Presentation Zen

I just read presentationzen by Garr Reynolds. It is a quick read with terrific graphics. I think the book is mostly targeted to business people who have no graphic or instructional design background, but it has valuable information for people who design training materials every day.

One of the concepts carried throughout the book is simplicity. Here’s a great thought on how simplicity relates to appearance/design. There is a difference between design and decoration. Decoration is noticeable, like icing on a cake. Design is unnoticed. Design starts at the beginning; it is not an afterthought.

Another observation drives home the point about how important it is to start out strong. The author references Seth Godin, “Often, people come to a conclusion about your presentation by the time you’re on the second slide. After that, it’s often too late for your bullet points to do you much good.” Wow, do you really want your second slide to be a list of learning objectives? I don’t.

Here’s some more great advice. Do only what is necessary to convey what is essential. Clutter, bulk and erudition confuse perception and stiffle comprehension. Simplicity allows clear and direct attention. Clarity and simplicity are often the only things people want or need.

It would be easy to go on, but if these topics interest you, your time would be better spent reading the book. This is a good one.


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  1. jimallan says

    Design starting at the beginning, reminded me of accessibility. It too starts at the beginning and should be un-noticable to the user, and totally available when called upon.

    The comment about starting STRONG made me think of something those of us who do W3C presentations started doing. In this world of text messaging, wireless connections, email, etc (especially at W3C meetings) if you start the presentation with introduction of yourself, overview etc; you have lost the audience. By the time you get to the meat they are involved in email. At the W3C we have started right into the presention from the word GO, something catchy but to the point…get the audience engaged, after a few minutes, work in the introduction and overview.

    This is much like most TV shows today, the show starts at the top of the hour, no credits, just story, then a few commercials, then the theme song and credits, then the show continues. have to hook the audience first so they don’t change the channel, then give the credits.


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