Book Review – slide:ology

In her new book slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations, Nancy Duarte shows how to create effective, intriguing, and visual presentations from the beginning of the process where you ask questions to know your audience better. It works through finding inspiration and coming up with the initial ideas and design.

slide:ology helps those who know all the tricks of PowerPoint, but struggle with the visual aspects of the presentation — the art and design part. That’s me. I’m a right-brain thinker who tells it like it is. But I strain when it comes to creating and showing my thoughts with visuals. It’s like when I tried to be a web designer. I knew how to do HTML, CSS, and create a site. But it was flat, lifeless, and boring.

This book blends PowerPoint and information visualization. It works with the Beyond Bullet Points (BBP) approach because those visuals help tell the story. So expect discussion of space, typography, delivery, diagrams, color, animation, design value, and more.

This won’t teach you how to use PowerPoint. Plenty of books covering that exist already. Instead, Duarte focuses on helping you tell your story in a dramatic and visually appealing way. You won’t have to resort to cliché images anymore.

Once you create your BBP storyboard and come up with a theme, pull out slide:ology to bring your theme to life. Case studies appear throughout the book between creativity and design discussions. Some zoom in on a specific feature of a real presentation while others share expertise from talented speakers and executives of organizations ranging from Cisco to a church pastor.

After reading slide:ology, I believe I can step up my presentations from a design perspective. I’m a pro when it comes to text, but visuals… kaput. Since I can easily create charts, it won’t take much to make them more effective with the tips from the book. I’m in no hurry to do a presentation and test out what I’ve learned.

The book is easy to read and reference as it uses a lot of pictures and slides. Although a lot of the text uses too small of a font size — very surprising considering the discussion on font size.

Nancy has an wealth of resources on her Web site including articles, a blog, and extended content from her book. If you have the book, you’ll notice she cleverly adds a www symbol on some pages. This lets the reader know to check the book’s companion site for extended content.

I love this approach because it’s visual with the green www and it takes very little space to point it out. Thus, you don’t feel like the book wastes any space to point you elsewhere. Some people don’t care to go online — they want their entire book within the book’s pages. So it won’t bother this audience.

A useful book companion site also helps market the book to those who don’t have it. If they like what they see, they’ll want the rest of it. Smart authors balance the print and online resource to avoid taking away from the experience of the print edition and providing bonus material that would not work in the book (videos of the presentation and downloadable PowerPoint files) while giving just enough information to those who don’t own the book… yet.

Duarte refers to Sky McCloud’s (Yes, Scott McCloud’s daughter) dynamic presentation containing 200 slides that she shows in eight minutes. Her book site includes her full presentation — which you can’t capture in the book. As a deaf person, I couldn’t hear what she said. But I tell ya, that girl’s slides captivate me the whole time as they almost tell a story on their own.

What I like about these PowerPoint files is the site shows them like a movie. It also helps to watch the presentation in full first and then download the file to see its individual slides and how to make it work. Finally, Duarte provides the links referenced in the book so readers can click them instead of type them – a great idea that rounds out this solid book on presentation design.

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2 Responses to “Book Review – slide:ology”

  1. Pingback: How to Captivate an Audience according to Nancy Duarte : The Training Designer’s Weblog

  2. Sean Oliver says:

    Great. Now I have to go pick up another book today.

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