5 timeless principles from Presentation Zen

by Pierre Morsa —

Presentation Zen

When it was first published, Garr Reynolds’ first book Presentation Zen took the traditional world of presentations by storm. It brought the presentation revolution to a wider audience of enthusiasts. We propose to revisit five essential principles from the book that have stood the test of time and can still be considered as best presentation practices today.

  • Plan analog. There are many theories that try to explain how creativity works, but one thing is sure. None of them advise you to get in front of your computer, launch PowerPoint and start hammering at your keyboard to add bullet points after bullet points. If anything, PowerPoint is going to kill your creativity and focus by distracting you from the essential. This is why Garr Reynolds and most creatives start their process with a pen and paper. iPad Pro with Apple pencil? Why not, but only if you are comfortable enough to use it effortlessly. Having to constantly break your flow to work out “how the hell do I do that?” is a sure creativity killer.
  • Start with the end in mind. This simply means that before you start preparing, you should know exactly what result you expect from your presentation. This will help you sort out the content that must be included in your presentation from the content that can be left out. Remember that your goal should not be just to inform or entertain: ask yourself what is the change that you would like to see in your audience.
  • Eat until 80% full. Many presenters tend to put too much stuff in their presentation. Why? Because this is what they learned in school: to give the most complete answers possible. And because they fear that otherwise their presentation will seem too simple or incomplete. But in presentations, complexity and data overload are your worst enemies. So, just as a good meal doesn’t overstuff you, resist the temptation to add those two extra slides that are nice to have but not indispensable.
  • Use full bleed pictures to maximize their visual impact. The use of beautiful pictures that cover the whole slide is is something that has become a trademark of Garr’s presentations, and you should not hesitate to steal it! No other picture layout has the same impact, beauty and simplicity.
  • Connect with the audience. Don’t try to sound “important” or like the teacher you had at school: it will only make you seem aloof and condescending, cutting the invisible but vital link with your audience. Instead, deliver your presentation as if you were having a conversation with a large group of friends. You will sound much more natural, authentic, and you will make people want to listen to you!

To learn more about Garr Reynolds and Presentation Zen, you can visit his popular blog. If you want to help your employees deliver better presentations, contact us for details of our exclusive Presentation Zen for Business course, designed by Ideas on Stage together with Garr Reynolds.