Speaking PowerPoint: The New Language of Business Paperback – 10 Oct 2010
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About the Author
Bruce Gabrielle is president of Insights Works, a market research firm specializing in the high technology industry, where he regularly creates and presents boardroom-style slides to executives. Gabrielle leads workshops on the MindWorks Presentation Method for businesses, consulting firms, associations and educational institutions.
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Top Customer Reviews
In a great easy to read format, spoiled only by the lack of colour, the book helps on how to build a story based on the evidence you have, how to present the story and then on the slides themselves includes excellent guidance and recommendations for using the correct style of title, the correct layout, the right amount of text, the appropriate use of colour and all of this without creating "powerpoint shock".
The book incorporates many real world examples of how presentations and presentation slides could be improved. The book also reminds us why it is so important given that even back 2,300 years Aristotle recognized that decisions were made based on logic and emotion. This book certainly has helped me present information more logically and use the look and feel of a presentation to win the emotions too.
I'd recommend you purchase the book. If you do I'd recommend you print the colour images before reading.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It's understandable that as a reaction some very popular books published in the last couple of years about presentations focused on creating minimalist slides, with stunning visuals and little text. These decks might be appropriate for ballroom-style presentations before large audiences expecting to be motivated and/or entertained.
However, the vast majority of presentations in the business world are boardroom-style presentations in which these design guidelines have little application. Bruce Gabrielle has written a book for the rest of us: the professionals who have to speak often in boardroom meetings before small, highly motivated audiences expecting lots of details and thorough information.
This type of "formal" presentations had been neglected and forgotten in previous literature. This book is fully oriented to people who have to create and deliver strategic plans, marketing plans, research reports, product planning decks, execution plans, program proposals and other business planning presentations.
Another differentiating feature of the book which I highly appreciated is the heavy use of results from cognitive science research to back up all its recommendations and guidelines. Whereas other books speak off the cuff, this one supports all its claims with solid evidence.
The book counts on a great number of carefully designed slides to illustrate the dos and don'ts of effective graphic communication. He even uses a fictional story of two characters creating a presentation from scratch to guide the reader in the difficult task of designing a persuasive business presentation.
Summing up, Speaking PowerPoint is a down-to-earth, pragmatical book which will help professionals take business presentations to the next level. If you're looking for just one book on presentation structure and design, look no more. This is the ONE.
But it's not for everyone. If you want to learn how to put together beautiful slides with stunning visuals to inspire or entertain, buy a book such as Nancy Duarte's Resonate or Garr Reynolds' Presentation Zen.
But if you want to sell ideas to critical thinkers, Speaking PowerPoint will help. To see where this book fits and why it is so important, let's first look at the situations where PowerPoint decks can be deployed:
At the extreme right of the scale are the ballroom style presentations, which are presented to large audiences. Think of Steve Jobs doing a new product launch. In these types of presentations, the speaker does all the talking, supplies almost of all the words, and uses compelling visuals to add to the emotional impact.
Moving to the left, you have what Gabrielle calls briefing decks, which are used in boardroom settings; the audience is much smaller, but still may include up to about twenty people. The speaker is still doing most of the talking, but there is some interactivity.
Discussion decks are used in boardrooms as well, but the audience might be in the single digits. The presenter still does most of the talking, at least at first, but the primary purpose is a full-participation discussion with a lot of interaction.
Finally, a reading deck can be used as a document, meant to be read individually either on paper or on a screen. In this situation, the deck has to stand alone and convey all the important information by itself.
Speaking PowerPoint is intended for decks on the left side of the scale. The difference with these decks is that the audience is more cognitively engaged. Ballroom audiences might be happy being entertained or motivated, but speakers in most business situations expect strong logic and solid evidence, and might need lots of it before they're convinced. This book shows you how to deliver it without committing the standard PowerPoint sins of too much text and confusing clutter.
I've always thought that the most important phase of creating a slide deck occurs before you even open up the application, so I was happy to see that Gabrielle's first section has four chapters devoted to putting your argument together. You first figure out what you want to say by putting yourself into the reader's position and figuring out what is the main question they want answered. (The book uses the word reader, which gives you an indication of where its main focus is.) Next, you structure the main points that support the key theme, and then add the evidence that strengthens your points.
Once you've done all this, you might think it's finally time to crank up the laptop, but that would be a mistake. Gabrielle offers compelling reasons and evidence why you can do better thinking on paper than in slides. Time spent up front on paper will repay itself many times over by time saved during the creation of the slides.
Section 2 turns to the content on the slides themselves. The book explains the best way to write a headline instead of a title, how to break your content into chunks of information that your audience can comfortably process, and various ways to use pictures to make your presentation more understandable, memorable and persuasive.
He might get a little carried away with showing off his knowledge here, as when he talks about "K-maps" for three pages when all he means is "diagrams", but that's a mere quibble. In fact, the book is extremely well-supported by research, which adds tremendous credibility to Gabrielle's own experience and also suggest numerous useful sources for those who want to learn more about each topic.
The last section does a decent job covering design, although the books by Duarte and Reynolds mentioned above cover the topic far more comprehensively. But Chapter 12, Picture and Wallpaper, is definitely well worth reading. It teaches how to guide the reader's (or listener's) eye to what is important. My favorite insight was the idea that the best way to highlight the main point is not to add but to subtract. In other words, don't make the text or the line on the graph brighter or larger than the other information, but instead to make the supporting information less prominent, by shrinking or subduing it. The supporting information becomes "wallpaper", which enhances the presentation of the picture. Of course, this supposes that you know what the main point of the slide is, and this takes us back to your careful crafting of your story.
That one insight was very timely for me, because a day after I read it last week one of the participants in my presentations class showed me a fairly busy slide and asked for my suggestions for enhancement. I suggested that he try graying out most of the text and keep the main points in black text. The result was a much clearer slide, without a lot of visual elements competing for attention.
I love it when I can take a practical suggestion from a book that makes a difference in my work. You will probably find many others that do the same for you; if you're serious about selling your ideas in business, this book is a definite asset.
Bruce's emphasis on storyboarding and his defense of slides with a picture and minimal "well-written" text is a workable compromise, and something I can teach to the engineers and operations folks who I train.
Finally, his initial comment that the first slide should begin with a "thesis" with a "because-statement" is something I have been teaching for years with little support. I am so glad that I have finally found support on this point from a knowledgeable researcher like Bruce.
This book is a first-rate "how to" manual for developing more effective presentations: if PowerPoint is part of your communications strategy, you need to read this book. It doesn't explain how to come up with jazzy graphics; you'll learn why other aspects of PowerPoint are far more important and effective for winning your audience. One deck does not fit all situations and the author explains how to plan your deck based on the audience and purpose. One good presentation is worth far more than $27, the cost of this book.
The content is well-organized and easy to digest. There are illustrative narratives and end-of-chapter summaries. The web site provides additional valuable information.
I highlight key points and conclusions when I read and nearly every page of "Speaking PowerPoint" has multiple highlights.
Highlight this: well worth the time and money.