Monday, June 01, 2009

Synopsis: Presentation Zen (Introduction)

Here's a weird bit of research: people find it more difficult to process information if it's delivered to them verbally and in writing at the same time. That means that most Powerpoint presentations (*) actively interfere with how people actually learn and communicate.

* The stereotypical 'speaker reciting from the bullet-pointed list on the slide right in front of them'.

This is one of the starting points for the book I'm reading; Presentation Zen is about making better presentations - ones that help you communicate more effectively (or at least not bore your audience). This is something I've been interested in for a while; it ties into one of the potential new things I'm going to do.

Designing a presentation is a creative act

A presentation involves transforming facts or opinions into a story. I haven't read very much of Presentation Zen yet, but I suspect this is going to be one of the fundamental principles of its approach.

And now I think about it, that transformation can be applied to a lot of things: advertising, editorialising, propaganda. Reflecting on it, I realise that makes me a little uneasy: communicating in order to share your insights is something I'm fine with; communicating in order to persuade the audience brings up memories of feeling manipulated. I guess presentations can have an ethical dimension to them.

The author, Garr Reynolds, suggests that the first thing to do when given the opportunity to create a presentation is to slow down. Take the opportunity to think about what is important and what isn't. This leads into ideas of:
  • Restraint (in preparation)
  • Simplicity (of design)
  • Naturalness (of presentation)
Reynolds suggests that applying these three principles will lead to greater clarity in your presentation. I'm about to reach the point in the book where he explores the first of these: restraint.
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