Sunday, March 06, 2011

Book Review: Presentation Zen

I don’t know much about Zen or Japanese culture, but after reading this book I do now! Unfortunately, along the way I didn’t learn nearly enough about presentations and how to avoid “death by PowerPoint.”

In order to stand out on the virtual shelf, Presentation Zen uses Zen philosophy as a teaching method. Personally, I found this distracting and superfluous. Ironic, since one of the book’s key philosophies is to keep your presentation basic with the “less is more” concept. See, I guess I did learn something from the book.

The book was an enjoyable read with a view of an entirely different culture than the one I grew up in and, occasionally, I did learn a few key points about presentations. Because of the narrative nature of this book, extracting advice for giving presentations was difficult to discern. Typically in technical books, the authors teach key points with use of the main text and then put miscellaneous extras on the side. In this book, the technical points were on the side and philosophies, interviews, and cultural icons appeared to be the main focus. Overall, the book dealt with the nuances of presentation rather than a direct guide on how to prevent your audience (and you) from falling asleep when the lights go down and your presentation begins.

I do recommend the book as a starting point in your journey to create better presentations. Instead of giving specific tips and instruction, overall ideas and concepts are presented in this very quick read. In particular, presentations should be about the presenter and not about the slides on the screen. The slides should supplement and amplify what the speaker is saying, rather than the speaker being the spokesperson for the slides on the screen.

Pros: Nice window to Japanese culture and Zen philosophy with application to presentations
Cons: Lack of firm structure and clear instructions on presentations

7 out of 10

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right