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Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery April 14, 2010

Posted by Kevin Liu in Uncategorized.

Presentation Zen, written by Garr Reynolds, explains the magic behind designing effective, winning presentations. The book walks through the stages for building a presentation, starting with the idea formation to a final presentation. The book is amazingly visual. For every point the author makes, there are example slides illustrating the point… usually an original, mediocre slide is juxtaposed with a transformed, more solid version of itself, which is noticeably more effective.  The book is filled with important concepts that can only enhance a presentation and cites poor or successful examples along the way.

Below, I have noted the points he made that stuck with me.

  • Brainstorm. Use the pen and paper/sticky notes method.
  • Sort your ideas into categories. Identify the core message.
  • Storyboard the presentation. Sketch prototypes of the slides onto paper. Note what you what you want to emphasize for each slide.
  • Build the storyboard in the “slide sorter” view so that the flow of the presentation is clear.
  • Kanso, Shizen, Shibumi… Simplicity, Naturalness, Elegance. He refers to Zen terms a lot and relates them to how presentations should be made. Some aesthetic values include simplicity, elegance, suggestive rather than descriptive/obvious, naturalness (nothing is forced), tranquility, eliminating the nonessential.
  • “Simplicity is power and leads to greater clarity, yet it is neither simple nor easy to achieve.”
  • Limit bullet points or don’t use them at all.
  • People cannot read and listen at the same time. Make your presentations like Steve Jobs and not Bill Gates. You can view Jobs’ most recent presentations here. http://www.apple.com/quicktime/guide/appleevents/
  • Use images whenever possible, they are powerful, direct and communicative. Visuals are meant to amplify your presentation and invoke more harmony with your presentation. Always think, “what information are you representing with the written word on a slide that you could replace with a photograph?” Using visuals “helps learning and increases retention compared to witnessing someone read words off a screen”. Along those lines, Garr also repeatedly recommends using royalty-free stock photos in presentations. They make presentations look so much more sharp and professional. Here are several stock photo resources that he listed in his book: iStockphoto.com, dreamstime.com, fotolia.com, Japanesestreets.com, Shutterstock.com, Shuttermap.com
  • Simplify but do not oversimplify.
  • It is sometimes better to use full images that spill out of the page and have text within the empty spaces.
  • Contrast can be used to your advantage to illustrate your ideas. This could be using fonts of different size, colors to illustrate something different or important.
  • Use the rule of thirds when making a slide. Divide the slide into 3×3 grids and try to align your content along the lines. Doing so will help your design elements fit more harmoniously on the slide.

These points are much more convincing if you could see the examples yourselves so I highly recommend reading this book. It is a really quick read and great reference to have. If you imitate the formatting and style shown in his example slides, your presentations will be darn successful.

On a final note, here are some of the presentations that he included in his book as examples what’s well done.

www.slideshare.net/chrislandry (Sustainable Food Lab)

www.slideshare.net/GKawasaki (Truemors)