Nancy Duarte is probably the only person in the world that has managed to create a very large business in the presentation design market. As a result, she is a true authority on the subject because of here experience with designing presentations ranging from the high profile money-no-issue keynote presentations to the day-to-day high volume make-overs of slides for internal management meetings.

Her new book HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations is different from the previous two (Slide:ology and Resonate): it is far more practical. Out goes the glossy paper, the beautiful diagrams, the client case examples, and instead we have a highly useful list of tips and tricks that can help you make better presentations the moment you put the book down. Almost every paragraph starts with an action verb, a recommendation of something that you can do better.

The book covers a wide range of subjects related to presentation design, from analysing your audience to building an online social media following for your decks, but the core of the book is in story and slide design. Some new ideas that I got out of the book:
  • Create two endings in your presentation, if you run out of time you can always stop at the first one
  • Pick the right type of slide: walk-in slide, title slide, navigation slide, bullet slide, big word slide, quote slide, data slide, diagram slide, conceptual slide, video slide, walk out slide
  • Ideas how to translate words into diagrams.
One point of disagreement, the book advocates using a 10% rule for executive summary slides, so a 50 slide deck needs 5 summary slides (5 minutes), and 45 appendix slides. Pretty much what we tried to do at McKinsey. I increasingly try to shorten that executive summary to one super short summary, and follow it to a slightly longer story that encapsulates the entire story, hoping to be able to hang on to senior management attention for maybe 10 or 15 minutes instead of 5 when the cross fire of questions begins and your slide presentation in the conference room basically ends.

So in short, if you are in doubt which of the 3 Duarte books you should start reading first, I suggest it is this highly practical one. A great and useful read.

Disclosure: links in this post to Amazon are affiliate links and I did receive a free copy of this book for review.

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