Review: “HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations” by Nancy Duarte

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Precision coaching for all presenters

By Peter Watts

Nancy Duarte’s Guide to Persuasive Presentations is a concise primer to the skills of presenting, from planning your pitch through to polished delivery.

Of particular value are the sections on how to put together high quality visuals. Some of the book’s best sound-bites are found when Duarte discusses how to create slides that work for an audience, and since reading that section I’ve found myself looking out far more in my own work for the “visual cliches” that Duarte warns about.

This focus on visual layout gives the book a cross-over to the world of blogging because if you are a presenter who also blogs, you’ll find ideas about the use of layouts, diagrams, and imagery. All valuable for an appealing web-page.

This brings us neatly to the topic of social media, and another strength of the HBR Guide. The book brings presenting right into the present day with topics about how you can blend social media resources such as Twitter into presentations, and how to make the maximum use of web-based backchannel communications.

Nancy Duarte is incredibly generous with how she shares the stage. Every chapter contains references to subject matter experts from multiple fields, and advises different books you might like to try out. Backchannel communications for example, is a relatively new topic for me, and right there on the same page that Duarte introduces the topic, she accompanies it with a recommended author from whom you can find out more.

Now for the confession: This wasn’t the Nancy Duarte book that I initially wanted to review. My target was her recent and much-discussed book “Resonate”, but sitting at London’s Heathrow Airport and trying to buy a copy for my Nook e-reader, I discovered that Duarte’s electronic coverage is surprisingly patchy.

The HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations is the only Duarte title Barnes & Noble have in e-book format, while Amazon do slightly better; they have the HBR guide and “Slideology” available for Kindle. No trace of Resonate at this stage however.

Still, having chosen to go with the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations as my first trip into the writing of Nancy Duarte, I’m pleased that I did. The guide gets full marks as an all round primer, with specific focus on presentation visuals. It also deserves a place on a virtual bookshelf due to it’s generosity as a resource guide to additional subject matter experts. Finally, it gets fullest marks for it’s brevity. Brilliantly concise.

Now on the look-out for “Resonate” as an e-book!

UPDATE: March 26th

Resonate on the iPad

It turns out that Resonate is available on the iPad. Thank you Nancy for dropping by the blog to share. First look is deeply impressive, and a full review will be coming shortly.

Making presentations with an iPad. It’s time.

Why the iPad is now a proven tool for presentations

by Peter Watts

Some months ago I blogged about presenting with an iPad. At the time I was still tiptoeing into the world of Keynote and tablet-based presenting.

I’m upgrading my recommendation from a cautious “give-it-a-go” to an enthusiastic “go-for-it”. After three months of extended experiment with the iPad/Keynote combo here are my thoughts:

All that’s in the news, in your presentation
I’ve come to value the way that iPad lets you flick mid-presentation between KeyNote and news/video apps such as the New York Times. Nothing adds currency to a presentation quite like current affairs.

Philips Bluetooth speaker. Much bang, little bucks.
For any presentations that require sound, I’ve added a Philips blue-tooth speaker to my kit bag. It’s small, while at the same time heavy enough not to vibrate its way across the table when you have the volume high. It’s also rugged, so you won’t need to worry about where in your luggage you’re chucking it. The Philips unit has a great battery life, and most importantly, the Bluetooth connection to the iPad is a ten-second snap.

Slimming Your Slides
Most of my original caveats about iPad presenting still stand. You can’t black-out the screen, and I’m still not convinced about using an iPhone as a remote control. The Bluetooth connection between phone and pad is temperamental, and at the end of the day, an iPhone is just too big to subtly use as a remote.

The snag does however have an upside: You produce simpler and less cluttered presentations. The discipline of having to walk to the iPad to advance your slides is a powerful incentive to strip-out unnecessary transitions or special effects.

All day battery
For all day presenting, just put the tablet into flight mode, and then reduce the screen brightness to the lowest point that you are comfortable with. When the show is over, you’ll still have battery life to spare.

Synchronisation at work. Beware
If you are a combination iPad / iPhone / MacBook user, then iCloud synchronisation is a powerful timesaver. Beware though. If you’ve been editing on one device, make sure you close the presentation before attempting to edit or view it on another. It’s easy to create badly-synced duplicates that don’t co-exist at all happily. If you accidentally make some of your edits on your iPad and then the rest of them on your Mac, then at least one of those two sets is going to be irretrievably lost when iCloud tries to synchronise it all back into one document.

Go for it
The iPad is a brilliant tool for presentations. It’s time to commit the bulky laptop carry-bag to history.

And Apple, if you’re listening, the option of iPad control from the standard Apple remote would be wonderful, and how about maybe a black-out option in the next update of KeyNote?

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Ancient Danish monarch: Alive and well in French election

by Peter Watts

Paris is becoming politically plastered. Last-minute election posters are popping up everywhere.

One of them has particularly caught my attention:

“La France Forte Avec Nicolas Sarkozy”
“A strong France with Nicolas Sarkozy”

Sarkozy’s choice of visual metaphor for these closing stages of the campaign has him standing against a backdrop of the ocean; He is the valiant protector, guarding the virtue of the nation. But guarding it against what exactly? With France’s two coastlines being south and west, the threat indicated must lie in one or both of these directions.

The two most likely suspects hinted at must therefore be the economic migrants who cross into France from North Africa, and the “Anglo-Saxon” economic models perceived as crossing from the U.K. and America.

Neither are electorally popular, and to put Sarkozy’s election into context, he faces one election challenger who touts state-sanctioned xenophobia, while the other supports generously old-fashioned state funding for absolutely everything.

These posters suggest Sarkozy is attempting to align himself with both opponents. By representing himself as a stern bastion against the evils from over the waves, he has dived for the basest instincts of the electoral base.

In creating this visual metaphor however, the President’s team have missed it’s most obvious symbolism; King Canute.

Depending on your reading of the legend, King Canute either sought to demonstrate the limits of Kingly power to his awestruck subjects, or truly believed he could command the waves to stop.

In either interpretation, the story didn’t end well.

Does this poster indicate that President Sarkozy is about to get his feet wet?

When choosing visuals, beware the unintended message.

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