I have just raced through reading Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds and I have now become somewhat evangelical about this book and this approach to giving presentations. I have given a few presentations to user conferences before, nothing earth shattering but I hope reasonably informative. I hope none of my presentations were ever in the “death by powerpoint” zone, but after reading this book, it has made want to completely throw out my old style of presenting.
This beautifully designed book shows that less really is more when it comes to creating slides. Reynolds is firmly of the opinion that when the presenting the slides should reinforce the point you are making, not actually repeat what you are saying – I’m sure we have all seen presentations where the presenter has just read the contents of their slide, not necessarily all that common, but when you do see it, it really makes the audience suffer. Even when things are not that bad a lot of presentations do try and cram far too much information on the slide, the audience are there to see the presenter not read the slides -I have been guilty of this myself.
The slides should not be able to be read on their own, without the presenter the slides should in fact be useless. He has coined a great word for slides that try to be two things at once, a slide and a document – the slideument. His idea is that you should write a document for the audience to take away that is completely different from the slides that you use as a visual aide in your presentation. This is a completely radical change from all the other conferences I have attended, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense as I have often looked at slides of someones presentation and found them to contain information, but just not enough to make sense. If the person had actually produced a document to read, I’m sure I would have obtained more information – hey we can’t all go to every conference.
The book also has good ideas in how you should prepare a presentation, but it is not prescriptive in the way you should format your slides, i.e. there is no, oh you must have X number of bullet points per slide etc. There are however some excellent examples of slides, and in particular there are quite a few before and after slides, and seriously the changes are fantastic, the better slide almost screams at you from the page. Reynolds is very much in favour of using high quality images in your presentations, his favoured resource for this is istockphoto.
I have very much decided to incorporate the ideas in this book for my next presentation, which will be about comparing and contrasting ASM with ZFS. Hopefully this will be at the next UKOUG UNIX SIG.
If you are interested in improving your presentation skills I highly recommend obtaining a copy of this book.