It is all about creative simplicity – says Garr Reynolds in ‘PresentationZen‘. As easy as this might sound, many people’s PowerPoint (or Keynote) presentations bore the life out of their audience by endless (mostly read from the slide) speeches and un-memorable data. Find out how to change that – right now!
Probably you would expect a book on how to give presentations to be dull and not very intriguing, but Garr Reynolds’ book ‘PresentationZen’ turns you into a better presenter without you feeling the effort.
To me, there are two key points that help you improve your presentation skills:
a) what does your presentation need to be good and b) how do you get there
While both of them are discussed in various facets throughout the book, they are also nicely summarised in their essential points.
Have these aptitudes = have a good presentation
Reynolds bases the – in my opinion essential – guidelines on Daniel Pinks’ best-seller A Whole New Mind.
Pink believes that we’re living in a ‘conceptual age’ (as opposed to the ‘information age’ of the past). This age is ruled by ‘right-brain reasoning’, meaning – according to Pink: a way of thinking that creates “artistic and emotional beauty“ and crafts “a satisfying narrative“.
Though we should not cast left-brain reasoning over board, as Reynolds points out that right-brain reasoning alone “is not going to keep the space shuttle up or cure disease”.
Instead “a healthy person uses both hemispheres for even simple tasks”. Reynolds and Pink just suggest that we should put special emphasis on creative thinking.
In order to do that we need to pay attention to six “right-brain directed aptitudes” – design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning.
Now, Reynolds further explains how to understand that.
The six aptitudes, the six senses
Design – Reynolds thinks that a good design is a design that “is never even noticed consciously by the observer/ user”. It should be planned well by aiming it at a specific audience and their needs in context with the topic.
Story – Reynolds reminds us that we are all storytellers – and listeners by nature. Therefore connecting information with true and engaging stories will make facts much more memorable (and fun).
Symphony – The reason why there is a presentation is that there are facts that someone else is an expert in and we should know about these facts. Therefore Reynolds says that a presenter should form ‘the big picture’, encourage new views and reveal patterns that the audience hasn’t seen before.
Empathy – Try to put yourself into the position of the ones listening. Not just when creating your slides, but also during giving your presentation. If people don’t get it, empathise and rephrase.
Play – Reynolds quotes an Indian physician who thinks that serious people are ‘yesterday’s news’. “Laughing people are more creative people. They are more productive people.”
Meaning – Reynolds understands this term as seeing a meaning in your presentation yourself, being excited about the possibility to share your view, probably make a difference.
Now, how about you?
In ‘PresentationZen’, Reynolds names four things that you should do in order to improve your presentation creating processes.
Have the mind of a beginner/ of a child – regard everything as possible, don’t be afraid of failing, explore possibilities by trying, risk something – even if it that means doing it in a way it has never been done before.
Find inspiration – if it is through listening or teaching, try to be open to inspiration no matter where you are, what you do and where it’s coming from.
Don’t force yourself – sometimes we’re most creative in our ‘lazy’-phases as our “creative spirit is energized”.
Be enthusiastic, no matter what – stop listening to and thinking about what other people “may think of your enthusiasm or passion”. Don’t let anything keep you from showing what you’re really passionate about – even to a critical audience.
Garr Reynolds ideas sound simple. And they are. If they were followed they could improve everyone’s PowerPoint (and Keynote) learning experience.
Of course, this does not capture the whole range of ideas how to improve presentation – I haven’t even touched the use of media.
But I believe that keeping it simple in every way – design, phrasing of information, etc – and trying to weave in as many stories as possible will help getting better results.
Also, these ideas can be used for other presentations too – not only PowerPoint. Restaurant Menus, websites, advertisements, manuals, probably even greeting cards – if all of them followed the six senses, these things might work better and be more fun.
I know many people think that living in an ‘entertainment society’ is a really bad thing and that the need to be entertained all the time is a sign of stupidity, but probably we need to accept this need for now.
So, why not be a little less boring and a little more entertaining if it actually helps to spread some knowledge and reduce stupidity in a more entertaining way?
Also, here’s a video in which David Pink explains his concept of “A Whole New Mind” a little further: