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298 of 307 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This should be required reading for all presenters..., January 1, 2008
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This review is from: Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (Paperback)
This is everything that I want my presentations to be when I'm up on stage... Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds. This will make you rethink everything you've known (and likely done) about how a presentation should be designed.

Contents:
Introduction: Presenting in Today's World
Preparation: Creativity, Limitations, and Constraints; Planning Analog; Crafting the Story
Design: Simplicity - Why It Matters; Presentation Design - Principles and Techniques; Sample Slides
Delivery: The Art of Being Completely Present; Connecting With an Audience
The Next Step: The Journey Begins
Photo Credits; Index

There's so much good stuff here that it's hard to figure out where to begin. Reynolds advocates for a departure from the ordinary style of presentation involving PowerPoint. You've all sat through those (or given them)... Pages of slides, chock full of text, gratuitous use of special effects, etc. Presentation Zen is more about simplicity and storytelling. Your slides should support *you*, the speaker. If someone can get all the information from your slides, why do they need you? Your slides should not overwhelm the audience, but should draw their attention to the point that you are making in your talk. Couple this approach with the ability to tell stories rather than recite facts, and you can put together presentations that will be appreciated, remembered, and best of all, acted upon.

He also gets into how best to design appealing and arresting slides. Reynolds uses sites like iStockPhoto to avoid the overused and cheesy clipart that comes part and parcel with PowerPoint. And rather than just pasting a graphic on the screen under some text, the graphic *becomes* the slide, and the minimal text is positioned on the graphic in such a way that the slide becomes a work of art. Since I do technical presentations, my first objection was that this doesn't give the listener anything to take away in terms of content. But rather than make your slides the take-away, Reynolds suggests that you put together a separate "handout" document that can be given out after the talk (or downloaded). That document can contain the details and facts that you present, without overwhelming the listener during the actual talk. It's a simple concept, but not one that I've seen done often.

The bad thing about a book like this is it points out just how bad I actually am at presenting. The good thing is that it challenges me (as well as shows me) to get a whole lot better. This should be required reading for anyone before they start to put together anything in PowerPoint...
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 15, 2008, 1:53:45 PM PST
Yes - the best book I've ever read for clarity of presenation design, thus helps one clarity the message
Kudos to Garr, an artist
- Kare, movingfrommetowe

Posted on May 9, 2008, 8:30:19 AM PDT
J. Blilie says:
Nice review. This author's ideas sound very similar to those of Edward Tufte, who's books I strongly recommend.

Posted on Dec 14, 2008, 9:22:00 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 14, 2008, 3:17:41 PM PST
David Field says:
I've posted a similarly dismissive comment on the Nancy Duarte book. This isn't a how-to book, it's a coffee-table book. If you don't pick it up and immediately start producing the same level slides as you see, it's not worth owning.

I mean, how many times do you need to see a picture of a Zen Garden? When you first looked at the book, did you have the feeling that the book was somehow "right"? Isn't this a "pretty-pretty" book that you can feel good about having?

Reynolds gives himself away right near the beginning of the book. If one can take a Zen approach, all will be clear. Who is most suffused in a Zen culture? The Japanese. And what does Reynolds see on the train? A Japanese guy doing a Western-style presentation.

As I said in my review of the Duarte book - put a whole bunch of your presentation creators in a room with copies of this book. After a day - or maybe a couple of days - let them out. How much improved with their presentations be? Little or nothing.

J. Blilie - Edward Tufte is not a good mentor, when it comes to PowerPoint. His useful advice is somewhat sparse and well-known. However, his examples (like the Russian Invasion diagram) are designed for Print, not presentation. You can't expect audiences to sit and watch and eventually say, "Wow there are seven graphs in one here!" If your audience expect a new slide as soon as they've read what's on the current one, they won't be interested in looking to see whatever extra information the slide will reveal. Put the info in individual slides.
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