The lecture was a full house, with maybe 200-300 attendees. I worried at the beginning -- he did not warm up to us, but initially seemed kind of cold and distant. But, as time went on, he started addressing us a bit more warmly. I had been warned that he was a man of stong opinions, and that was certainly true -- but strong opinions make for good lectures, because they make the audience think.
I'm a book nerd, so the coolest parts for me were when he would bring out these ancient tomes (first edition of Euclid's elements, etc.) and bring them around to show us how text and imagery were much more wisely combined in the past.
The key points I took away:
- Giving people more data, as opposed to less data, is much more useful to them if it is presented in a way that they can explore it easily and draw their own conclusions.
- Find a way to create a "supergraphic" of your important data. That is something with as much information as possible, shown in ways that are easily explorable.
- Powerpoint is for giving pitches, not for presenting data. Tufte takes a very hard view here, saying "pitching out corrupts within." The idea is that powerpoint is such a narrow channel of information that it can only allow for leading people down a single train of thought, and this can make both the presenter and audience unable to see the bigger picture. Tufte recommends abandoning powerpoint, and handing out a small number of printed sheets of paper that show your supergraphic. I had to think hard about this -- since I make frequent use of powerpoint. However, I'm seldom using it to explore data, but rather to show a chain of thought. That said, it is clear to me that there are several places in my life that creating some supergraphics would be of value. But, wow -- creating good ones is a lot of work.