Two Great Reasons To Come To Paris

September 14, 2011

Last year, the fantastic Garr Reynolds came to France for a one-off Presentation Zen European Seminar. It sold out well in advance, and was a rousing success. People came from nine countries, including the USA, to learn from the world’s leading presentation expert. This year, he’s back for more.

On November 14th 2011, Garr will return to Paris to deliver his only public seminar in Europe this year. Tickets are now on sale exclusively at – so don’t miss your opportunity: sign up now.

But that’s not all. We are also delighted to announce the Ideas on Stage Conference 2011, which will be held on November 15th 2011. This is the first in what we hope will be a series of top-class social conferences, bringing together amazing speakers and leading innovators, entrepreneurs and communicators for an event which will be as memorable for its networking opportunities as for the top-quality speakers.

You could think of it as a ‘TED for business’. The focus is on innovation, communication and entrepreneurship:

  • Innovation, which is the lifeblood of any business, large or small;
  • Communication, without which even the best innovations get nowhere;
  • Entrepreneurship, which is vital for transforming great innovations into profitable, sustainable businesses – as much for big firms as for start-ups.

We’ll be announcing a line-up of top-quality speakers, and social tools to facilitate networking before, during and after the event. Garr Reynolds will be one of the keynote speakers (so that gives you an idea of the quality we’re aiming for) and we have many others who will leave your minds buzzing with creative business ideas.

Places are strictly limited for this first event in November, so get in early and take advantage of special Early Bird prices (valid until October 1st). You can also buy a combined ticket for the Presentation Zen European Seminar and the Ideas on Stage 2011 Conference, and save even more.

You don’t normally need excuses to come to the beautiful city of Paris. Here are two great ones – and we hope they will convince you to come to Paris, have a great time, and take home top-class presentation skills, brilliant business ideas, useful new contacts, and happy memories – as well as those little plastic Eiffel Towers.

Sign up now and we look forward to welcoming you to Paris!

When you think Presentation Zen isn’t appropriate, that’s when you need it most

August 4, 2011

I meet many people who have read and enjoyed Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds’ masterpiece which tears up the received wisdom of presentations, and offers a completely different approach. Most accept that it has improved their presentation style significantly.

However, even these PZ disciples often tell me that they think Garr’s approach isn’t practical for certain types of presentations. It’s fine, they say, for a TED talk or a sales pitch, but you can’t use a Presentation Zen for a detailed technical explanation of how to run a particular widget.

I disagree. But I see where they are coming from. Many PZ readers get the impression that a ‘zenified’ presentation is one which features slides with lots of beautiful photos and very little text. The attractive design and plentiful visual examples in the book naturally have something to do with this.

But Presentation Zen is not a style: it is an approach. It is a different way of thinking about presentations, which does not prescribe the use of quality stock photos, although they may often feature in a resulting slide-deck. The end-result of using the Presentation Zen approach is an interesting, relevant and memorable presentation – not just some pretty slides.

Here are three situations where people say Presentation Zen isn’t appropriate.

1. A boring subject. You are required to present a study of 19th-century economic theories and their impact on the Crimean War to a group of 16-year-olds. They are fully expecting to be bored stiff and have no interest at all in the subject, you know this, and you’re all going to be very relieved when it’s over, after which they will remember precisely nothing because they weren’t listening. How can you possibly use the Presentation Zen approach for something so boring?

The answer is that if the subject is worth presenting, it is worth presenting in an interesting way. It is worth thinking about your audience and finding a way to make it relevant to them, to make them want to listen, and to help them to learn. In fact, it is the most boring subjects which can benefit the most from the Presentation Zen approach.

I recently heard an example of a bailiff who needed to make a presentation to other bailiffs about the rate of repossessions. Boring job, boring people, boring subject, boring presentation, right? Wrong. This bailiff used the Presentation Zen approach to craft an interesting and engaging talk, with a few clear and simple graphs and a little humour, which the audience loved.

The bottom line is that people don’t like to be bored, and if they are used to being bored, or are expecting to be bored, then it’s all the more important to find a way to make your talk interesting to them. This in fact is where Presentation Zen can be of greatest value.

2. A technical presentation. Imagine you need to use a presentation to explain how to use a particular piece of software.  There’s no chance at all of using Presentation Zen here, right?

Wrong. Once again, Presentation Zen is not a style. With the Presentation Zen approach, you will shut down your computer, consider your key messages and the success criteria for your talk, and think creatively about the best ways to help your audience to internalize those key messages. While the end-result may not include stock photos with a few words, it should be an interesting and engaging way of getting your messages across, with or without visuals, and in any case it’s unlikely to feature too many bullet points.

Many years ago I was a trainer for an IT infrastructure course we gave to all IT new-hires in a major corporation. This covered a lot of technical detail in many different areas, and it was in need of a new approach. I reinvented the course using a storyline – where participants had to imagine themselves starting a tiny company with nothing more than a phone, and building up additional bricks of infrastructure as the business grew until they had their own centralized data center and wide-area network.

This new structure helped participants to stay engaged, and to realize not just what each piece does, but why it is needed and how it fits with all the other pieces. I also introduced a large number of exercises to break up the flow, keep people involved, and help them to learn by doing, not just by listening.

This was before the time of Presentation Zen, but the approach is just the same. Find a relevant and ideally enjoyable way for the audience to learn. Think creatively, use the power of storytelling, and make the key messages memorable.

Coming back to the software explanation example, you might use screen captures, or videos, or a live demo, or you might get the audience to learn hands-on with their own computers. Any of those would be more effective than throwing out dozens of bullet points over a two-hour monologue and hoping some of it sticks.

3. A review of business results. Quarterly or annual results – absolutely no chance of pretty stock photos here, right? Correct – but that doesn’t stop  you using the Presentation Zen approach.

A customer approached my company Ideas on Stage asking for our help with his procurement department’s annual all-employee review, where he had to present the year’s results and the plans for the year ahead to 250 people. He gave us 108 highly detailed graphs as a starting point – most years, these would have been the slides. There is a lot to measure in procurement, especially in such a big group.

We helped him to simplify his messages, showing only the information which supported his main points, and we produced a deck of about 35 slides, all of which were simple, clear and attractive, often with simple graphs showing only the relevant information and making the key message stand out, and without a single stock photo. We then helped him to rehearse delivering those key messages with passion and belief. It was a resounding success. The Presentation Zen approach works very well for results presentations.

There are two simple conclusions.

  1. Presentation Zen is about more than just pretty slides, and Garr’s approach could lead you to deliver a presentation with no slides at all.
  2. It’s at those times when you may think this approach is least appropriate that, on the contrary, it can make the most difference.

If you haven’t yet read Presentation Zen, I strongly recommend it. If you have, I recommend re-reading it. Over time, we tend to forget much of what we read, and remember only a key takeaway or two. The two obvious takeaways from Presentation Zen are “don’t use slideuments” and “use simple slides with photos”, and sadly that’s all many people remember. Yet there is far more to it than that, and it is one of those rare books which thoroughly deserve to be revisited regularly.

Presentation 2.0: Resonate Naked

June 29, 2011

As I prepare to launch a new Ideas on Stage training course entitled Presentation 2.0, I feel compelled to write about two recent books which have captured the spirit of what we mean with Presentation 2.0, and which I would advise any presenter to read more than once.

Presentation 2.0 – the new art of presenting – is about engaging with your audience, telling authentic stories, and sharing passion and motivation with more concern for your audience than for yourself. In a Presentation 2.0, you are presenting not because you are important, but because your audience is important, so your focus is on them.

In a Presentation 2.0, you might choose to use visual aids to get your message across more memorably, but you will keep your slides simple and clear, and you will ensure that they are there only to help your audience to understand and remember your messages, not to help you to remember what you need to say.

In a Presentation 2.0, you will care more about what your audience will do with your message afterwards than what they think about you as a presenter.

For all these reasons, Presentation 2.0 is a far more effective and enjoyable way to communicate than the 1.0 style of reading bullet-ridden slideuments to bored audiences, or even the more advanced 1.1 style, promoted by slide-oriented sites like SlideShare, where you use pretty slides but still divert too much of the audience’s attention onto the slides and away from the two-way communication you should be having between presenter and audience. Death By Pretty Powerpoint is just sharpening the axe – it still falls and it still kills.

Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds ponder each other's first book

Now, before I talk about these two books, let me first provide a disclaimer. I didn’t pay for either of these – I received copies directly from the authors. The presentation business is still a fairly small world, people quote each other and write forewords for each other’s books, and that’s remarkably refreshing since we’re all working together with a common aim. While I’ve not yet met Nancy Duarte (an omission I’ll soon be correcting), I’ve shared a stage with Garr Reynolds and organize seminars with him, and – further disclaimer – he even did me the honour of including one of my articles in The Naked Presenter.

So I’m not exactly impartial here. But I’m not being paid to write a review, and if either author was hoping for one, I’ve likely disappointed them by delaying it for eight months.

Nancy Duarte wrote resonate as a prequel to her best-seller slide:ology. This fact alone is telling.

After many years as a leading presentation specialist, Nancy realised that before you can spend time making attractive and effective slides, you first have to structure your presentation properly, with clear objectives, simple messages, and a powerful scenario which draws on millennia of storytelling experience from Aristotle to Hollywood. And before you can do that, you have to focus on your audience.

Only when you know your audience and you have a story to match can you expect your ideas to resonate with them – and if your ideas resonate, then the audience will take them away and make them resonate far and wide.

resonate is therefore the book to read before slide:ology, and indeed, if it is the only presentation book you ever read, it will be a good choice because it tells you so much about storytelling, with many examples from Martin Luther King Jr to Star Wars, and if you can get your storytelling right and tailor it to your audience’s needs, you have the makings of a fine presentation.

The Naked Presenter follows on from Garr Reynolds’ previous two best-sellers, Presentation Zen and Presentation Zen Design. Where the first was about realising the received wisdom about presenting was all wrong, and offering a fresh, simple approach, and the second was about designing simple and attractive slides, The Naked Presenter focuses on how to deliver your presentation authentically and memorably.

Naked, in this sense, is figurative: it is about being yourself, being authentic, and making a connection with your audience. It is about presenting for them, not for you. It is about communicating, not putting on a show.

The “Naked Book”, as Garr calls it, is in fact a fantastic one-stop-shop for presentation skills, because it also covers how to structure your presentation, and how to approach your slides. So again, if this is the only presentation book you ever read, it’s a good choice.

Both books are beautifully designed and easy to read, in bite-size chunks. Personally, I would recommend reading The Naked Presenter first, then reading it again, and then getting into resonate. This is because Garr’s book will give you a strong foundation in all aspects of the Presentation 2.0 approach (storytelling, effective visuals and delivery), and Nancy’s book will then give you expert knowledge about how to choose your objectives and craft an effective story.

You can then of course go into detail on slide design with slide:ology or Presentation Zen Design, both of which I refer back to regularly. But don’t put the cart before the horse: learn what makes a presentation work, and then learn how to illustrate it. There are few if any skills you can learn which you will have as many opportunities to use as presenting effectively, and even fewer which will better help you to advance your career.

The evolution of Presentation 2.0 is clear if you contrast Nancy’s and Garr’s latest books with their previous ones. Previously, it seemed that the main battle to be fought was against bad slides, and both authors created powerful ammunition to beat the legions of slideuments and their endless flow of bullets. That battle is not yet won, but the tide is turning.

Yet now it is clear that fixing your slides isn’t good enough. Films don’t win awards only with brilliant supporting roles: they need to have top-class lead actors, and very strong storylines which truly engage the target audience. Slides are just a support, no more. You need to make your ideas resonate, and you need to engage properly with your audience. Only then can your finely manicured slides be effective.

That’s why resonate and The Naked Presenter mark the beginning of a new era in presenting, an era where the audience is paramount; where presentations put ideas on stage, not mere information; where those ideas are crafted and delivered so they resonate with audiences; and where presenters engage their audiences in a naked, authentic way.

This is the Presentation 2.0 era. This is where we can all resonate naked. And our audiences will most definitely thank us for it.

Review: Presentation Zen European Seminar 2010

December 13, 2010

From all the comments I’ve received, the Presentation Zen European Seminar 2010 was a fantastic event, highly appreciated by the participants, and throughly enjoyed by everyone.

It was a lot of work to get everything organised, but it was well worth it. Garr Reynolds was superb as always, and led the participants through an entertaining, instructive and memorable afternoon.

The show began, of course, the evening before, when we congregated at Un Dimanche A Paris, the new chocolate-themed concept store opened by Pierre Cluizel just off Boulevard Saint-Germain. Garr was able to meet many fans including some who weren’t able to make it to the seminar itself, and it was also an opportunity for some seminar participants to get to know each other beforehand.

The location was beautiful, the wine delicious and the food (we stayed to eat in the restaurant) was simply sublime. I will be taking my wife there soon. Garr enjoyed the guided tour – and the chocolates!

Pierre’s charming wife Sylvie also provided us with some chocolate mignonnettes (small squares) which were the perfect accompaniment to the coffee break during the Presentation Zen seminar. This was one of three surprises we sprung on the participants. The others were a Presentation Zen Way bento box, and – just at the end – an advance copy of Garr’s new book, The Naked Presenter, which Garr was only too pleased to sign and dedicate.

Between these surprises, Garr’s typically strong performance and the great support provided by Microsoft and Pearson, it was a successful event and although tickets weren’t cheap, it was generally considered great value for money.

But don’t just believe me – there are plenty of participants who have blogged about the seminar, and I’ll put links to their posts and photos in the comments below. (You can find many of our photos here.)

So, time for thankyous.

Thanks to Microsoft (Saïd Sbihi, Blaise Vignon and Christophe Lauer) for hosting the event in such a great room and supporting us so professionally.

Thanks to Pearson (Cécile Legros, Victoria Watkins and Florence Young) for making the bento boxes affordable and for giving away Garr’s new book.

Thanks to Pierre Morsa, my partner at Ideas on Stage, for his tireless enthusiasm and great organisation with tickets, invoices, etc.

Thanks to all the many participants for making it such a special day – I hope we will meet again.

And of course, thanks to Garr for bringing his Presentation Zen Way to Europe and for trusting us with this event, not for the first time, and hopefully not the last.

Tweet-up with Garr Reynolds

December 3, 2010

Regular readers will know that Garr Reynolds is about to visit Paris for his only Presentation Zen seminar in Europe this year.

The evening before, we’re organising a tweet-up with Garr. This will be on Monday December 6th. (Yes, this Monday coming!)

What’s a tweet-up? It’s a meet-up shared by social media. Basically anyone can come, there’s no entrance fee, no guest list, no registration – just come as you are and enjoy a relaxed hour or so with Garr and his other fans over a few drinks. If you bring a book along, he might even bring his pen…

This tweet-up will be at Un Dimanche à Paris, a brand-new concept store with its own restaurant and lounge, all around the central theme of chocolate. It is a remarkable place which is well worth a visit, with or without Garr!

So here are the details – feel free to tweet this and tell your friends, so Garr has the chance to meet as many of his fans as possible, and so they have the chance to meet up with their favourite author.

When: Monday December 6th, 7pm-9pm

Where: Un Dimanche à Paris, 4-6-8 Cour du Commerce St André, 75006 Paris

Metro: Odéon (see map below)

We will be in the lounge upstairs – when you arrive, please mention that you are there to see Garr.

We look forward to seeing you on Monday!

One Slide To Rule Them All

November 10, 2010

Stories are a great way to communicate messages, and analogies are a key part of this. Here’s an analogy using story, all about how using great slides as visual aids is more powerful than using slideuments.

Before I start, I should make a short disclaimer. Garr Reynolds is a Star Wars fan and has used this analogy many times on his Presentation Zen blog (and he does a mean Yoda impression too), and Nancy Duarte used Star Wars Episode 4 to exemplify the art of storyline in her brilliant book Resonate. To those who would suggest I’m just copying them, I would state that imitation is the finest form of flattery, and besides this is a very different exercise. Plus I’m not much of a Star Wars fan to be honest.

However I have been a Tolkien fanatic since a tender age, so I’ll use The Lord Of The Rings to explain my message. If you don’t know the book or films, this might not mean a lot, but it might be fun anyway. Here is my story and it is called:

The Shadow had returned to Boredor, and it was working tirelessly to spread its malevolent influence across the whole land of Middle-Management. The Dark Lord, Microsauron, had unleashed a deadly new weapon to torture, bore and demoralise the free people of the world and bring them unwittingly under his power. It had many names, but since it was powerful and many torture implements are pointy, they mostly called it PowerPointy.

One by one, presenters everywhere began to use Microsauron’s technology and bored each other to death. “Who needs Orcs?” laughed Microsauron, “these dumb idiots are killing each other with my bullets! Soon the whole world will be under my Shadow!”

However, far away, a Jobbit called Stevo discovered something shiny and unique, and he decided to call it the iRing. It became known that this iRing used to belong to Microsauron and contained much of his source code, and Stevo was asked to bring it to Rivendell to decide what to do with it.

The Council of Elrond brought together representatives from all the great nations, and Elrond’s message was that the only way to defeat Microsauron was to take the iRing to RedMount Doom and throw it back into the fire whence it came. He convened the Fellowship of the iRing to undertake this dangerous but vital quest.

The warrior Borismir argued against this, stating that it would be better to use Microsauron’s power against Boredor.

Unfortunately, his slideument was not very convincing, so it was agreed to proceed with the quest.

However, Elrond had himself come under the Shadow’s influence, and he made the fatal mistake of using a slideument to explain the Fellowship’s mission.

Sadly but inevitably the Fellowship didn’t understand the whole message, although they thought they’d read it properly, and they didn’t realise that “Watch out for Googlum” meant that it would be a good idea to stay away from him. Instead, they welcomed his offer to guide them, and Googlum led them to their doom in the Great River Androin, where the iRing was lost, never to be seen again.

Only Stevo the Jobbit and the wizard Garrdalf escaped, and they fled to the woods of Lorien, where they were found by elves and taken to their leader Nancydriel who lived in the highest tree, with its majestic mountain view.

Nancydriel had long studied slideology, and she showed them that in fact Borismir had been right about using Microsauron’s powerful technology to defeat his Shadow – it just had to be used in the right way. Then she shared with them the secret of the One Slide To Rule Them All – the most powerful slide ever conceived, so powerful that it could break the trance-like spell of the slideuments, and vanquish the Shadow of boredom for ever.

Stevo and Garrdalf then made their way to Minas Tirith, where the Shadow had already taken a firm hold, and no meeting was safe from the scourge of the slideument. Taking advantage of the bored stupor of the city’s residents, Microsauron had unleashed the full force of his mighty armies, who were already beginning to bombard the citadel with bombs, patches and overstocked Zunes.

There was no time to lose. Quickly, Garrdalf and Stevo found the biggest projector in the city, raised up a huge screen above the walls, set up a microphone, and Stevo took the stage. He began to deliver the presentation which Garrdalf had written, and which they had rehearsed meticulously as they rode over the plains of Rohan.

Both armies stopped and listened, and looked in wonder as Stevo told them stories (with lots of superlatives) and illustrated them with slides which mostly just had pictures – yes, pictures, and maybe only a few words or a number. The black clouds that had filled the skies began to recede to the East, back towards RedMount Doom whence they came. The spell of the slideument was being broken, and one by one, everyone watching realised that in fact Microsauron’s technology could be used to enhance communication, not just to impede it.

Then when the time was just right, Stevo clicked forward and unveiled the One Slide. The crowds gasped. Weapons fell to the floor, jaws dropped, and there was absolute silence, apart from the clear sound of Stevo’s voice which spoke clearly and directly to every individual present. Everybody paid attention. They could not do otherwise.

Slowly it dawned on Microsauron’s armies that their foes had found a way to harness the Dark Lord’s power, and vanquish the slideument for ever. As Stevo spoke clearly, simply and passionately, they realised they could not win, they panicked, and they fled.

One Slide To Rule Them All

In the end it was all remarkably simple. Stevo just had to show a completely black slide, and suddenly the audience would have nothing to look at but him, the presenter. That was the One Slide, the most powerful slide, the beauty of simplicity, one could say an anti-slide, the best way to defeat the slideuments.

Between them, Stevo the Jobbit and Garrdalf had beaten the Shadow, and shown the world of Middle-Management how real presentations should be done. No longer would the terror of Death By PowerPointy haunt meeting rooms across the land; no longer would people tremble at the words “I’ll come back to that on slide 87”; no longer would the word ‘presentation’ be synonymous with ‘mind-numbing boredom’.  And perhaps people would realise that in fact it wasn’t Microsauron who had inflicted all that pain on them, but their own dumb use of his perfectly good tools.


Meanwhile, Microsauron realised his plan to conquer the world through boredom had been foiled, but what most people didn’t know was that it was only his Plan B. Originally, his Plan A was to use his great presentation technology to convince everybody to join forces with him, and take over the world peacefully, but sadly it hadn’t worked because he hadn’t found the right way to use the tool. Luckily, neither had most other people, so Plan B happened almost by accident.

Now that he realised how to use his fantastic tool to communicate effectively, Microsauron decided to move back to Plan A, and began to plot a major presentation. If he couldn’t do boredom any more, perhaps disease would do the trick. Ah yes, malaria. Now that could make for a memorable presentation…

FOOTNOTE: Any perceived likenesses to individuals and companies will be strenuously denied. I can’t be held accountable for your vivid imaginations…

Presentation Zen Euro Seminar: What an audience!

October 21, 2010

Tickets for the Presentation Zen European Seminar 2010 are selling very well, and bringing people together from all over Europe – and beyond.

Garr Reynolds’ only public seminar in Europe this year (in Paris, France, on December 7th) is proving to be an amazing attraction. So far, we have participants from all these countries:

  • Switzerland
  • Germany
  • Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • United Kingdom
  • Sweden
  • Spain (mainland and even Tenerife!)
  • USA
  • (and of course France)

This is going to be a memorable event not only thanks to Garr’s electric presence, but also because of the fantastic diversity of the group of participants. And since there will be plenty of exercises, some in small groups, everyone will have a chance to learn from each other.

We’ll make sure we all have a chance to get to know each other over a light lunch, and for those of you who are arriving the day before in Paris, we’ll have a pre-seminar meet-up somewhere in Paris on the evening of December 6th.

If you haven’t got your ticket yet, hurry up – there aren’t many left, and this is an event which is not to be missed. Garr, Pierre and I are looking forward to meeting you all.

(P.S. – Paris is wonderful in December, so if you want to prolong your stay, you could also join the Art of Presenting course which Pierre and I are running with our company Ideas on Stage on December 8, 9 and 10 – it’s in English and it’s the perfect opportunity to practise the Presentation Zen approach in a much smaller group. Only a few places left so sign up quickly…)

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