Burk is a long-time programmer and software architect, currently focused on the Java platform with an eye toward mobile platforms. In 2010, he was voted a JavaOne Rock Star for his talk on User Experience Anti-Patterns, and is a co-author of the books "97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know" and "97 Things Every Programmer Should Know". Burk is also a Sun Certified Programmer, Developer, and Enterprise Architect for JEE 5. Burk has posted 25 posts at DZone. View Full User Profile

slide:ology The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations

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Published by: O'Reilly
ISBN: 0596522347

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"slide:ology" can help you improve your ability to connect with the people listening to you by taking the focus off of the software you're presenting with and putting it back on what's really important; the ideas being presented, the people you're presenting them to.


The subtitle for “slide:ology” is “The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations” – and that may have you wondering why I’m posting a review of it here. That’s a fair questions and it deserves a fair answer. I wanted to read this book because I’m looking for a better way to communicate with other people; and I’m posting a review here because I believe "slide:ology" does a bang-up job of describing how to do just that.

Despite the subtitle, “slide:ology” isn’t focused on the software we use to create presentations. It’s really about creating ideas and transferring them onto slides in a way that makes them stand out and actually strengthen your presentation.

In addition to the primary information in each chapter, the book has numerous “case studies” showing how some well known people and organizations get their point across in a clear and powerful way.  In fact, this book is so packed with ideas and information (much of it visual) that it isn’t practical to try and summarize everything. So I’m just going to point out a couple of things in each chapter...

Chapter 1, “Creating a New Slide Ideology,” sets the stage for the rest of the book. In it, Nancy points out the importance of creating good presentations, and introduces an approach to creating and giving world-class presentations.

The next chapter, “Creating Ideas, Not Slides” is about shifting the focus from using some kind of software to create the slides for our presentation to figuring out what we want to say in the first place. Several methods for doing this are discussed, and examples of each are included.

Chapter 3, “Creating Diagrams” is chock full of different images that show relationships and interactions between elements in a diagram. They’ve been divided into six categories and each category contains three or more sub-categories. The chapter ends by showing how to combine several diagrams to describe an entire system, and how to take a “good enough” diagram and make it better.

Displaying Data” is chapter 4, and in it Nancy presents five rules for displaying data in your presentation; tell the truth, get to the point, pick the right tool for the job, highlight what’s important, and keep it simple. There is a short description of each rule and examples of how to apply them. The chapter ends with an example makeover for three common types of charts, based on some of the five rules.

Chapter 5, “Thinking Like a Designer” begins by pointing out the value of design to businesses. Nancy makes the claim that, “to succeed as a presenter, you must think like a designer.” She tells us that the next few chapter present a “design baseline” we can use when trying to decide what to put on our slides, and ends the chapter by introducing the three keys to designing effective slides: arrangement, visual elements, and movement.

The next chapter, “Arranging Elements” points out that how the elements on a slide are arranged may be determining factor on how well the audience will get the message. By using elements like contrast, flow, hierarchy, unity, proximity, and whitespace properly, you increase the chances of your message being clearly received.

Chapter 7, “Using Visual Elements: Background, Color, and Text” shows how to work with three of the four basic elements on a slide; images are the fourth and they are covered in the next chapter. Each element has several pages devoted to it, and the associated visuals backing up the text.

Using Visual Elements: Images” is chapter 8, and it finishes what chapter 7 started. The chapter focuses on two types of images: photographs and illustrations; and includes tips on taking your own photos and how to use illustrations to make a complex story (or idea) understandable.

Chapter 9, “Creating Movement” shows us how to successfully include movement within and between slides. Our eyes react to movement automatically and so it’s important to know how to use movement to attract attention and not as a distraction.

Governing with Templates” is chapter 10, and it presents suggestions on creating and using slide templates within an organization. This is yet another chapter with gorgeous graphics backing up the textual descriptions. It really helps to be able to see how slides that look different can all be a part of an organization’s template library.

Chapter 11, “Interacting with Slides” is one of the longest chapters in the book; and rightly so. It discusses various ways of improving your presentation skills, including when to use slides and when not to, how many slides to use in a presentation, how much text to put on a slide, and the power of the dramatic pause. It ends with a reminder on the importance of relating with your audience and communicating honestly with them.

Manifesto: The Five Theses of the Power of a Presentation” is the last chapter of the book, and sums up the contents of the previous chapters. I think the theses make great reminders of what was learned and discussed to this point and do a great job of verbally summing up the previous 250 pages.

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Burk Hufnagel.

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