10 Years of Presentation Zen

Posted by

Time is a funny thing. It can both feel short and long at the same, well, time.

The reason for this tiny bit of philosophy is the fact that Garr Reynolds' Presentation Zen Blog is turning 10 years this month. "Has it really been that long?", I ask myself. And then I notice that it was only 4 years ago that I first met Garr in person.

Digging a little deeper, I can't help noticing that I was still producing slides full of bullet points back in 2005. As so many others, I was simply copying what everybody else was doing. I tried to distinguish myself by using a fancy background but already felt that there must be a better way. It must have been around that time when I first came across the Presentation Zen blog, since you can see that my presentation style had improved by 2006. I was still stuck in the "neither fish nor fowl" mindset for quite a while, but I was at least using photos by then. I also remember that I had stubbornly decided to develop my own style and tried to only use black-and-white photos for a while. I gave that up eventually and also - slowly - overcame the need to still have bullet points on my slides. I remember a compliment I got after a presentation in 2008 that it was "bold" of me to simply bring up a slide with a big RSS logo and no text on it. A slide deck from early 2010 that was making the rounds again on Twitter just a couple of days ago shows that I was still not comfortable with using full-screen photos by then. It was only after meeting Garr and attending the Presentation Zen seminar in Paris in 2010 that I finally felt comfortable with embracing this style fully.


For example, compare the presentations about the Google Summer of Code programme that I made in 2010 (before the seminar) and in 2011. It's basically the same presentation about the same topic, but one year apart. One is full of bullet points, the other is much more visual.


I'm writing all this not to pat myself on the back but to show how revolutionary a change in presentation style Presentation Zen was - and how hard it was for someone, especially someone with a background in fact-based technology, to embrace that style.

A visual presentation style is much more widely accepted nowadays, but can still meet some resistance in certain hard-core techie circles. Part of the reason why I started giving presentation advice to my fellow geeks is to help them make this transition much faster than I did. Because I know by now that this approach works.

Garr Reynolds wasn't the first to think that there must be a better way to present, as is obvious from all the examples from the past that can be found on the Presentation Zen blog. Presentation Zen just happened to be there at the right time - when people were more willing to accept the idea - and it packaged everything up in a consistent, comprehensible, honest, and personal way.

That all started 10 years ago - and the journey isn't over yet. But there are more and more people joining us on that journey. Thanks, Garr, for taking the first step.

P.S. More congratulations coming in:

If you'd like me to talk or write about this topic, you can hire me to do so.
Please email me for details.
Creative Commons Licence "10 Years of Presentation Zen" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.