My Recent Ecology Presentation at ESA Using LaTeX Beamer

I’m currently in Minneapolis at the annual Ecological Society of America (ESA) Meeting. I just gave my talk yesterday. I’m always experimenting with new presentation software (I dislike Powerpoint, I love Pages but no one supports it) and styles. I’ve been interested in using LaTeX Beamer for a while. I use it when I teach because it makes adding math text and other stuff easy. Indeed, most of the LaTeX Beamer examples you find online are text- and equation-heavy. I set out to prove two things: 1) It’s possible to create a really nice presentation outside of mathematics using Beamer, and 2) I don’t need text in my talks (I’m a minimalist presenter, which means you might actually have to listen to me).

The beauty of Beamer is that I can do whatever I want, if I can program it. The other beauty of Beamer is that, since I’m not very good at coding it, I’m limited to relatively simple slides. I say this is a good thing because it forces me to avoid cluttering my slides with text, pictures, and animations that Powerpoint makes so easy. It also forces me to think carefully about what to display in my slides.

I really love the header that tells you what section and subsection you’re in (this is a huge plus for the audience). Plus, with the right theme, you can do what I did and show only the current section and subsection, rather than a list of all of them. So here’s my talk, low on text, big on pictures. The quality is poor because I had to split the PDF pages up into JPG images and upload them as a slideshow in WordPress (the PDF was much crisper and high resolution). Also, the snazzy fade transition is part of WordPress galleries, not my presentation.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I cobbled the code together from stuff I found online. I used this website a lot for the transparent box and background images. In short, I love it. I’ll probably use Beamer for all of my talks from now on because it forces simplicity, looks great, allows me to easily do full page images (instead of small pictures embedded in a slide), has the great header and footer automatically, etc, etc. Again, WordPress doesn’t allow me to upload text files, otherwise I’d gladly post the source file. (The more I deal with WordPress, the more I find it doesn’t let me do what I want. Like PDF slideshows.) Also, I detest how blurry and uncrisp the slideshow made my presentation look. On my Retina display, the presentation is just gorgeous with nice clean lines.. Here’s the PDF so you can see for yourself. (NOTE: The PDF is substantially different from the slides, a made a large number of changes, but don’t feel like redoing the slides).

Now, if the TeX community would come up with a Prezi clone that didn’t suck…. (although I guess jmpress counts).

UPDATE: My presentation doesn’t load in Acrobat Reader. I have no idea why. I get a document error (131) from Adobe Reader on all operating systems. My PDF loads just fine in Skim of Preview. I have no idea why. If you have a solution, I’d love to hear it. I tried using the \pdfminorversion=4 workaround, with some luck. Acrobat Reader opened and it seemed to work but was awfully slow.

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One thought on “My Recent Ecology Presentation at ESA Using LaTeX Beamer

  1. Absolutely Excellent. Keep up the good work Nathan and thanks for sharing. I am new to Latex and I am presently trying to get a basic presentation ready.

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