Do you make presentations to your customers, co-workers, or other groups?
When you do, is your first step to open up Microsoft’s PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote?
If you answered yes to either or both of these questions, I recommend you read Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas On Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds.
Garr’s book starts out with the most unusual and witty Forward I’ve ever read in a “business” book. Written by Guy Kawasaki, it makes the case for why you should read the book.
Presentation Zen expanded my horizons in two ways. First, it showed me how to go beyond bullets and graphs in PowerPoint by using visuals to illustrate my key points. Garr uses good and bad slides to make his points. Second, it provided me with several sources to go for these visuals.
The book is divided into: Preparation, Design, and Delivery. Garr does not suggest you open PowerPoint as the first step in creating a presentation. Instead, in the Preparation section, he suggests several other ways to begin. He also points out how your slides, notes, and handouts should compliment each other. More information should go in your handouts and notes than on your slides. Done this way, your slides can become less cluttered, and if designed right, your data is more prominent.
I found the section on Design to be the most enlightening. This is where most presenters get in trouble. Their slides are too cluttered with bullet points, charts, pictures, and as Garr points out, even logos.
The book is a joy to read. I found myself lingering over many of the slides, both the good and the bad, studying the flaws in some and admiring the art in others. As I read the book, I became more relaxed. Although excited by the knowledge I was acquiring, I found the way Garr presented the material to be very calming.
If you’re interested in further reading on this topic, Garr has a blog called Presentation Zen. You can also take his book and do a “mash up” with Tim Koegel’s The Exceptional Presenter. Both books will advance your knowledge of how to make an effective presentation.
If you’d like to study examples of well designed and delivered presentations, visit TED. For several humorous looks at the misuses of PowerPoint, check out If The Gettsyburg Address Had Been Done By PowerPoint and How Not To Use PowerPoint.