10 Years of Presentation Zen

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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.

The Expert's Dilemma

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I remember reading a story about the successful founder of a startup who often got asked to talk about how he did it. He was happy to share his experience but soon ended up talking more about how to run a startup than actually running one.

Can you still be considered an expert on something if you are no longer doing it?


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Looking back at my year 2014, there's so much that I'm grateful for that I decided to write about it (since we don't talk about these things nearly as often as we should).

How do you take your Presentation Drafts with you?

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For the brainstorming phase, when beginning to prepare a presentation, I do recommend to "go analogue" and get away from the computer. Thinking about your topic and how best to explain it feels a lot less like work when you're not sitting in front of a keyboard. You do need a way to jot down your thoughts, though.

A notebook is a good companion during the very early phase. Just write down what comes to mind. Don't worry about the order of things so much yet.

Build Interactivity in

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The average attention span of an adult is said to be about 20 minutes. That's 20 minutes of sustained attention, during which people can - more or less - concentrate on a specific task or, in our context, a presentation. The "20" is not be taken as an exact number, of course, but more like a rule of thumb. Methods like the Pomodoro Technique, which uses 25-minute intervals of focussed work would also be covered by this.

However, as Dr. John Medina argues, it's probably a good idea not to rely on your audience's undivided attention to last the full 20 minutes. Instead, he proposes a 10-minute rule (again, the "10" is not to be taken as an exact number). Dr. Medina suggests that you change your approach every 8-12 minutes or so. By this he means to switch between simply showing slides to showing a video, drawing on a whiteboard, or doing an exercise.