white background works best.
Light text on a dark background
Dark text on a white background
2. Use very large text Your text needs to be larger than usual. Screen resolution isn’t very high; therefore, text isn’t as clear as in real life. Also, the audience may not be directly in front of the screen and therefore be viewing it from an angle. You can see this effect in the above images. To give yourself more room for text, reduce space relegated to the background to a minimum. 3. Make text and images plain and clear Use a simple sans-serif font, such as Arial or Verdana. Don’t apply a shadow, because it will reduce legibility. Images should be simple and bold, rather than detailed. 4. Wait until the image is clear In Second Life, your PowerPoint presentation won’t actually be PowerPoint; instead it will probably be JPG images of your slides. As each slide appears, it takes a few seconds to resolve into clarity. Wait until the slide “reses” before speaking about it. It’s frustrating when you speak about something that the audience can’t see. You can use this time to introduce the topic, as long as what you say doesn’t require any visual context. 5. Test your venue This advice applies to real life as well, but may not be as obvious in Second Life. Go through a test run, and try sitting in the back where some of your audience may be. Can you read the text? Can you make out the images? If not, make the text and images bigger. Also, if you plan to stand at a podium, can you see both the podium and the screen at the same time? Remember, in real life, it’s easy for people to turn their head; in Second Life, they have to press keyboard buttons, or click onscreen navigation to change their viewpoint. Looking back and forth is much harder, so make sure people don’t have to do it. Perhaps you can move the podium, or simply stand near the screen and give up the podium altogether. (That’s a good technique in real life, too.) I encourage you to walk out into the audience as you speak; this will engage them just as it does in real life. 6. Ask for a larger screen If your venue test doesn’t work out very well, perhaps your hosts can make the screen bigger. It’s just a matter of programming! 7. Ask if everyone can see the screen When you deliver your presentation, ask if people can see the screen. They may need instructions for adjusting their view. If so, take the time to explain how to do so. Most people are still new at Second Life. You can find technical instructions for creating a PowerPoint presentation in Second Life here. Second Life offers a great new possibility for presenting in virtual reality. However, the same principles of presenting apply. Consider your audience and make sure that your slides are meaningful and clear.