Presentation Zen – a best blog

If you follow blogs on communicating, you certainly know of Presentation Zen and Garr Reynolds. If not, sign on now, because...

Everytime I try to find a great post of the week in Alltop's speaking category, there rarely is any that beats the depth, interest and visual power of Garr's work.

Here is his new post and recent review of Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers - a great new book reviewed countless places. But no review is as interesting as the Presentation Zen offering.

Presentation Zen blog stands head and shoulders above most of the rest because it is:

  1. Thorough. He does his research. Presentation Zen is deep, whether exploring type fonts or kinetic typography, or a book review, or great speaking, or the subtlety (or power) of a TED presentation.
  2. Design oriented. Because of this Garr is visual. Almost always he has video demonstrations of his points - a great tool. And he explains in graphic terms.
  3. Personal. You know his perspective and personality. He writes with a direct and personal style. It is interesting. He gives his opinion but doesn't espouse causes that get in the way of his message. He keeps his focus on his one cause - good design.

So Presentation Zen is this week's Alltop top hit. Although I think I'm going to exclude him from weekly picks from now on since he would too often be the pick. Just subscribe to his blog and get him regularly.

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Nancy Duarte, and the power of Twitter

Yesterday was a lazy Saturday morning, and I was checking my iPhone in bed. There was a Twitter from Nancy Duarte Tweeting that she was speaking at the Apple Store in San Francisco, so I turned to my wife, Dru Scott Decker, and said, "Want to go?" This would be a chance for me to see Nancy, show the power of Twitter (which I'm still experimenting with), and also use my new Flip Video that was still in it's box! And Dru, also a best selling author who loves Nancy's book Slide:ology said "Yes - love to."

Nancy Duarte at Apple Store

So the Flip Video came out - and it works great for a very small (iPod size) video camera of adequate quality that you can immediately edit and put up on YouTube. Here's an example - my first shot.

And Nancy was great - overcoming a lot of background noise and distractions at a busy downtown Apple Store. Here is Nancy with her first key point, on the importance of Telling Great Stories.

She had terrific slides of course, but even moreso was her great content (Dru took some notes as I was busy with Flip Video):

  1. Tell Great Stories - she illustrated with visuals that ALSO told the great stories by themselves.
  2. Reach Beyond Projection - a presentation can be slides - projected, but she told also of the many other varieties, from decks (the written) to on the web, to PDA plus devices - where you can interact, collaborate, and view. In other words, the world of presentation is a new world.
  3. Show Don't Tell - and here she gave a great example of a Garr Reynolds' presentation on SlideShare.
  4. Create a Profound Experience - unusual was a chart of visual storytelling that looked for the conflict and resolution. Nancy said to identify those points in a preso where you want people to be conflicted, for conflict generates emotion generates action.

Dru Scott also bought a few more copies of Slide:ology. That deserved an iPhone picture.

The Flip Video was OK, but the quality isn't great when you have poor sound and a screen as background. For a longer and higher quality view of Nancy, you might try this interview.

Other tidbits:

  • Nancy said to use high quality images - they evoke credibility, and Duarte Design spends over $150,000 a year on images!
  • Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds have changed the process of creating and presenting in less than a year with their influence, blogs, and particularly their wonderful and complimentary books Slide:ology and Presentation Zen. Both books are in the top 100 at Amazon already. Amazing.
  • Twitter, Tribes (also in the top 100 at Amazon) and Technology are changing the face of communicating. (At least task and relationship communicating - nothing will ever replace 'face to face'...)
  • The video revolution continues. Flip Video costs $179 and enables anyone to immediately shoot and edit and be able to use videos in their PowerPoints, blog posts, YouTube or devices. And video is the BEST way to capture emotion to influence to action in a very short time.
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Slide:ology – 20 Years Beyond PowerPoint

In Nancy Duarte's first and great book "slide:ology" she shows a vivid timeline of the history of Visual Aids - with PowerPoint dominating since 1987. If she had written this book 20 years ago, perhaps we wouldn't have the PowerPoint Abuse we have today. Nancy leads us now - and shows us how to create engaging and compelling visual support for our messages. Get her interview here.

I repeat what I said in the forward to her book, "It's more than slides and design - it's about communications and inspiration. And this book will help anyone - beginner or top professional - to get to the top of their game."

Read these good reviews - I couldn't detail it as well - and then click on Amazon and get the book:

If you scan all these reviews, and don't get the book, you're not on the right blog!

And Nancy has a great new blog too.

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New Improved SlideShare Contest

The Second Annual SlideShare Contest is underway, and it is improved, interesting and invaluable.

Three reasons:

  1. furthering the dialogue about how to use PowerPoint/Keynote
  2. presenting a myriad of vivid examples of excellence (and sometimes not so excellent)
  3. ultimately honing in on the important differences of using in person presentation (visual, audio, person - most business presentations), audio and written design (visual, audio - webinars, etc) and written and designed decks (visual only - slideshows without sound.)
  • You should enter, as you can win some great prizes, including a MacBook Air, Kindle, IPods, etc. And get competitive - it will hone your design skills.
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Ten Questions with Nancy Duarte

Nancy Duarte has a new book coming out in 2008, and you can be sure it will be innovative. Nancy and her husband Mark run Duarte Design in Silicon Valley, and are more than on the cutting edge of design - they ARE the cutting edge. We've talked about their work before, but thought you'd like to get more in depth on the importance of design to our communications and presentations (particularly considering PowerPoint abuse!)

So the Ten Questions for Nancy Duarte:

1. Question: You’ve made a great impact in the design and presentation world. Why is design important in the first place – why not just put out information?

Answer: To most people the words “presentation design” are an oxymoron. In reality presentations should not be delivered without careful thought and planning going into the visual aides. Presentations that are designed well are easy to interpret and give stronger credibility to the presenter. We should design our presentations well for the sake of the audience

2. Question: What is the one most important principle of design?

Answer: Simplicity is by far the most important principle. If visuals aren’t simple, they aren’t clear. We need to guide audiences to where they are supposed to start to process the information and in what order. Many presentations today create visual vertigo by too much complexity, too many visual vantage points and annoying animations. Remove anything that isn’t adding value to the message.

3. Question: Why do you think design is neglected when people put together presentations?

Answer: There are oceans of ugly PowerPoint out there. The bar is set so low in this communication medium that few people have ever even seen a well-developed presentation.  Renowned presenters like Al Gore invest in powerful visuals to tell their story but more importantly they invest extensive time into rehearsing the content so they can use their visual aides effectively.  It takes a tremendous amount of time to pull together a great presentation.

4. Question: You are finishing your first book. Why did you write it?

Answer: I’m writing this book (title in process) as a clarion call or manifesto. Each revolution begins with unrest. The people finally shout “enough” and then someone brave enough to take a stand and have a compelling rally cry changes history. Presentations are scorned by designers, derided by industry luminaries, and abused by companies and individuals. Oh, the unrest is there all right but who is doing anything about it?

I feel at times a bit like William Wallace from Braveheart. This book serves as my grand speech to try to get the troops to press forward. Granted, Wallace was disemboweled at the end (which could happen to our audiences if we don’t change).

5. Question: And of course, what’s the quick summary?

Answer: Over the last fifteen years, professional communications have changed drastically. Presentations are the primary way we communicate. There is a proliferation of presentation software in the workplace, but there are no documented best-practices for how to communicate optimally in this ubiquitous medium.

This is not a how-to book; it’s intended to challenge a presenter’s current approach, thought process and behavior toward developing visual support. It is a blend of conceptual thinking, inspirational design, solid principles, insightful interviews, and many before-and-after examples. It is full of practical approaches to the visual story development process. Most of the existing books about presentations address the digital tools or delivery, but none explain how to apply proven design principles to develop more effective visual aides.

6. Question: Why the Presentation Ecosystem? (See following page for Nancy’s Presentation Ecosystem graphic.)

Answer: I built this presentation ecosystem to begin discussions around all the facets of a presentation and to show their interrelated nature. So many times presenters only put effort into a small subset of what it really takes to pull together a well thought through and designed presentation. When my friend Jim Endicott referred to the presentation development process as a three-legged stool, it made sense—message, visual story and delivery. Ironically, an enormous number of books dedicate themselves to message development and presentation tips, but little information exists on crafting graphically compelling presentations.

7. Question: When you put together the design elements for Al Gore’s Academy Award winning movie “An Inconvenient Truth” (and maybe you can take some credit for the Nobel Peace prize he won?), what was the biggest challenge?

Answer: Working with such a successful thought leader has been very rewarding. He is gracious, open and smart. Many people don’t realize that he still travels around with just as much fiery passion delivering his presentation. The biggest challenge in reality is keeping up with him! His file is close to 600 slides and is translated into eight languages. He’s a busy guy!

8. Question: Who is the best and worst communicator you can think of in this year 2007?

Answer: There isn’t a single communicator that stands out for me which is sad to say during an election year.  One of the best things that has happened for communicators over the last year is that TED has begun to circulate their presentations via the web. Each presenter is a compelling communicator plus they have to constrain their talks to 18 minutes so the messages are rehearsed well and the content is succinct.

9. Question: What’s next for Duarte Design?

Answer: We believe that presentations, when done well, are quickly becoming a much more valuable communication medium.  Many of our clients are beginning to realize that presentations prepared well have an extended reach beyond just the traditional face-to-face delivery methods. Technology has matured to where presentations are being delivered via the web and devices in increasing numbers. We are pushing out presentations on just about any device and just about any web scenario you can dream up. We’re creating video slides, filming presenters on chroma screens, syncing slides with audio, pushing them into virtual worlds and putting them on video iPods, you name it! The options are endless.

10. Question: What’s next for Nancy Duarte?

Answer: As soon as I hit “send” to the publisher I want to take a looooong overdue vacation and sleeeeeep.

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