Recently I delivered a presentation on business continuity and risk management at a conference in Paris. While preparing my presentation, inspired by a blog post by John Stepper, I abandoned the standard PowerPoint approach in favour of the one described in the book presentation zen by Garr Reynolds. This jump came easy.
In presentation zen Reynolds advocates that, “An effective presentation allows us to amplify the meaning of our words.” My sentiments exactly. I have always believed that it is hard to inspire with bullets.
What I decided to do
With me, Reynolds’ material found fertile ground, and yet applying it came with some anxiety. I was unsure how the conference organizers and audience would react. Undaunted, I decided to apply Reynolds’ methodology, and specifically the four simple ideas for immediate improvement offered in the book by Seth Godin:
- “Make slides that reinforce your words, not repeat them. No more than six words on a slide EVER;
- Don’t use cheesy images. Use professional stock images;
- No dissolves, spins, or other transitions. Keep it simple; and
- Create a written document. A leave-behind.”
How I did it
I began by identifying the three key points on which I wanted to convince the audience, and I conceived a (hopefully compelling) narrative to logically lead the audience to them; each slide depicted part of the narrative in sequence. Next, I plotted the elements for each slide and identified a unifying theme for each, which served as the basis to select the slide image (see photo of my office whiteboard below).
Remembering ghosts of presentations past where images I downloaded after a Google search pixellated and blurred when enlarged on a screen, I invested in an iStockphoto account and found professional images that best matched the unifying theme for each slide (the results justified the cost). There were no fancy transitions between the slides.
This process simplified the preparation of the written handout. The handout, which was included in the conference package for participants and posted on my blog, incorporated both the slides and the fleshed-out details of my talk.
The thinking behind the presentation zen approach is seductive:
“You put up a slide. It triggers an emotional reaction in the audience. They sit up and want to know what you’re going to say that fits in with that image. Then, if you do it right, every time they think of what you said, they’ll see the image (and vice versa).”
Against this standard, I think I have some way to go, but the feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive. I won’t deliver a standard bullet-ridden presentation again if I can help it. In future I will give more thought to the ‘six words’ on each slide, which I did not always include.
The other key lesson that I learned was the importance of constraints, self-imposed or otherwise, to drive innovation and a creativity. In this case, the presentation zen approach itself enforced discipline. As Reynolds notes, “Constraints and limitations are a powerful ally, not an enemy.”
When preparing a presentation in future, I will apply Reynolds’ principles:
“Restraint in preparation. Simplicity in design. Naturalness in delivery.”
Please let me know if I am successful or not.
Filed under: Business Continuity, Change Management, Design, ERM, IM, KM, Presentations, Risk, Risk Management, Social Learning, Social Media, Social Web, Work design Tagged: | Garr Reynolds, iStockphoto, Paris, Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery