Category Archives: Books

Visual Thinking by Emma Bannister

There are endless books on the scene covering presentation, but I can’t remember one quite as beautifully designed as Visual Thinking, the brand new addition from Emma Bannister.

Emma is the founder and CEO of Australia’s Presentation Studio, the largest presentation firm in APAC. And, full disclosure, she’s also just one of my favorite people in the world. So I forgive her insistence on incorrect spellings like “colour” and “practise”…

Visual Thinking is not a comprehensive manual on design, but rather a concisely assembled guidebook on what goes into a well-designed and effective presentation. The focus is largely on speaker-guided projected presentations that aim to persuade. Emma doesn’t quite assume that all presentations should fit a TED Talk model, but she does avoid addressing the challenges of many business presentation needs with statements like “It’s important to remember that you’re not putting together a report.” That’s one of the few disagreements I would have with the approach of the book, but then maybe we wouldn’t have the nicely focused and easily digestible one that we do. The focus of the book is squarely on producing tight messages and visual communications in a presentation context. 

There is some familiar territory covered and reinforced (Nancy’s Duarte’s Resonate sparkline story structure, John Medina), but ultimately Emma manages to avoid overwriting and endless references making points with just a sentence and graphic or two (such as with discussions of white space, color and contrast). Not only is she practicing with the book what she is preaching about presentation, but she’s taking Saint-Exupery to heart. And I don’t think any design book is complete without a reinforcement of his all-important advice, which is, of course, included here:

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

If there’s anyone on your Holiday Gift list that needs a little convincing or opening of the eyes on what effective visual presentation should be, this is the book to get. Easily finished in a single setting, it’s really a wonderful visual read.

And, of course, it’s an excellent calling card for the work that Emma’s studio does as well. If you’re not familiar with their work, just take a look at a bit of their portfolio.

Not available on Amazon just yet, but you can order direct here.

FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin
Categories: Books, Design.

Book Review: The Presentation Lab by Simon Morton

The Presentation Lab makes very clear upfront that readers will not learn how to create more visually appealing or better designed slides. And while this is one of the more illustrated business books I’ve read in a while, it just isn’t about the visual side of effective presentations, but rather what needs to go into a presentation’s intent, structure and story creation.

After busting some presentation myths (such as the 10/20/30 rule), the book launches into a discussion of storytelling for the sake of your audience and stresses the fact that a presentation must be about the audience first, foremost and always. Okay, audience-focused presentation is nothing new, but what The Presentation Lab brings to the table is what I think is the most solid of nuggets in the book: The Audience Heat Map. Morton identifies three essential audience types (which are not mutually exclusive) and then shows how to craft a presentation specific to a unique audience. Examples and case studies are used to show how to appeal to audiences that may be factual, visionary and/or emotional. Even if you put the book down at this point and began incorporating this thinking, you’ll find yourself creating better presentations.

The book then moves onto story flow, although I do wish there continued to be more examples and case studies of this topic as there were with audience identification. There is a valuable discussion of simplicity and some wonderful simple arguments for the same: is you message simple enough to be shared with others?

The book reads quickly, and is witty (“rumor has it Churchill was rubbish at PowerPoint”), but being more of a system (though thankfully a well-thought out and simplified one), it’s harder to skim or to jump around. What Morton makes clear throughout, however—and really brings home with some appropriate client stories and case studies from his firm Eyeful Presentations—is that this disciplined approach is not for the careless or extremely time-crunched presenter. A deliberate approach to creating a successful presentation doesn’t have to mean endless hours of storyboarding, sticky notes and outlining, but it does require attention to one’s audience and one’s goals. If you’re willing to meet the Presentation Lab halfway there, I think this is an excellent book that has the potential to dramatically improve the effectiveness of one’s presentations. If you are like many of Eyeful’s clients, and are genuinely serious improving your presentation and not just making pretty pictures, give it a careful read. If you just want pretty slides, look elsewhere.

What do I think is missing? I would have loved to have seen more examples of what Morton considers successful slides. For example, in declaring the Presentation Zen style a busted myth, it would have been great to have seen some actual visual counter-examples. And while certain one-off topics do seem on-topic, the very brief discussions of data, infographics and stock imagery still struck me as not quite part of the organic whole. But that’s just me quibbling.

I had been looking forward to the book for quite some time, and I was not disappointed. I think it’s a valuable addition to the bookshelf of any serious presenter and presentation creator.

Buy it here!

FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin
Categories: Books, Simplicity, Storytelling.

Book Review: The Presentation Lab by Simon Morton

The Presentation Lab makes very clear upfront that readers will not learn how to create more visually appealing or better designed slides. And while this is one of the more illustrated business books I’ve read in a while, it just isn’t about the visual side of effective presentations, but rather what needs to go into a presentation’s intent, structure and story creation.

After busting some presentation myths (such as the 10/20/30 rule), the book launches into a discussion of storytelling for the sake of your audience and stresses the fact that a presentation must be about the audience first, foremost and always. Okay, audience-focused presentation is nothing new, but what The Presentation Lab brings to the table is what I think is the most solid of nuggets in the book: The Audience Heat Map. Morton identifies three essential audience types (which are not mutually exclusive) and then shows how to craft a presentation specific to a unique audience. Examples and case studies are used to show how to appeal to audiences that may be factual, visionary and/or emotional. Even if you put the book down at this point and began incorporating this thinking, you’ll find yourself creating better presentations.

The book then moves onto story flow, although I do wish there continued to be more examples and case studies of this topic as there were with audience identification. There is a valuable discussion of simplicity and some wonderful simple arguments for the same: is you message simple enough to be shared with others?

The book reads quickly, and is witty (“rumor has it Churchill was rubbish at PowerPoint”), but being more of a system (though thankfully a well-thought out and simplified one), it’s harder to skim or to jump around. What Morton makes clear throughout, however—and really brings home with some appropriate client stories and case studies from his firm Eyeful Presentations—is that this disciplined approach is not for the careless or extremely time-crunched presenter. A deliberate approach to creating a successful presentation doesn’t have to mean endless hours of storyboarding, sticky notes and outlining, but it does require attention to one’s audience and one’s goals. If you’re willing to meet the Presentation Lab halfway there, I think this is an excellent book that has the potential to dramatically improve the effectiveness of one’s presentations. If you are like many of Eyeful’s clients, and are genuinely serious improving your presentation and not just making pretty pictures, give it a careful read. If you just want pretty slides, look elsewhere.

What do I think is missing? I would have loved to have seen more examples of what Morton considers successful slides. For example, in declaring the Presentation Zen style a busted myth, it would have been great to have seen some actual visual counter-examples. And while certain one-off topics do seem on-topic, the very brief discussions of data, infographics and stock imagery still struck me as not quite part of the organic whole. But that’s just me quibbling.

I had been looking forward to the book for quite some time, and I was not disappointed. I think it’s a valuable addition to the bookshelf of any serious presenter and presentation creator.

Buy it here!

FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin
Categories: Books, Simplicity, Storytelling.
visual training presentation