What makes a great presenter? Analysis via Word Cloud Plus

Ray Poynter
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Ray Poynter

3 mins

NewMR and The Future Place have recently launched the first iteration of Word Cloud Plus – a better way to create word clouds. In this post, I show how I am using Word Cloud Plus to look at open-ended comments from surveys.

The data for this example comes from a project run by NewMR a few years ago and relate to the elements that people felt contributed to a good presentation. You can access a copy of the open-ended responses by clicking here.

Pre-processing the text
Before pasting the text file into Word Cloud Plus, I did a very quick tidying of the file. I loaded the file into a text processor with a spelling/grammar checker (for example, Microsoft Word). In the text processor I standardised the spelling in terms of the difference between UK and USA preferences (e.g. humor and humour), some obvious typos, and I identified some cases where the survey platform had not put a space between two words. I also removed any specific references to named individuals. This was a very light touch edit, not good enough to be sure I caught everything, but good enough to help Word Cloud Plus to find the key words and phrases.

A first approximation
I ran Word Cloud Plus with its default setting, for example, 50 terms, using the Combination Counting algorithm, with a maximum phrase length of 4 words per phrase.

Initial Word Cloud

The word cloud highlights the terms used most often by people descibing the features that contributed to great presentations, in their opinion. The word cloud shows that the  two big elements are 'content' and 'slides', closely followed by 'presentation', emphasizing the deliverable itself. The next two elements are 'voice' and 'audience'.

If I click on ‘audience’ in the word cloud a window appears. By selecting References in this window, I can see the phrases that inlcude the word 'audience'. For example: “the ability to engage the audience”, “a sense of humour is a great help as is an appreciation of the practical applications that the audience may have for their topic”, “ability to engage members of the audience and ‘make sense’”, “ability to hold the attention of the audience through their voice”, “the ppts should be crisp and to the point need to consider the type of audience and their levels of familiarity with the subject”.

To make the cloud clearer, I can make all the audience and engage phrases the same colour and all of the voice-related phrases another, as in the image below.

Modified Word Cloud

The coherence can be improved by moving the elements to make similar items closer together. As in the updated image below.

Word Cloud with Images Moved

Of course, there is no limit to how far one could keep digging into the data, both in terms of refining messages, such as those about visual content, but also in terms of removing things that seem less meaningful.

Looking at the Summary
As well as the visual representation, Word Cloud Plus offers you to the chance to look at the underlying counts and styles, as in the table below.

Table of data from the Summary

Tweaking the Stop Words
By telling Word Cloud Plus to treat the word ‘ability’ as a stop word, I think we get a better picture. (Note, stop words are words that do not appear in the word cloud, for example words lile 'a', 'the', and 'all'.)

By moving a few more terms, by replacing the word ‘slide’ with ‘slides’ and by adding ‘good’, ‘great’, and ‘make’ to the list of stop words, I think we get a better sense of the breadth of things that different people lead to a presenter being great. And a reminder that different people value different things.

Final Word Cloud

Your turn?
Word Cloud Plus is currently free to all users, so why not try it out? And you can try it using the same data by clicking here.

We are happy to post guest blogs from people, showing how they have used Word Cloud Plus for one of their projects.