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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Christmas stocking filler

There are few books I have read that give me goosebumps. Presentation Zen: Simple ideas on presentation design and delivery is one of them.
By means of context, everything about the book is a "sweet spot" of my interests and attractions. I adore photography, and the images used in the book (from my favorite image source istockphoto) are truly stunning. The ideas on presentation and communication fit squarely with my taste and experience. And the author, Garr Reynolds, has a wonderful narrative voice, which is all at once calm, wise and powerful.
Here is a taste from the introduction:
"A teacher for one who seeks enlightenment would say the first step for the student is to truly see that life is somehow out of sync or off-kilter, that there is "suffering" if you will. And that this "out-of-kilterness" is a consequence of our own attachment to things that are inconsequential. Likewise, the first step to creating and designing great presentations is to be mindful of the current state of what passes for "normal" PowerPoint presentations and that what is "normal" today is out of sync and off-kilter with how people actually learn and communicate.
Each situation is different. But we all know, through our own experience, that the current state of presentations in business and academia causes its own degree of "suffering" for audiences and for presenters alike. If we desire to communicate with more clarity, integrity, beauty and intelligence, then we must move beyond what is considered to be "normal" to something different and far more effective. The principles I am most mindful of through every step of the presentation process are restraint, simplicity, and naturalness: Restraint in preparation. Simplicity in design. Naturalness in delivery. All of which, in the end, lead to greater clarity for us and our audience."
As one who has suffered through years of excruciating PowerPoint presentations, all I can say is "Hallelujah!"
This book was born from Garr Reynold's blog of the same name, Presentation Zen. It contains context and instruction for great presentation design from Garr and other experts, how-to information for putting together great-looking visuals as well as lots of samples of real-world slides. Although designers will appreciate its detail and focus, it is a book for anyone who uses images and words to communicate. Which is pretty much everyone.
And a bonus too juicy and sweet for me to imagine, I am featured in the book, using the sample slides from my mini-movie My Declaration of Independence. Given the caliber of some of the people in the book like Seth Godin, Nancy Duarte, Guy Kawasaki and Merlin Mann, I feel like a first-year drama student called on stage to act with Laurence Olivier. I am humbled and very thankful to be included in what I think will be a design book for the ages, which will be perched on bookshelves around the world, alongside weathered copies of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style.
So to follow the advice from the "the first forward in history presented in a book as PowerPoint slides," by Guy Kawasaki (which will delight and amuse you when you see it):

article found in "Escape from Cubicle Nation"

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