Our Thoughts

TLF Book Club - Better Presentations, by Jonathan Schwabish

6th August 2018

There are a lot of books of advice on making your presentations look better. Some of our favourites are Presentation Zen and Slideology. Great as they are, those books often seem most relevant to "big room" (i.e. conference) presentations. Their focus on big, memorable, image slides, very little text, and a clear story is sound, but it isn't always easy to apply in the kind of presentations most people end up giving most of the time within businesses.

Jon Schwabish aims his book squarely at those of us who need to communicate more technical material, probably more often in a small room than to a conference hall full of people. He assumes that you are starting with a written report or paper, and sees the presentation as

"...your opportunity to 'sell' your results...bring people to your side. Get them to agree with your conclusions, convince them of your methodology or data, and teach them something they can use in their own work or act upon in their own jobs and lives."

Schwabish argues that three key principles of visualise, unify, and focus apply just as much to these types of presentation as to more obviously flashy conference talks. This isn't just superficial polish, it's about making sure your hard work gets the attention it deserves. As he says,

"Giving better presentations and creating better slides is not about 'making things pretty,' but about recognizing how to communicate and how conscious—and oftentimes simple—design choices can help you do so."

If you have already read widely about presentation design and data visualisation, it's unlikely you'll learn anything new here, but Schwabish has done an excellent job of organising and summarising best practice from a range of relevant fields. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to think systematically about improving their presentations.

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