I was going to review this book a long time ago, but I decided to hold off until I could put its advice into practice. Now that I have done so, I can truly recommend this amazingly useful book. Although not everyone will be able to apply everything Presentation Zen proposes, anyone who does any kind of public speaking can benefit from applying at least some of what this book offers. So, without further delay, here is my take on Presentation Zen.
I’ll be the first to admit that at first I was highly skeptical of this book. Since most of my public speaking involves teaching (as opposed to sales pitches), I doubted that the minimalist approach of this book could work for me. I guess I should have done more research on the author—it turns out that in addition to his consulting work, he’s an associate professor at Kansai Gaidai University.
Anyhow, as I made my way through the cleanly designed pages, loaded with beautiful examples, my mind quickly started to fill with ways I could improve my presentations and classes.
I was already familiar with a few of the topics found in this book. Thanks to Dr. Christine Pence, I was introduced to the concept of minimal slides in graduate school. Additionally, through years of experience, I had already realized the importance of audience-focused presentations. Regardless, Presentation Zen reminded me that I could take these ideas even further by weaving presentations as stories and embracing the fundamentals of design. Concise prose and clever analogies made all of Garr Reynolds’ advice easy to digest.
Having designed two Presentation-Zen-style presentations, the most useful advice thus far has been having faith in my knowledge of my material—moving all the details off of my slides and into handouts. Also, before reading this book, I had never considered designing my presentations on paper or Post-It Notes before even touching PowerPoint. Sketching everything out by hand turned out to be surprisingly invigorating. To see how I’ve been able to apply Presentation Zen, check out the example slides below. They won’t make sense out of context, but as stated in the book, good slides never should.
Despite all the praise that I have leveled on this book, keep in mind that you won’t be able to apply all of its techniques to all of your presentations. Sometimes bullet points and more traditional slides are unavoidable. Fortunately, the author admits this occasionally throughout the book.
Since this is not a book review site, I’ll keep my final opinion simple. As a public speaker, is Presentation Zen worth your time and money? Absolutely.