Echo Rivera Talks Presentations and #DeathByPowerPoint

Want good presentations? Echo Rivera is here to help

Echo Rivera

For this episode of The Social Academic, I chat with Dr. Echo Rivera, who is all about good communication.

I talked about how sharing your talk or presentation on social media is helpful for all sorts of people.

What about when you get to the conference?

Echo Rivera is here to help.

Meet Echo Rivera

Listen to ‘A Chat with Echo Rivera’
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Jennifer: Alright, Echo.

Tell me a little bit about you and your work.

Echo: Yeah!

So what I do is I help academics and scientists, and people like that, basically communicate their work more effectively, and creatively.

Right now I’m focusing a lot on helping people create amazing slide presentations or beautiful reports, infographics, things like that.

It also includes fun stuff like research comics, illustrations, things like that because…

Basically I just want to help everybody not have their hard work go to waste.

And use every tool at their disposal to get heard and make the kind of impact they want to make so nothing just sort of gets lost in the void.

Jennifer: Absolutely.

And I think having those kind of creative and visual approaches to it probably helps get more people engaged, right?

Echo: Absolutely, absolutely.

Jennifer: Wow, that’s wonderful.

I think that especially with having the reports and the presentations having with those infographics…having different types of ways of expressing visual information. I just love that.

So, let’s talk a little bit about what you call, Standard Academic Delivery. What is that? What is S.A.D.?

What is Standard Academic Delivery?

Bored audience

Echo: So S.A.D. is sort of a term I came up with for a blog post I wrote.

I was really trying to describe how people tend to present, especially academics because most of us…I know I didn’t…

…most people don’t receive formal training on how to design engaging presentations.

People think just because PowerPoint is easy to use you can learn to present just by watching other people.

So what happens is we tend to follow the same bad habits as others.

We tend to create presentations that are boring, or confusing, or overwhelming or frustrating for our audience when we don’t even really realize it.

So that’s why I called it S.A.D. for Standard Academic Delivery.

And what that looks like, just to give people some examples is…

That’s like a wall of text. Like 50 words on a slide or more.

So I encourage everyone who is listening to actually copy and paste how many words they have on a few slides just to see how many they have.

I’ve seen slides with seriously 150-200 words.

Jennifer: Wow.

Echo: Yeah! It’s a lot. But people don’t really realize that because it’s a small font and it’s what everyone else does.

Jennifer: And it’s going on a big screen. So sometimes it doesn’t always feel like that when you’re making it. But the effect.

Echo: Right, exactly! Yeah, that’s a point that I make a lot.

It looks very different on your screen from the big screen.

Some other examples are when people follow the 1 minute per slide rule.

That’s a very S.A.D. way to present. That’s way too few slides.

That’s another thing that shocks people.

Then other common things that people would be surprised to hear.

Things like not using visuals.

Or using visuals that are things like smart art or clip art.

Or slides that are on a template like a default template that instantly makes your slides look standard.

So yeah, that’s a S.A.D. presentation.

Jennifer: No, absolutely. So we’ve talked a little bit about what Standard Academic Delivery looks like.

So what’s the 1st step to having better presentations?

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Have better presentations

man presenting in front of an audience

Echo: Yeah, so one of the most important things…

It’s actually a mindset thing.

The thing is, what I really want people to know, is…

If you’re using PowerPoint…

If you’re using Keynote…

If you’re using Google Slides…

Then you’re fine!

You can totally create really beautiful presentations, really engaging presentations, with standard software.

Just because it’s standard software doesn’t mean it has to be a standard presentation.

And a lot of people, they come to me saying, “I want to stand out,” “I want slides that look different.”

“So how do I use Prezi? What do I need to use instead of PowerPoint to have better presentations?

Jennifer: I see.

Echo: Yeah. So the 1st step is, chances are just use what you have.

But use it better.

And I would also like to say is another step you can take to do that is to subscribe to my newsletter, the Communication Cafe.

And that’s sort of long-term professional development, because I’m always sharing tips on how to use your current software better.

And special training events, and special training videos and stuff like that, that only my email list sees.

I do help you use standard software, but just in a better way.

Jennifer: Absolutely. And I have found some great tips being part of the Communication Cafe.

So I love your mailing list. And I encourage anyone listening to sign up because Echo can change the way that you communicate your work.

Echo: Oh, you’re so kind. Thank you.

Jennifer: No I mean it! I really do.

I think presentation is all about good two-way communication.

Echo: Yes.

Jennifer: The audience has to actually engage with the information for it to be successful.

Echo: Yes.

Jennifer: I think that is probably true for people engaging on social media, which is kind of my big thing.

How does social media play into talking about your work, and your life?

Echo’s social media life

"I care a lot about social justice and social equity," Echo Rivera

Echo: Ooooh, yeah. So social media, how I use it…

I use it to let people know who I am as a person, and what I value.

So I’m on Twitter a lot. And people who follow me can see through either what I write, or what I retweet that I care a lot about social justice and social equity.

And that’s what my PhD was even focused on.

I’m a community-based participatory researcher who…

You know I learned strengths-based approaches.

I learned about systemic changes as solutions, and I bring that to my work.

Even when I’m training people on presentations, it’s really strengths based. I’m not shaming people.

I really strive for it to be empowering. And that’s just who I am as a person.

So seeing me on social media is a way that people can see that, and know that first before working with me or really engaging me.

Jennifer: Because that’s part of who you are!

Echo: It really is. It’s so important to me.

And it’s important…a lot of people want to know that first.

So I make sure I’m really open and transparent about that on social media.

So that’s definitely one way.

And of course it’s a great professional tool.

It’s how I connect with and engage with others.

It’s been the #1 way I’ve grown my professional network, especially working from home. You know I’m not going to…I mean it’s how we met!

Jennifer: It is, it is! It is exactly how we met.

And thank goodness that we did because I have learned so much from you and you know the people you’ve introduced me to, the people you’ve met in this field have been fascinating and equally as interesting and creative.

I just love how social media has brought all of these people together.

Echo: Yeah, exactly. And especially when we’re talking about things like design, or things that haven’t caught on.

It’s just so great to meet people, especially people like you.

Because we just validate each other. What we chose to do, it’s sort of you know ‘Jennifer’s out there doing some great design work, check her out.’

We boost each other by hanging out and meeting on social media.

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Fighting #DeathByPowerpoint on Twitter


Jennifer: So, you said you like Twitter a lot.

What does a typical social media day look like for you?

Echo: Haha, OK. Well maybe I shouldn’t admit this but…

I’m on Twitter all day long.

Jennifer: No, no. You should admit that.

Because talking about it is what makes it OK for other people too.

I mean I jump on Twitter all the time just to see like what someone has said, or if there’s a new article going around.

I want to know what’s going on!

And I think Twitter is a great way to jump into the conversation.

So what does that look like for you?

Echo: Yeah. So I’m pretty much checking Twitter before even getting out of bed. I’m just slow getting out of bed.

So yeah, I’m just you know, what did I miss?

Did people send me tweets? I respond to those and I’m really just looking for when people are talking about communication and a lot of people tweet that they’re frustrated with PowerPoint, or that they really want some tips on presentations, or does anybody have an idea on how we can be more creative?

I just kind of look for those kind of tweets and sometimes I’ll reply and say “Hey, I can help with that,” or “here’s a blog post I wrote that actually helps with what you’re asking.”

So I really just look for ways to organically connect with people and answer their questions or help them with their problems.

Really I’m just looking for people to chat with.

Jennifer: Yeah, I feel that way. It sounds like Twitter is probably your favorite platform.

Instagram is my favorite platform because I find a lot of people I can chat with on there.

And that kind of two-way actual conversation – “Oh, I have a problem…” “Oh, I can help you!” That’s kind of beautiful.

Echo: Yeah, I love them both for that. Absolutely.

Don’t be afraid to have a conversation

Say hello to others

Jennifer: So, what is one tip you would give to new people who are joining or starting to use Twitter?

Echo: I would say talk to people.

Really just actually respond with words to a tweet.

Just liking tweets, only retweeting…you’re not going to enjoy Twitter if that’s all you do. It’s just going to get boring.

So you know, if someone tweeted something you like, reply and say why!

Even just throw a GIF as your reply.

I mean every time someone sends me a GIF in response to one of my tweets I’m usually just laughing. And it brings some much joy to my day.

Don’t be afraid to do that, even if it is just a GIF.

Just make sure you’re actually engaging with people and talking to them. That’s my #1 tip.

Jennifer: So it’s not just about liking other people’s tweets.

It’s not just about retweeting.

It’s about actually getting in there and having some sort of conversation, even if it’s just a small visual one with the GIFs.

I love that.

Well I would love to hear about what you have coming up. Do you have any big plans? What’s going on in your life?

PowerPoint, Keynote and Google Slides

Apple laptop and glass of water on a table

Echo: Ooh, I’m glad that you asked that question because I actually just decided 2 days ago to do something new. So this is one of the first times I’m announcing it.

I’m basically going to create a new free online course about presentations.

It’s going to include graphic design hacks and time-saving tips.

And help with creating your own slide design instead of using a template.

And I’m going to do it for PowerPoint, Keynote, and Google Slides.

Jennifer: Wow!

Echo: It’s going to be awesome. It’s gonna be lots of tech videos, lots of tips.

But very short because I know academics are busy.

Really short kind of stuff to really help kickstart people with using their current slide software better.

Because I know everybody knows how to use it, everybody can open it and create some slides.

So this is really gonna focus on, these are some things you probably didn’t know you could do.

Or, these are things you should maybe not do. Here’s some things you should be doing instead.

So it’s really gonna be focused on that.

That’s another reason I said to sign up for my Communication Cafe newsletter because that’s the first people who are gonna get the links to those.

Jennifer: Wow. That is so exciting.

That sounds like the training that everybody needs.

Because we all need to know how to use our current software better, and more efficiently.

Echo: Exactly.

Jennifer: Well, this has been wonderful.

I have loved getting to talk to you today and hearing all about your work and letting everyone know they should sign up for the Communication Cafe so they can learn exclusive tips from you.

Is there anything you wanted to add?

Echo: No, just thank you so much for having me and I think it’s great t hat you’re doing these short interviews.

Big thank you for doing this and I hope I can help people create better presentations.

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And check out more academic interviews with professional development people like Echo.

Bio for Echo Rivera of Creative Research Communications LLC

Echo Rivera: Creative Research Communications, on The Social Academic

Dr. Echo Rivera helps academics and scientists communicate their work more effectively and creatively. She uses her PhD in community psychology and interest in design to help her clients share research or data in ways that will get heard and make an impact.

Echo has a variety of resources and support available, including training webinars, online courses, and mentoring. Check out her website for help with your slide presentations, reports, and other creative works (like research comics).

Join the Communication Cafe with Echo Rivera.

Enjoy this chat? Check out my guest post on Echo’s blog, “Conference Presentation? You Need a Website!”

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Jennifer van Alstyne View All →

Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and communications consultant. She founded The Academic Designer, LLC to help professors, researchers, and graduate students manage their online presence. Jennifer’s goal is to help people share their work with the world.

Check out her personal site at https://jennifervanalstyne
or learn more about the services she offers at