Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Personal MBA Update - Presentation Zen

Personal MBA Update - Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds: I never thought I would ever read a book on effectively utilizing and presenting with PowerPoint, let alone enjoy it, however it was on the Personal MBA reading list and I found it at the library so I picked it up. Presentation Zen has a new agey Gen Y vibe to it, but the information in it is incredible. The book walks the walk as well with an amazing set of visuals and examples to show. I really wish this book was standard issue for the Air Force because death by PowerPoint has become endemic. I have included a plethora of notes and key points from the book but to really get the full effect you have to see the visuals and examples as well. I look forward to testing out some of the techniques and am really interested to see how it goes over in my current line of work since it is the status quo to basically do the opposite of everything Presentation Zen says. As mentioned in the book, Presentation Zen is a way of thinking not a step by step guide which of course is easier read than implemented, but hopefully my presentation skills only progress from here.

- “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo Da Vinci
- If we desire to communicate with more clarity, integrity, beauty and intelligence we must move beyond what is considered to be normal to something different and far more effective
- Principles to be most mindful are restraint, simplicity, and naturalness. Restraint in preparation, simplicity in design, naturalness in delivery.
- Presentation Zen is an approach not a step by step method
- Putting the same information on a slide in text form that is coming out of our mouths does not help in fact it hurts our message
- Six right brain directed aptitudes: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning
- Design: during pre slowdown your busy mind. Consider your topic and objectives, key messages and your audience.
- Story: Best story tellers are ones who tell true stories. Put personality, character and experiences into the material and form a narrative, which is illuminating, engaging, and memorable
Symphony: Synthesis and the ability to use seemingly unrelated pieces to form and articulate the big picture is crucial. Illuminate relationships we may not have seen before.
Empathy: Empathy is emotional, putting yourself in the position of others.
Play: Work is not about seriousness but play as well. Laughing people are more creative and productive
Meaning: Making a presentation is an opportunity to make a small difference in the world.
- Communication is about getting others to adopt your point of view to help them understand why you are excited
- “Communication is the transfer of emotion.” Seth Godin
- Make slides reinforce your words not repeat them. Use pro stock photos. No transitions. Create a written handout.
- Business and creativity are not mutually exclusive
- Start with the beginners or child's mind – They don’t know what is not possible so they're open to exploration discovery and experimentation.
- “In the beginners mind there are many possibilities, in the experts there are few.” Shunryu Suzuki
- “When forced to work within a strict framework the imagination is taxed to its utmost and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom the work is likely to sprawl.” T.S. Elliot
1. Constraints and limitations are a powerful ally 2. Creating your own constraints limitations and parameters is often fundamental to good creative work
- “Do only what is necessary to convey what is essential. Carefully eliminate elements that distract from the essential whole, elements that obstruct and obscure….Clutter, bulk, and erudition confuse perception and stifle comprehension, whereas simplicity allows clear and direct attention.” Richard Powell
-In Sum: Preparing designing and delivering a presentation is a creative act, and you are a creative being, creativity requires and open mind and a willingness to be wrong, restrictions and limitations are not the enemy they are a great ally, as you prepare a presentation, exercise restraint and keep these three words in mind always: simplicity, clarity, brevity.
- Planning analog - get away from the computer and identify your core message(s)
- “What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we've ever come up with and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.” Steve Jobs
- “If you have the ideas you can do a lot without machinery. Once you have those ideas, the machinery starts working for you….Most ideas you can do pretty darn well with a stick in the sand.” Alan Kay
- Busyness kills creativity. The reason presentations are ineffective is that people don’t take the time to assess what is important and what is not.
- “Others inspire us, information feeds us, practice improves our performance but we need quiet time to figure things out, to emerge with new discoveries, to unearth our original answers.” Ester Buchholz
- “In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.” Rollo May
Questions: How much time do I have, whats the venue like, what time of day, who is the audience, whats their background, what do they expect of me, why was I asked to speak, what do I want them to do, what visual medium is most appropriate for this situation and audience, what is the fundamental purpose of the talk, whats the story here, and this is the most fundamental question of all what is my absolutely central point?
- Whats my point and why does it matter? Can you pass the elevator test?
- “Never ever hand out copies of your slides, and certainly not before your presentation. That is the kiss of death. By definition since slides are speaker support material they are there in support of the speaker…YOU. As such they should be completely incapable of standing by themselves, and are thus useless to give to your audience, where they will simply be guaranteed as a distraction. The flip side of this is that if the slides can stand by themselves why the heck are you up there in front of them?” David S Rose
- Three parts of presentation: 1. Slides the audience sees 2. Notes you see 3. Handouts
- Avoid the slideument – no one goes back to read slides they aren’t great visually and don’t stand alone
- In sum: slow down your busy mind to see your problem and goals more clearly, find time to see the big picture, for greater focus try turning off the computer and going analog, use paper and pens or a whiteboard first to record and sketch your ideas, key questions are what is your main point and why does it matter, if you audience remembers only one thing what should it be, preparing detailed handout keeps you from feeling compelled to cram everything into your visuals.
-Why do ideas stick? SUCCES or simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, stories.
- Simplicity: if everything is important then nothing is important
- Unexpectedness: violate their expectations. Surprise them. Make the audience aware of gaps in their knowledge and fill those gaps
- Concreteness: use natural speech with real examples
- Credibility: stats are relatively useless. What important is the context and meaning
- Emotions: make them feel something. Use images. Humans make emotional connections with people not abstractions. 100 grams of fat vs two burgers and a greasy set of fries
- Stories: all great presentations tell a story
1. Brainstorming - step back go analog ideas
2. Grouping and identifying the core - one idea that is central and memorable from the audience point of view. Use chunking to group similar ideas and a unifying theme
3. Storyboarding off the computer - use stickies or print blank slides
4. Storyboarding in slide sorter/light table view - pg 88
- always keep the audience in mind by keeping your story as short as you can while still doing an effective job telling your story and go back and edit parts that aren't crucial to the overall point.
- In Sum: make your ideas sticky by keeping things simple using examples and stories looking for the unexpected and tapping into peoples emotions, a presentation is never just about the facts, brainstorm your topic away from the computer, chunk (group) the most important bits, Identify the underlying theme and be true to that theme (core message) throughout the creation of the presentation, make a storyboard of your ideas on paper and then use software to lay out a solid structure that you can see, show restraint at all times and bring everything back to the core message.
- "Our lives are frittered away by detail; simplify simplify simplify." Henry David Thoreau
- Simplicity means the achievement of maximum effect with minimum means
- "By stripping down an image to essential meaning, an artist can amplify that meaning..." Scott McCloud
- In Sum: simplicity is powerful and leads to greater clarity, yet it is neither simple nor easy to achieve. Simplicity can be obtained through the careful reduction of the nonessential. As you design slides keep the following concepts in mind: subtlety, grace and understated elegance. Good designs have plenty of empty space. Think subtract not add. When simplicity is the goal it is possible to be too simple. Your job is to find the balance most appropriate to your situation.
- Signal vs noise ratio: communicating clearly with as little degradation to the message as possible
- SNR examples pg 123
- Picture superiority effect: pictures are remembered better than words, especially when people are casually exposed with minimal time.
- Great examples on page 137-139
- Photo sites on page 140: free ones are morguefile.com, flickr.com, imageafter,com, sxc.hu, everystockphoto.com
- Use quotes! add credibility to your story
- "Emptiness which is conceptually liable to be mistaken for sheer nothingness is in fact the reservoir of infinite possibilities." Daisetz Suzuki
- Empty space: is nothing but a powerful something which gives the few elements power
- Use the grid and four power points:
1. Contrast: means difference. Were wired to notice differences. Make elements clearly different
2. Repetition: using same or similar elements through your design subtly using elements to show the design is part of the whole
3. Alignment: nothing should look as if it were placed randomly. Elements connected visually
4. Proximity: moving things closer or farther apart
- Examples 158
- "The more strikingly visual your presentation is, the more people will remember it. And more importantly they will remember you." Paul Arden
- In Sum: Design matters. But design is not about decoration or about ornamentation. Design is about making communication as easy and clear for the viewer as possible. Keep the principle of signal vs noise in mind to remove all nonessential elements. Remove visual clutter. Avoid 3-D effects. People remember visuals better than bullet points. Always ask yourself how you can use a strong visual - including quantitative displays - to enhance your narrative. Empty space is not nothing, it is a powerful something. Learn to see and manipulate empty space to give your slide designs greater organization clarity and interest. Use the principle of repetition to repeat selected elements throughout your slides. This can help give your slides unity and organization. Use the principle of alignment to connect elements visually through invisible lines on a slide. Grids are very useful for achieving good alignment. This will give your slide a clean well organized look. Use the principle of proximity to ensure that related items are grouped together. People will tend to interpret items together or near to each other as belonging to the same group.
- Awesome examples pg 165-178
- In Sum: A good visual will enhance the speakers message. The slides featured here are a very small sample that highlight whats possible when you combine images and text. From a technical point of view these slides were not too difficult to produce. All that was needed what powerpoint or keynote and image editing software such as adobe photoshop elements. What you design your slides or other visuals to look like depends completely on your own unique situation and your audience but keep the following in mind: create visuals that are simple with clear design priorities that contain elements which guide the viewers eyes. Have a visual theme but avoid tired overused software templates. Limit bullet points or avoid them completely. Use high quality graphics. Build animate complex graphics to support your narrative. Think maximum effect with minimum means. Learn to see empty space and learn to use it in a way that brings greater clarity to visuals.
- "Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated?" David Bader
- Most important thing to remember when giving a presentation is to be fully present at that moment
1. Carefully observe oneself in ones situation and carefully observe others and ones environment
2. Seize the initiative in whatever you undertake
3. Consider fully act decisively
4. Know when to stop
5. Keep to the middle
- In Sum: Like a conversation presentation requires your full presence at that time and place. Like a swordsman you must be completely in the moment without thoughts of past or the future or of winning or losing. Mistakes happen but do not dwell on past mistakes or worry about future ones. Be only in this moment sharing and conversing with the audience in front of you. You will make it look easy and natural by preparing and practicing like mad. The more you rehearse the more confident you will become and the easier it will seem to the audience. Though you must plan well being fully in the moment also means that you remain flexible totally aware and open to the possibilities as they arise.
- In Sum: You need solid content and logical structure but you also have to make a connection with the audience. You must appeal to both the logical and the emotional. If your content is worth talking about then bring energy and passion to your delivery. Every situation is different but there is never an excuse to be dull. Don't hold back. If you have a passion for your topic then let people know it. Remember hara hachi bu. It is better to leave your audience satisfied yet yearning for a bit more of you than it is to leave your audience stuffed and feeling that they have had more than enough. keep the lights on the audience must always be able to see you. Remove any barriers between you and the audience. Avoid podiums if possible. Use a wireless mic and remote control for advancing slides so that you can move freely and naturally.
- "'What we think we become." Buddha
- How to improve: Read and study, just do it, exercise your right brain, get out, lessons are all around you, its within you already
- "A journey with a thousand miles begins with a single step." Lao Tzu


Steve Kasperson said...

The best speaker I have ever seen was Ed Tufte. He is truly an expert on the communication of information. He has written a series of books, the most famous being "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information". I went to see him speak about communication, and he truly knew his stuff. He also detests PowerPoint, since he thinks it causes people to give poor presentations. What he does is show some kind of visual, and then he'll talk about it. Most of the things he would show had few words, and if they had words, the words themselves were meaningless. The content of the presentation came out of his mouth. He occasionally travels around, giving these presentations. I heartily recommend to anyone interested in communication that they check it out.

Cameron Schaefer said...

Nice summary, I've seen this book as well, but never thought it would be that interesting. Now I'll have to check it out.

Very true that the Air Force mostly gets it wrong when it comes to PowerPoint. Not only do they use it when a written document might work better, when they do use it they cram paragraph upon paragraph of text until you're left in an epileptic trance.

Did you ever have Dr. Green for accounting? In my opinnion he was a skilled PowerPoint user. He mixed in humor, well-thought out slides, etc.

Have been keeping up with your posts, hopefully I'll get back to writing soon as well.

rheaj said...

Excellent summary! I look forwarded to reading this one. I just started my Personal MBA this week. I am glad that I found your blog. Looking forward to following.