Will "the Mighty" Strohl

Book Review: Presentation Zen

Books: Presentation Zen and Presentation Zen Design

This book review will serve as numbers 2 and 3 in the three total that I promised you in my review of Confessions of a Public Speaker.  The reason being is that the first book in this review is Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.  He later wrote a follow-up to that book, Presentation Zen Design.  The first book focuses strictly on presentation itself, so the design aspect is somewhat glossed over.  The second book talks strictly about design to make up for it.

The design book is not written for professional designers.  It is actually written for non-designers.

Garr Reynolds writes both of his books using the very concepts he’s trying to teach to us as readers.  Many of his inspirations come from everyday things and concepts in Japan, so he regularly uses Japanese words and pictures to get his points across.  This does a great job of maintaining a common theme throughout the books, and also is very relatable to those, like myself, who find beauty in Japanese culture and objects.  Some of those concepts include less is more, harmony, simplification, symmetry, and more.

Reynolds uses real life examples of his points in slides throughout his books as well.  He demonstrates the use of type, white space, and more in these example slides to give us visual representations to reinforce his points. 

Throughout both books, Reynolds also includes sections from topic experts to reinforce points and concepts, from people like Nancy Duarte – an expert in the creation of presentation slides, and the CEO of Duarte Design.

Even if you can’t read, the example slides found on nearly every page of this book do a fantastic job of showing you what you should and should not do in your own slides.  This is a testament to the job that Reynolds was tasked with.  Every page is fresh with examples of things you can and should do to enhance your presentations.

Like the previous author I spoke about, Scott Berkun, Reynolds makes sure to reference the books and materials that he quotes throughout his books.  This is refreshing, as we can go and do more of our own follow-up research, instead of just trusting the quote.

One of the other things that Reynolds does that I really enjoy, is that he talks to us about ways he looks for and suggests for us to look for inspiration.  For example, looking at books about design, other industries, nature, and more.  He also pushes us to plan our presentations offline, which is a great, non-standard way to plan your presentations without the usual boundaries that we have and don’t think about.

Both of these books do an outstanding job from cover to cover in helping us to become better presenters, regardless of whether we’re talking in the boardroom, or on stage.  Reynolds challenges us to build our presentations with a story in mind, to connect to our audience in visual ways, and to take every precaution to not bore people with “death by powerpoint.”

Like the previous book, you’ll be a better presenter for reading these books.



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