After Hours: Evoking Emotion

Cheryl Stevens creates presentations to share memories

Cheryl Stevens has always looked for ways to store, display and share memories.

Instead of simply putting her photos in an album, Stevens, office support assistant in the Office of Academic Programs, started to build scrapbooks and placemats for her four children as a unique way to capture the past. That hobby has turned into an opportunity to create slideshow presentations, with a musical component, for friends and family.

“This all started years ago when I was trying to find ways to store my photos where I would actually look at them,” Stevens said. “In the past, we would just put the photos in an album. Once the album was filled we put it on a shelf and wouldn’t look at it again. With the placemats, we could put them out and see them at any time. Seeing those pictures would spark so many memories. Also, when we had people over, those placemats were great conversation starters.”

Stevens’ scrapbooking and placemat creations were not only for her children – she created memories for family members as well. As technology started to evolve, Stevens’ way to share her memories evolved. With the help of a slideshow, PowerPoint-like program, ProShow Gold, she started to combine her photos with music, creating presentations to recount memories.

An example of some of Stevens' scrapbook and placemat creations.An example of some of Stevens’ scrapbook and placemat creations.

“I really got into this about 16 years ago and it’s just kind of grown from there,” Stevens said. “It’s a lot of fun to combine those most meaningful photos with a song that evokes a number of memories.”

Stevens said the most difficult part of creating a presentation is gathering the correct photos. While people generally have hundreds of photos to dig through, a one-song presentation only needs about 25 photos.

“You really have to decide how you want to format the presentation,” Stevens said. “You have so many pictures – do you want to focus on one area of life or make it more of a timeline? That’s the toughest part.”

Stevens’ first presentations were for her children. She then created shows for her parents’ and grandparents’ anniversaries. Stevens made numerous presentations to celebrate her dad’s life, as well as several others.

Stevens’ longest presentation was for her sister’s husband, a retired fire chief. She used four songs for the presentation – the biggest one she has created.

“It’s all about capturing those special moments,” Stevens said. “It can be tough because it’s someone else’s memories. What if you cut a photo that has special significance for them? Still, it’s a lot of fun.”

One of the most meaningful presentations Stevens has put together was for a group of exchange students from France. Stevens served as an interim study abroad officer for the group, developing a lasting friendship with each of the students. She not only built a presentation to showcase their time together, she put together two large scrapbooks.

“I picked the song ‘For Good’ from the musical Wicked for the presentation,” Stevens said. “It was a great song that really fit our relationship. It was definitely emotional watching that presentation with them. I guess I’m a little sappy.”

Stevens most recently did presentations for two coworkers’ retirements – CeCe Leslie and Jan Russell.

“There have been a handful of really fun opportunities to bring my hobby to work and make these presentations for friends,” Stevens said. “These presentations are incredibly time-consuming to make – but they have been worth it after seeing everyone watch them.”

Stevens tries to end the presentations with fun, upbeat memories. She saves the more emotional memories for the middle of the show.

“I’m one of those people who hears a song and it automatically sparks a memory,” Stevens said. “That’s why I love this program – you can set all of your pictures to music.

“Sometimes I’ll hear a song that I used in a presentation and all of the pictures come flooding back. Music is powerful. Music matched with the pictures – it evokes a lot of emotion.”