slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentationsby Nancy Duarte should be on every presenter's shelf. The book is full of practical advices starting from how to generate ideas for your presentation, going through how to structure it and present the data to what colors and pictures to choose. It is true that every one of us has been in boring presentations – I would say majority of the presentations I’ve been to have been boring, and this book will help you stand out and be “The One Presenter” and not just “One Of the Others”.
Here are the big ideas I took away from the book:
- Presentations are about the audience not about the presenter.
- Every presentation should have an engaging story.
- The slides are helping the presenter make his or her point and should not distract the audience.
- Presentations are not documents – use visuals not text.
- The best presentations are result of collective effort and not individual achievement.
Normally I would take the best parts of the book and keep them on my blog for reference however the book itself is A reference – therefore I have it on my shelf and plan to use it every time I prepare presentation. Though here is what you can read in the book:
- Questionnaire that helps you define your audience.
- Different methods for brainstorming and generating ideas.
- Extensive list of diagrams that you can use in your presentations; explaining also when to use them.
- Practical examples how to present the data.
- How to arrange the elements on your slides and what the meaning of the elements and their position is?
- How to use different visual elements like background, color and text?
- How to use images?
- How and when to use animations?
- How to use templates?
- The constraints you need to deal with when creating your presentation.
At the time I was reading the book my team and I had to prepare a presentation for an offsite. The goal of the offsite was to present broader group of colleagues and partners with our plans for the future. Applying the principles in the book we decided to change the template and although we kept the points from the original one we created presentation that stand-out from the rest. Changing the background and the colors, placing the right pictures at the right times and adding story to the presentation allowed us to really make people think about the area we will be working on. Here is how we approached the presentation (and you can read about this approach in the book):
- I scheduled regular meetings with my team to work on the presentation. We had about 5 to 6 one-hour-sessions for the whole team where we brainstormed and generated ideas for the presentation. We came up not only with a story for it but also with two good diagrams that we plan to use as our model.
- Once we knew what we want to present we started creating the slides. We were supposed to have a checkpoint with our manager and the rest of the presenting teams few days (actually one working day and the weekend) before the event – at the time from all four presentations ours was the worst :) We all had good idea what we wanted to present but we weren’t ready to put the slides yet. It took us another 4-5 hours to have them created.
- Once we had the draft created we worked over email (because it was the weekend already) to finally polish those.
- My colleague who did the actual presentation also rehearsed for few additional hours with another member of my team.
- The actual presentation was a hit. My colleague did great job telling the story and inspiring the people in the room and the slides we created gave additional weight on the points she made.
After the presentation I received lot of feedback from people saying that this was the best presentation from all – they really liked it and it made lot of impact on them. My manager also stopped by and congratulated us – he was amazed how we emerged from the chaotic and unclear slides we presented on the checkpoint. Of course I don’t want to take all the credit for the presentation – my team did great job creating it and my report did great job presenting – it was a team success.