The Book

Once in a while, an inflection point appears in a well established practice. Those who see a new, better way to do something don't just move away from the desultory pack, they accelerate away. Presentation techniques have reached just such an inflection point.

You spent years in school learning math, language, and writing skills, and you use that training every time you open a spreadsheet or word processor.But you weren't given years of instruction on building and delivering effective presentations, yet they have supplanted spreadsheets and documents in most organizations as the primary communication tool. If you are lucky, you were sent to a 2 day class on PowerPoint and now you're assumed to be an expert presenter. We have bad news: you aren't. We can help.

You've read about how presentations are like a state of mind, how color wheels work, and what type of isolated high-resolution stock photos to obtain, but how is that helping you with the marketing presentation due next week? You are holding the answers, derived from thousands of hours of presentations by the authors. This is the first book on presentations that categorizes and organizes the building blocks, which we call patterns, required to communicate effectively using presentation tools. We show you how to handle a wide variety of presentation types, audiences, constraints, and even surprises. Unlike other books, we also show you what not to do (anti-patterns), which are just as important as the positive recommendations; modern presentation tools seduce you into doing bad things and we show you how to avoid the traps.

Why "patterns"? Isn't a pattern the same thing as a recipe? There are two reasons we chose the "pattern" metaphor rather than the more familiar "recipe". First, patterns operate at a lower level than recipes. A recipe has steps, and the steps consist of instructions like "saute" or "peel". Patterns are like the lower-level steps found inside recipes; they are the techniques you must master to be considered a master chef or master presenter. You can use the patterns in this book to construct your own recipes for different contexts such as business meetings, technical demonstrations, scientific expositions and keynotes, just to name a few. Abstracting ideas to the level of patterns allow us to encompass all types of presentations. The second reason we prefer "pattern" to "recipe" is the concept fo anti-pattern: there are no such things as anti-recipes, but we show lots of anti-patterns, things you should avoid doing in presentations. Unfortunately, modern tools encourage ineffective presentation techniques, and we call them out as anti-patterns. Third, pattern names encapsulate a concrete concept, allowing you to convey a great deal of information with a small term. Once you learn the patterns, they become shorthand when talking or thinking about presentations. A name like Context Keeper conveys not just the general definition, but all it's positive and negative connotations, its applicability, the consequences of using it, etc. Patterns become a professional vocabulary, allowing you to talk about presentations in both a more concise yet precise way.

  • You need to create a presentation that some people are going to watch live but others need to "thumb through" it -- how can you make it effective for both audiences?
  • How do you handle flaky Internet connections during that critical showcase to your customers?
  • How do you construct a narrative arc that sells your idea most effectively?
  • How is the best way to organize your thoughts for the upcoming class presentation? And how do you improve your chances for a good grade on it?
  • How do you deal with graphics mixed with company "floodmarks" on your slides?

We answer these questions and many more, including some you didn't know to ask, all with concrete advice, using the same tools you already use; We illustrate all the examples in both PowerPoint and Keynote. This book shows you the most objective, analytical way to create better presentations.

Books like Presentation Zen and Slide:ology describe a new approach to using tools that have been around for decades, like PowerPoint and Keynote. Both are wonderful books.

But the three of us are software geeks. Reading about a new philosophy of presentations is one thing, but we like concrete instructions. In the architect and software ecospheres, the concept of a pattern exists as a way to create standard terms for solutions to common problems. A pattern describes a set of related concepts in a standard format, with a memorable name. For example, in the software world, you can say "I need an object which can only be instantiated once, and all subsequent attempts to create a new one returns the lone instance" or you can say "I need a Singleton". The Singleton design pattern is defined in the book Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-oriented Design, which provides a well known, concise way to refer to a common technique.

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