# Saturday, 08 August 2009

Cliff Atkinson's Beyond Bullet Points proposes a radically new approach to creating presentations based on Microsoft Power Point.

Atkinson provides a template (available for download); an outline that splits a presentation into lengths of 5, 15 and 45 minutes; and an abundance of advice on improving your presentations.

After reading the book, I discarded the template and the outline but I embraced many of his ideas.

Here is some of the book's best advice:

Allow your presentation to tell a story.
The first presentation I did after reading this book included a story about consultants Juan and Amal, who had nearly identical skills and accomplishments but received very different performance reviews. Most of my presentations are instructions on how to use software, which doesn't lend itself well to a story format. If possible, however, I try to weave a story into the presentation.

Minimize the text in your slides.
Atkinson recommends eliminating all bullet points from every slide. The only text on each slide should be a headline. I haven't gone that far, but I have drastically reduced the amount of text on each slide. When I open an existing deck, I move much of the slide text into the Notes section. This simplifies the presentation, but keeps the text with the slides when I distribute them to users. During presentation, I make the former bullet points part of my verbal presentation, rather than something the audience reads off the screen. This keeps the audience's focus on me, rather than on the screen.

Use simple graphics
A simple graphic communicates an idea visually. I have been replacing the bullet points in my slides with a headline and a single photograph that relates to the slide topic. The slides become more interesting but less distracting.

Rehearse your talk
I already knew this but the book's reinforcement helped remind me how important it is to be familiar with one's material. Nothing achieves this goal like a couple dry runs through your presentation. Ideally this should be in front of other people (to provide feedback) and in a room similar to the one in which you will be presenting; however, filming your presentation and reviewing it yourself is also very helpful.

I have not bought entirely into the Beyond Bullet Points approach. But I have internalized many of the ideas in this book and my presentations have improved as a result.

Link: Beyond Bullet Points Online

Thursday, 19 April 2012 18:10:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs is a book that a speechwriter can love. Gallo qtoues from sources such as Nancy Duarte's slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations and Garr Reynolds' Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery. He even has a sidebar on JFK speechwriter Ted Sorensen's influence on Barack Obama titled, What the World's Greatest Speechwriters Know. The message of this book is that Jobs' extraordinary impact is based on his authenticity and his passion for his company's people and products. Most presenters can't claim to be the CEO of an archetypically cool Silicon Valley company.Neither can they get away with wearing faded jeans, sneakers and a turtleneck onstage. But simply everyone with a product or service that improves people's lives has a story to tell. Gallo's book explains in detail how Jobs presents his story so that his passion shines through and ignites the audience. It's Gallo's claim that anyone can learn how to deliver an insanely great presentations.The secrets that make Jobs so effective onstage include the usual stage tips taught by presentation coaches: Make eye contact with the audience, use vocal variety and know the power of a well-timed pause. But the majority of the book analyzes the structure, rather than the delivery techniques, of major keynotes Jobs has given at Macworld and elsewhere over the years. This makes the book of inestimable value for anyone who needs to understand the nuts and bolts of writing a speech.Performance pieceWhen Steve Jobs takes to the stage he often tells dramatic stories, so it's appropriate that the book itself is structured as a three-act play. Act 1 tells how to create the story, Act 2 tells how to deliver it, and Act 3 stresses the importance of rehearsal. Gallo adds Director's Notes that summarize each chapter (or scene), and he introduces a cast of supporting characters.Organizing the book in this way also reinforces the importance of telling a story in three parts; of delivering a speech with three messages. In fact, Gallo concedes, the chapter on the effectiveness of breaking a speech into three could easily have become the longest in the book. Speechwriters' playbookThe book is a playbook for writing a great speech. Jobs and his team start scripting a speech long before firing up PowerPoint or, in their case, Keynote software. They settle on an attention-grabbing headline ( The world's thinnest notebook ); then they decide on the three key messages; develop analogies and metaphors; and scope out demonstrations, video clips and cameo guest appearances.Next they develop the plot of the speech, setting up an antagonist (Microsoft or IBM in the early days), dressing up numbers and including plenty of amazingly zippy words. Finally, they script a memorable holy smokes moment that people will talk about long after the event ends. The slides they eventually create are heavy on images and light on text and bullet points.Live action videoA book alone will go only so far. If you've never actually seen Jobs present in person, then you haven't experienced the reality-distortion field his charisma and eloquence creates in the auditorium. Gallo has this covered.The book's end notes provide URLs for some of the 47,000 [...] video clips showcasing Jobs and clearly demonstrating the techniques discussed. Viewing the videos compensates for the poor-quality monochrome photos of Jobs onstage-the one disappointment in the book.Learning from his mistakesTo counteract any feelings of inadequacy you might have after watching Jobs deliver a flawless keynote, do a quick search on YouTube for Apple Bloopers and you'll see that, even for Steve Jobs, things don't always go well onstage. Demos fail, screens freeze, and he stumbles over words. But as with any masterful presenter, Jobs remains calm.Even if the speeches you write or deliver are not destined for insane greatness, they'll be much, much, better for having read Carmine Gallo's insanely great book.
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