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slide:ology June 8, 2010

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Books, Presentations, Reviews.
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slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great PresentationsThere’s a reason I put off reading Nancy Duarte’s slide:ology as long as I did: under deadline with several presentations in the pipeline, I was worried that reading it would cause me to rethink much of the work I had already done. But when I found myself with time before having to begin a new round of presentation preparation, I decided I’d better get started reading it lest it gather dust on my shelf.

Soon after starting with it I was mesmerized. Yes, slide:ology should be required reading for anyone that makes presentations for a living.

My only point of comparison in this regard is Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen, which I feel is one of the best books on presentations ever written. Certainly, slide:ology isn’t Presentation Zen, which is only to say that Nancy Duarte’s book has a different appeal (and perhaps purpose as well). To my mind, Presentation Zen conveyed mostly a philosophy about how to approach presentations, and what I got out of it was being exposed to an aesthetic that I wanted to emulate. In like manner, slide:ology challenges readers to develop a new presentation ideology; yet it does so by being a technical reference for how to make captivating presentations.

This is what makes the book a valuable resource, especially given the author’s pedigree. Speaking of which, slide:ology perhaps reads best as a manual for creating presentations of the corporate variety. Yes, the book demands that readers see presentations from a broader perspective, but at the same time it offers a surfeit of detail that is indispensable and useful. Everything from appropriate color selection, typography, and diagram design are covered and are applicable to presentations of all kinds. However, when Duarte begins to delve into the subtle use of complex animations and the necessity for common template design, it’s clear that the book will be most appreciated by business executives and aspiring entrepreneurs.

If slide:ology has any shortcoming, it is this: reading between the lines, it would seem that Duarte’s slideware of choice is Microsoft Powerpoint. This criticism is more than de rigueur ribbing by an Apple fanboy: having made the switch to Keynote myself several years back, I’ve come to realize that the choice presentation software also affects one’s approach to presentation design even if subtly. Indeed, while reading the book there were instances where I found myself thinking that my approach to designing a presentation in Keynote (or even Prezi!) would be rather different.

At 200-over pages, slide:ology is worthwhile reading for presentation mavens — and it’s a short 200-odd pages, considering. Nancy Duarte is right: it’s about time that people developed a new presentation ideology. This book will convince people of that proposition and help show the way.

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