12 Minutes To Create a Mind-Changing Presentation
Andreas von der HeydtFebruary 11, 2013

The person who strongly encouraged me to think differently and more creatively about the preparation, design, and delivery of presentations is designer and communication expert Garr Reynolds. His beautiful book “Presentation Zen” combines solid principles of design with the tenets of Zen simplicity. It is very clear, direct, takes just a few hours to read and can help you to save days of work by developing straightforward and very effective presentations.

Some of Garr’s key points:

Use multimedia wisely.
Presentations must be both verbal and visual. Don´t overwhelm your audience with too much information, animations and pictures. Question: Can your visual be understood in 3 seconds? If not, don’t use it!

Include short stories to explain your main points.
The best presenters illustrate their points with the use of stories, especially personal ones. Stories are easy to remember for your audience.

Respect your audience.
There are three components involved in a presentation: the audience, you, and the medium (e.g. PowerPoint). The goal is to create a kind of harmony among the three. But above all, the most important thing is that you get your audience involved and engaged.

Limit your ideas to one main idea per slide.
If you have a complicated slide with lots of different data, it may be better to break it up into 2-3 different slides.

Move away from the podium.
Connect with your audience. If at all possible get closer to your audience by moving away from or in front of the podium.

Take it slowly.
When we are nervous we tend to talk too fast. Get a videotape of one of your presentations to see how you did — you may be surprised at the pace of your talk.

Keep the lights on.
If you are speaking in a meeting room, etc. the temptation is to turn the lights off so that the slides look better. Turning the lights off — besides inducing sleep — puts all the focus on the screen. The audience should be looking at you more than the screen.

In addition I have two final pieces of advice:

Keep it simple.
Avoid cluttered slides. Be brave and use lots of “white space” or, how the pros call it, “negative space.” The less “chunk“ you have on your slide, the more powerful your message will become. Already Leonardo da Vinci knew: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Talk “to” the audience.
Never turn your back towards the audience. You do not want to conduct a monologue with the screen. Look at your audience instead and make good eye contact. Try looking at individuals rather than scanning the group.