Presentation Zen – An Instant Classic

Presentation Zen is a new book by Garr Reynolds that should be read by any business presenter, leader, politician, professional... well, by everybody. It's that good.

This book about presentation design is about much more than that, and I recommend you run right out and get it (or rather log on to Amazon and buy it where it is already, amazingly, in the top 100, and also in its second printing).

This is an outstanding book for YOU for three primary reasons:

1. It is brilliantly written and designed

2. It is a concept book that is about life as well as presenting your ideas

3. It is also a how-to book, and one we will be giving out to our key clients

Read on for the details...

1. This is a beautiful book, brilliantly written. Garr designed it as well as wrote it, and he put it

together like a great in-person presentation. Presentation Zen uses:

  • Stories, beginning each chapter and sprinkled throughout. I loved his opening about the 'aha' moment with the Bento on the Super Express train from Tokyo to Osaka.
  • Visuals, probably the best you've seen in a published book - not only beautiful but relevant. Look at Mt. Fuji hovering over the Super Express on page 4. More importantly, look at the beautiful PowerPoint visuals that are sprinkled throughout.
  • Concepts, many new ideas and reframing many important ideas. Yes, he of course details why PowerPoints are abused in almost all business presentations, but he shows how slides and visuals can be used in new ways.
  • Authenticity, his own voice is personal and powerful. Much like his great blog at is the most popular blog on presentations.
  • Aha's, the moments of insight that are plentiful are also delightful. Like in Chapter 2 on Creativity Garr reveals in several ways how structure gives birth to creativity.
  • Sharing the Wealth, where we hear from outstanding other voices like Guy Kawasaki, Dan Pink, Nancy Duarte, Chip Heath, Brenda Ueland and Seth Godin - all blended into the one voice of the book.

2. This is a concept book. In a way it was hard to read since I wanted to go fast so I could review it, but I wanted to dwell on the ideas and the visuals and the layout and analyze it. Yes, it will take several readings, and will be a reference book for all good presenters:

  • Garr Reynolds gets it right. From the outset he lays out what is wrong with PowerPoints and what we call "information vs. influence" and Chip and Dan Heath call the "curse of knowledge." Garr explains it, and what to do about it.
  • His contents are in three sections: Preparation, Design and Delivery
  • His three key concepts are: Clarity, Simplicity and Naturalness
  • In Preparation, he uses similar concepts that we teach about getting out of analytical, logical and digital mode and into organic, creative and analog mode. Don't start at the computer in your PowerPoints, start with your Focus (or Point Of View as we say in the Decker Grid) and getting your ideas on post-its in a brainstorm session.
  • In Design, he is a master - you have to read the book and see the pictures.I don't know a lot about design so I learned a lot.
  • In Delivery, he stresses being natural. I would have emphasized the importance of confidence and behavior more - but of course that's our area of expertise. And who's to quibble with a masterpiece. That's like saying Tiger Woods is not the greatest golfer because he only won three of four Majors. (No one has ever won all four.)

3. This is a "How-To" book. On top of all of the above, this is one of the best teaching books on presentations that there is, and belongs on every bookshelf. Since it emphasizes PowerPoint (and Keynote of course) design and business presentations, naturally it will make the biggest impact if that's your presentation venue. But if you are a doctor, media personality, non-profit leader, pastor, musician or just a regular old person (since we all speak,) this is a book from which you can gain a lot of inspiration and information. And you will enjoy reading it. Here's Amazon to save you time...

3 thoughts on “Presentation Zen – An Instant Classic
  1. No need to preach to me…I pre-ordered it, ran to my mailbox when it arrived, and read it easily in two days. I loved it. I design PowerPoints every day for my company, and PZ stays in my laptop bag like a bible in a hotel room. I refer back to it all the time.
    Now, just to get our higher-ups to realize that bullet points DON’T WORK!!

  2. Very good, informative review. I’d also suggest another book — a classic no one has ever heard of called “Moving Mountains: The Art of Letting Others See Your Way,” by Henry Boettinger. Peter Drucker called it a masterpiece. It’s old. But it could have been written tomorrow.
    I recently posted on it “The Best Kept Secret of Great Presentations … They Don’t Teach Moving Mountains in School
    Thanks Bert. I just became aware of your blog. I tagged your RSS feed.
    Steve Kayser

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