Top critical review
Just. Not. Good.
21 January 2011
Not good at all. Reynolds' strength lies in design and he should stick to the knitting. He is not a speechwriter and not a presentation coach, so his advice - while fundamentally sound - rings hollow to me throughout this book. There are no new ideas here and the ideas he does propound are not particularly well-written. Also, the book lacks examples - say, of of a presentation evolving from an early draft to a strong final version with the reasons for the changes clearly highlighted.
There is another problem with this book. Reynolds is deeply fascinated by Japanese civilisation and clearly believes it has many lessons to teach us and his minimalist, Zen aesthetic on the design side is what has rightly made him famous in the presentation world. But in this book, he reminded me of Alison Hannigan's character in the American Pie films who begins every other sentence with the phrase, "This one time, at band camp ..."
Garr spends a LOT of time using at-best tenuous analogies from Japanese culture to make his points about presentations - so apparently, a presentation is like taking a Japanese bath, should be like a bamboo, must overcome the 10 evils of Budo, could be like Aikido (and Judo!) and should have P.U.N.C.H. (yet another lousy acronym) too.
Garr's fascination with all things Japanese is even starting to pollute his slides. I have noticed now that he regularly has his usual beautiful image, along with the pull quote or tightly phrased idea, on his slides - PLUS Japanese subtitles for the verbiage. What!? That's called clutter! If you're presenting to a Japanese audience, you use the yokogaki, for everyone else, that is just indecipherable clutter taking up room on your slide.
If you're looking for a good text on crafting the narrative of your presentation, try Nancy Duarte's Resonate (Nancy works with presenters every day and it shows on every page) and if you want to get into the meat and potatoes of oratory and rhetoric for your delivery, go to the Master - Max Atkinson. No cutesie ideas, no silly acronyms or self-indulgent analogies, just solid, example-driven advice from the trenches.
This book? Not worth your time.