Visual Presentation Design

I’ve been following Alex’s blog for a while now – the work she and her peers do in presentation design is truly revolutionary. This post, in particular, is a great introduction to how she works. I’ve certainly been at fault for many years for designing presentations like documents. It’s a tough habit to break, but I’m committing to the visual design method from now on!

If you do any kind of training or presentations – FOLLOW HER BLOG! She gives a ton of great advice!

My top business books

After finishing the latest Nancy Duarte book, Persuasive Presentations (read my blog post on it), I did a bit of rearranging of the book shelf in my office.  I have lots of books… LOTS of books.  Sadly, there is only room for one book shelf in my office.  This keeps my top reference books handy – mostly on the topics of business management, training, and emergency management.  I actually get asked, on occasion, to provide a book recommendation in one of these subject areas.  So, in the event that you might be interested, here are my top business-oriented books, with some commentary.

The Baldrige Guide to Executive Manners – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referenced this book.  It’s a wealth of information for anyone in business or government.  It contains everything from common cultural issues, dress codes, communication nuances, and seating at events.  When I first got it, I actually read through it (not word for word!) cover to cover – which is really the best way to familiarize yourself with what’s in it.  It is a touch dated, but largely etiquette and protocol don’t change much.

Oh to have a library this beautiful!!!!

Getting Started in Consulting by Alan Weiss – Dr. Weiss is a consulting genius, pure and simple.  The man has been doing it successfully for a very long time.  So successfully, that the skills he developed and knowledge he gained in doing it, he shares with others through a multitude of books, speaking engagements, his website, and other venues.  If you are looking to get into consulting work, no matter what it might be, this is the foundational book you need to help you lay out how you will structure your business and interact with clients.  I’ve read some of this more focused books as well.

Flawless Execution by James Murphy – Jim Murphy is a consultant who has brought what he learned in a successful career as a fighter pilot to the

corporate world.  He has built a company around these principles, incorporating the sexy environment of flight suites and pilot lingo, to engage businesses and help them become more successful.  It’s a pretty straight forward read, actually using concepts similar to the Incident Command System (ICS) that we use in Emergency Management, to identify goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics to stay focused and accomplish tasks.

The 360 Degree Leader by John Maxwell – In my mind, no business reference list is complete without John Maxwell.  This is just one of several of his books that I own, but I feel it is by far the best.  Maxwell illustrates from every angle how anyone within an organization is a leader and can exercise influence.  You don’t have to be ‘in charge’ to lead.  Maxwell always provides external references through his website which have great tools to help you assess your capabilities.

Guide to Managerial Communication by Mary Munter – Another book which I have referenced time and again.  It’s in its 9th edition now… mine is the fourth edition and the info on Amazon indicates that it’s been updated to include more contemporary info.  It’s one of the few college texts that I ever kept.  It covers a variety of communication issues, writing design and style, a bit of info on presentations, and even some formats for memos and letters.  Very handy.

That’s my short list on business reads.  I’ll likely post lists on training books as well as emergency management books sometime in the future.

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”  ― Groucho Marx

Duarte Done

A few days ago I finished the latest Nancy Duarte book, Persuasive Presentations, published by Harvard Business Review.  See my earlier post, Presentations… Inspired, for some additional background on this.

Photo courtesy of Alex Rister who also wrote about this book.

Persuasive Presentations was a very fast paced read.  I love the format of this book.  It was composed of a number of mini chapters, each only two to three pages long.  Nancy is no hypocrite – she practices what she preaches.  While a book is no presentation, many of the concepts regarding habits of adult learners, attention spans, etc., still apply.  Therefore, she chopped her content up into small manageable bites.  No long drawn out chapters here.  No complicated explanations.  It was all very straight forward.To help drive home the point, she makes external references, provides graphics and illustrations, and cross references within the book.  She covers everything from the needs assessment (audience and topic), to development, design, format and medium, reading the audience, presenting via video, incorporating social media, and follow-up.  This is a great book for the new presenter or trainer, or the seasoned professional.  I can even see it as reading for an undergraduate level course on communications and presentations.  Nancy covers all the relevant topics including contemporary subject matter.  A great read – highly recommended.  Thanks Nancy!

Presentations… Inspired

For those of you who may not know, I am, by trade, a trainer.  The emergency management stuff came after my early forays into training, and throughout my emergency management career I remained a trainer.  Obviously a big part of training is what we call ‘platform skills’ (aka being able to present).  I’ve been a trainer for over 17 years now and I’ve been sought after across the country for training and presentations – so I guess people like what I do.  I know, though, that I have a lot of room for improvement.  Through the years I’ve learned from many people – assimilating parts of their presentation style into mine, honing my skills.  I’ve learned to not be so stiff and to relax; I enjoy doing presentations and I learned that I’m a better presenter by simply showing the audience that I’m having a good time.  I try to always learn something from a speaker or presenter – and sometimes it’s not their content, but how they deliver it.

I’ve recently had the pleasure of reading material by Nancy Duarte.  Nancy is a communication expert who owns one of the most successful non-tech businesses in Silicon Valley.  Nancy has authored the books Slideology and Resonate, and just released a book for Harvard Business Review called Persuasive Presentations.  While I’ve not read Slideology, I can personally attest that Resonate was a great book – a great book made totally astounding in the ibook format.  Yes, ibook, not ebook.  If you are not familiar with ibooks, they are interactive books.  Resonate incorporated a great deal more content than could possibly be in the print version by including both internal and external links, video segments, and more.  Presentations, after all, are a multi-media experience – and she proves that point by the medium of the ibook.  Never fear – it’s not at all distracting, as the ibook format is a self guided experience.  Don’t want to watch a video?  Then you can skip it and continue reading.  Very user-friendly.  I believe the only means of getting it, however, is at the Apple Store.  Anyhow, Nancy’s approach to presentations is refreshing.  She has studied a history of great speeches, analyzed the patterns and flow of those speeches, and formulated methodologies to help bring you success by following those patterns.

As I mentioned, Nancy just put out a new book for Harvard Business Review called Persuasive Presentations.  I ordered it yesterday and I’m quite looking forward to receiving it.  It’s a paperback and Nancy explains that she has incorporated the best parts of her previous two books as well as some new content.  I find her material to be great for an experienced presenter as we continually seek to hone our skills.  While a new presenter or trainer might get a little overwhelmed, I still think they can learn a lot from her.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not being paid to advertise for Ms. Duarte – I’m just passing along some great resources.  I encourage you to check out her website.  She has some good info on there.  If you have 20 minutes to kill, sit through her TEDx presentation – it’ll give you a good overview of her philosophies.

Excelsior!