Presentation Zen by Garr ReynoldsNotable passages from
Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds

New Riders, Berkeley, 2008

The six aptitudes are: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning.

  • Design - consider your topic and your objectives, your key messages, and your audience.
  • Story - for teaching, for sharing, for illuminating, and of course, for honest persuasion.
  • Symphony - synthesis and the ability to use seemingly unrelated pieces to form and articulate the big picture before us is crucial, even a differentiator.
  • Empathy - notice when the audience is "getting it" and when they are not.
  • Play - playfulness and humor can go a long way toward making a presentation palatable.
  • Meaning - making a presentation is an opportunity to make a small difference in the world.


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PechaKucha (chatter). 20 slides, each shown for 20 seconds. www.pechakucha.org


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Questions We Should Be Asking

  • How much time do I have?
  • What's the venue like?
  • What time of the day?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What's their background?
  • What do they expect of me (us)?
  • Why was I asked to speak?
  • What do I want them to do?
  • What visual medium is most appropriate for this particular situation and audience?
  • What is the fundamental purpose of my talk?
  • What's the story here?
  • And this is the most fundamental question of all. Stripped down to its essential core:

What is my absolutely central point?

Or put it this way: If the audience could remember only one thing (and you'll be lucky if they do), what do you want it to be?


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[A]fter the hour-long talk was over I realized that the presentation was a miracle of sorts: until that day I didn't think it was possible to actually listen to someone make a presentation with slides in my native language of English and for me to genuinely not understand a single point that was made. Not one. Nada. I wanted my hour back.
   The wasted hour was not the fault of PowerPoint or bad slides, however. The presentation would have been greatly improved if the presenter had simply kept two questions in mind in preparing for the talk: What's my point? And why does it matter?


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Simplicity is the goal, but as Einstein said, "Make everything as simple as possible but no simpler."


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Usually, we think about time in terms of "How can I save more time?" Time is a constraint for us, but when planning a presentation, what if we took the notion of "timesaving" and looked at it from the point of view of our audience instead of the our own personal desires to do things more quickly and save time? What if it wasn't just about our time, but it was about their time? When I am in the audience, I appreciate it very much when I am in the presence of a speaker who is engaged, has done his homework, has prepared compelling visuals which add rather than bore, and generally makes me happy I have attended. What I hate more than anything … is the feeling I get when I realize I am at the beginning of a wasted hour ahead of me.


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"Do not speak – unless it improves on silence."
– from an istockphoto.com image in the book


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Emptiness which is conceptually liable to be mistaken for sheer nothingness is in fact the reservoir of infinite possibilities.
– Daisetz Suzuki


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[T]he "rule of thirds," which is derived from the golden mean, is a basic design technique that can help you add balance (symmetrical or asymmetrical), beauty, and a higher aesthetic quality to your visuals.
   The rule of thirds is a basic technique that photographers learn for framing their shots. Subjects placed exactly in the middle can often make for an uninteresting photo. A viewfinder can be divided by lines—real or imagined—so that you have four intersecting lines or crossing points and nine boxes that resemble a tic-tac-toe board. The four crossing points (also called "power points," if you can believe it) are areas that you might place your main subject, rather than in the center.


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Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated?
– David Bader


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A good presenter is fully committed to the moment, committed to being there with the audience at that particular place and time. He may have pressing problems—who doesn't?—but he puts those aside so that he may be fully "there." When you give a presentation, your mind should not be filled and racing with a million concerns, distracted from the here and now. It is impossible to have a real conversation with someone when he is "somewhere else." Likewise, it is impossible to have a truly successful presentation when you are "somewhere else."


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I absolutely love TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design). The annual TED conference brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are invited to give insanely great talks on stage in only 18 minutes.
www.ted.com/talks

[Toshen: personal all-time favorites of mine are the TED talks by Hans Rosling; in addition, Reynolds calls out June Cohen, John Doerr, Lawrence Lessig, and Carolyn Porco.]


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