Posts Tagged ‘Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery Review.’

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery Review.

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery Review.

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Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery Description:

Presentation designer and internationally acclaimed communications expert Garr Reynolds, creator of the most popular Web site on presentation design and delivery on the net - - shares his experience in a provocative mix of illumination, inspiration, education, and guidance that will change the way you think about making presentations with PowerPoint or Keynote. Presentation Zen challenges the conventional wisdom of making “slide presentations” in today-s world and encourages you to think differently and more creatively about the preparation, design, and delivery of your presentations. Garr shares lessons and perspectives that draw upon practical advice from the fields of communication and business. Combining solid principles of design with the tenets of Zen simplicity, this book will help you along the path to simpler, more effective presentations.

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #1206 in Books
  • Published on: 2008-01-04
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 228 pages


  • ISBN13: 9780321525659
  • Condition: NEW
  • Notes: Brand New from Publisher. No Remainder Mark.

Customer Reviews:

This should be required reading for all presenters…5
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.

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…

Lacking Gravitas3
Like many others, I have grown (very) weary of the so-called “death by PowerPoint” culture which saturates the IT sector in which I work. I would gladly substitute every minute of mindless suffering sitting through too many presentations by sales persons and various “engineers” with 150% more time at the Dentist’s. Much as I hate visiting my Dentist, at least I’ll be healthier afterwards.

Also like many others, I wager, I found out about Presentation Zen the book from Presentation Zen the blog of which I am a fan. I am sorry to report that I am a bigger fan of the blog than I am of the book. First, the good.

The book itself is pleasing with good binding and great color. It’s easy to read with clear type and an attractive layout. Chapter heading and sub-headings are clear and the flow of the book’s content is harmonious. The reader can tell that good quality work went into the typesetting and publishing–kudos to New Riders.

How about content? Well here a few shortcomings appear and although not enough to dismiss the book outright are enough to cause me wonder. At 230 odd pages, the first impression as I flipped through is how “light” it is, literally and metaphorically. There is a surprising amount of white space and while that’s understandable from a design perspective, from a reader’s however, it falls short of fulfilling the promise of content a similarly priced book should deliver on.

Focused reading reveals surprisingly little that is original. I stopped counting at 12 the number of books by other authors referenced and quoted from; and while that isn’t a crime per se, it’s certainly a shortcoming. At best, it looks like Reynolds did a great job of editing, creating a pastiche of content from other authors and the reader might as well do the same thing: amass a large enough library and perform the acquisition of knowledge himself. That, at least, comes with the advantage that reader will be getting it wholesale from the source instead of the Presentation Zen précis.

There is some practical and usable advice (start with analog brainstorming then proceed to the digital, keep the lights on, use a remote) but it’s inadequately fleshed out. This information is better presented and with a heightened emphasis on practicality in other books–Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson comes to mind, one of the many cited as reference for further instruction.

A possible defense to the accusation of being light is that Reynolds’ wrote the book, as the subtitle hints, as more of a philosophical treatise on presentation design. Fine, but even then, it’s still light on those points as well. Reynolds is content to regurgitate some Japanese aphorisms and quotes from various personages that, while certainly inspirational, possess little value beyond that. The book ends up reading like a “pop psychology” cheer leading tome than what it means to be: a book instructing on presenting information to an audience.

Some of the subtext I noticed from reading is that Reynolds is a dye in the wool fan of Apple products with little if any regard for PC and PC software (from Windows to PowerPoint) including them as an afterthought, perhaps to sell more books. There is also a subtle but discernable thread of condescension toward American society–the number of “fat” Americans appearing in example slides started getting a little tired after a while. I don’t know if this was purposeful and I doubt it, but nevertheless it’s there.

The latter section of the book truly runs out of steam replete as it is with examples (with little to no analysis of them) filling page after page of slideware. It peters out with some feel-good advice from the author about creativity, etc. in what felt like padding.

In summary, Presentation Zen owes its existence (with apologies to Isaac Newton) to standing on the shoulders of giants on which it stands. Amazon has it for sale at a great price so definitely get it from here. Otherwise, there’s no way I see of plunking down full price for this book at your local bookstore.

Useful but disappointing3
I found Presentation Zen disappointing. It seemed to violate in writing style many of the principles it seeks to correct in slide design, reading more like a meandering conversation over drinks than a well-laid-out, step-by-step primer. For example, the book was frustratingly repetitive, with even the simplest points restated through multiple chapters (really, how many times do you have to suggest using post-it notes?). Some central points came and went quietly in sidebars, and others completely lacked explanation or justification (i.e. the rule for using six words maximum per slide). Every time I thought I was about to discover a new and enlightening concrete principle of visual design with valid reasoning, it seemed the point from the previous chapter was repeated instead. Moreover, exceptions or alternate approaches also weren’t considered, such as times when using a whopping seven words on a slide might be useful, or when more complex slide builds and transitions could help an audience grasp a concept. In addition, many of the points made in the book, such as the value of “taking risks,” seemed obvious and trite.

Overall, like many tedious slide shows I’ve endured, I felt the book could have been half as long and made its points with the same clarity, and would have showed more respect for the reader’s time. To its credit, it does offer some useful ideas on slide design, and some excellent graphic examples. It’s also visually appealing, with beautiful slide reprints, tons of “good” and “bad” examples to learn from, and cleanly-designed pages. Still, I’d trade the appealing design for tighter, more solid, more useful content.

“Please don’t buy this book! Once people start making better presentations, mine won’t look so good. (But if you truly want to learn what works and how to do it right, Garr is the man to learn from.)”
Seth Godin
Speaker and Blogger
Author, Meatball Sundae

“Garr is a beacon of hope for frustrated audiences everywhere. His design philosophy and fundamental principles bring life to messages and can invigorate careers. His principles of simplicity are as much a journey of the soul as they are restraint of the mouse.”
Nancy Duarte
CEO, Duarte Design

“Presentation Zen is just fantastic. Best of all it’s not another recipe book about “how to make slides” — this is about re-imagining how your entire presentation will work together as a persuasive and integrated show, from conception through delivery. Awesome.”
Merlin Mann

About the Author
Garr Reynolds is an internationally acclaimed communications expert, and the creator of the most popular Web site on presentation design and delivery on the net: A soughtafter speaker and consultant, his clients include many in the Fortune 500. A writer, designer, and musician, he currently holds the position of Associate Professor of Management at Kansai Gaidai University in Japan. Garr is a former corporate trainer for Sumitomo Electric, and once worked in Cupertino, California as the Manager for Worldwide User Group Relations at Apple, Inc. A longtime student of the Zen arts and resident of Japan, he currently lives in Osaka where he is Director of Design Matters Japan.