By Dean Whittaker

How many times have we sat through or given a PowerPoint presentation, hoping that it would end soon? Avoiding death by PowerPoint is the theme of the book “PresentationZen – Simple Ideas on Presentation, Design and Delivery” by Garr Reynolds.  His main message is simplify, simplify, and simplify. If you had to give your presentation on an elevator, what would you say? Be kind to your audience by saving them time by preparing well.

The first step in creating an effective presentation according to the author is “turn off the computer and go analog.” He recommends the use of White Boards and sticky notes instead.  He says that this is a creative process and requires an open mind and the willingness to be wrong. When creating our presentation, he says to keep three words in mind: “simplicity, clarity, and brevity.” Don’t overlook the value of solitude when igniting the creative spark.  Often our best ideas come while taking a walk, showering or meditating.

There are several basic questions to keep in mind when preparing the presentation: How much time do I have? What is the venue like? What time of day? Who is the audience? What’s their background? What do they expect from me? Why was I asked to speak? What do I want them to do? What visual medium is most appropriate? What is the fundamental purpose of my talk? What is the story here? What is my absolute central point? Be empathetic with the audience when answering the question, “Why does it matter?” Put yourself in the audience’s shoes.

There are three parts to an effective presentation: the slides, your notes, and the handouts.  The slides are the visual support for your remarks and should not be able to stand alone. Your notes guide you through your talk.  The handouts contain information to supplement your talk.  “Never, ever hand out copies of your slides, and certainly not before your presentation.” Again, the slides are meant to be a visual aid to the presentation.  Reading the slides to the audience is a waste of everyone’s time and causes us to try to cram too much information on each slide.

When asked how many bullet points a slide should contain, Reynolds’ answer is few if any. He believes that there should be no more than one idea per slide, with no more than seven lines, with no more than seven words per line…the fewer the better.  For the backdrop of the slide he recommends images from   Reynolds emphasizes that being present (in the moment) when delivering the presentation is vital to connecting with the audience.

Here is a link to a TED talk by Garr Reynolds in which he explains his concepts:

For your sake and that of your audience, please put “PresentationZen” by Garr Reynolds on your reading list. Here’s a link to order a copy from Amazon. You and your next audience will be glad you did.