While modern designers keep inventing more and more creative visualizations, the true frontiers this year may be much more modest?—?learning the limitations of graphics, and using perception-informed design and interactive techniques to make the most of the forms that already exist. The pie chart, which has borne the scorn of perceptual psychologists for decades, may fail in some respects, but modern visualization has in many ways failed to learn from its mistakes. Above all, we should remember that throwing data into a chart is not always the route to greater understanding.
Best Point: Don’t use PowerPoint at all.
Here’s the deal: You should have to put $5 into the coffee fund for every single word on the wordiest slide in your deck. 400 words costs $2000. If that were true, would you use fewer words? A lot fewer? I’ve said this before, but I need to try again: words belong in memos. Powerpoint is for ideas. If you have bullets, please, please, please only use one word in each bullet. Two if you have to. Three never.
This may be a bit of a digression from the usual on our own system, but some ideas are just so important…
How to present…well.
It is not an easy thing, but being a good presenter can be a powerful tool. And in this information age we live in there are countless tools available, for free. In fact, some of the best give their ideas away because they can’t stand to see any more bad presentations.
It starts with preparation, and a lot of it. Garr Reynolds gives us plenty of help in this area, here, with ten steps to guide our planning. An excerpt from step No. 7, Dakara nani?, which roughly translates into:
So what?” — always be asking yourself this very important, simple question. If you can’t really answer that question, then cut that bit of content out of your talk.
Your presence during a presentation is key. Mr. Reynolds strikes again with ten more great tips to help with delivery.
If I had only one tip to give, it would be to be passionate about your topic and let that enthusiasm come out. Yes, you need great content. Yes, you need professional, well designed visuals. But it is all for naught if you do not have a deep, heartfelt belief in your topic.
And finally, the software program which has become the crutch of most presentations–and make your presentation an instant failure even if you have prepared well and are a competent deliverer, PowerPoint.
And putting it all together, Guy Kawasaki, who listens to many a presentation, works hard to evangelize the 10/20/30 Rule: “It’s quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.”
Here’s Mr. Kawasaki on the 10/20/30 Rule:
And the best way to get better is to learn from others who present well. The TED website is a great opportunity to do just that, TED is a yearly conference that stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design where individuals come together to give “Inspired talks by the world’s greatest thinkers and doers.” There is some really good stuff here.
For tips on a regular basis, Mr. Reynolds’s Presentation Zen blog is great.
OK, so great presentations take a good amount of time to do. But it’s worth it. As an audience member, please, please take the time.