To succeed as a presenter, you must think like a designer.
(The title is a quote from Duarte’s book, Slide:ology)
Recently I was working on a presentation with another person in my office and I asked him what he was thinking for the design of the presentation. A puzzled look flashed across his face for a moment and he started telling me what he wanted on the slides.
It hit me that he didn’t see how ‘design’ and ‘presentation’ went together—for slides, yes, but for the whole presentation? I could identify with that–not that long ago I wouldn’t have thought of it that way either. For me, changing that just might be the most important step I’ve taken for doing better presentations.
When you think about a presentation, does the word design leap to mind?
If you’re like I was, then probably not. But I’m now convinced it should. If we start with the dictionary and look up design, you’ll find the word purpose used in the definitions several times and I think that’s key. Part of what I found in Webster’s:
Design, verb, to create according to a plan; to create a device or other tangible product for a specific purpose.
I also like Nancy Duarte’s definition in Slide:ology, too:
Design at its core is about solving problems… [and] to help people do so in the most convenient, simple and elegant way.
Combine those and I think it’s pretty clear that a presentation is something that can and should be designed: created according to a plan, for the purpose of helping people solve a problem.
I also love the fact that Duarte uses the word ‘simple’ as a way to measure the quality or effectiveness of the design. That idea of simple, elegant design has made Apple™ a lot of money via its products. Indeed, iPods™ are often the kind of thing we associate with design. Yet, David Kelley, one of the founders of IDEO and a professor at the Stanford design school, has made the observation that “everything is designed.”
So, yes, the principles of design and design thinking very much apply to doing presentations.
Seeing your presentation as more than the slides, an experience that you design for a purpose and a group of people—that’s a good start to a presentation with impact.