If you’ve been reading my blog posts for a while, you’ve seen me refer to Presentation Zen more than once? What is Presentation Zen?
Presentation Zen is a book.
When I discovered this book last year, it changed the way I do and teach presentations. If you’re still among the millions who think that any respectable business presentation has to have slides of mostly text organized into bullets and sub-bullets, get the book. Spending just a few minutes leafing through the examples in Presentation Zen is the first step on the long journey to presentation satori.
The author, Garr Reynolds, is a product of Silicon Valley but now lives and works in Japan. Thus the “zen” part of his approach is somewhat authentic.
Presentation Zen is a DVD.
True story. I was invited to help coach the presentations of the ten companies incubated at DreamIt Ventures this summer. I hadn’t done the initial coaching of the presentations, so they were pretty far along before I joined the process.
I was blown away at what I saw. After the first few, I exclaimed to the group, “What’s going on here? These are great, visual presentations–exactly the style I teach! Who taught you to do this?”
In reply, a couple of the entrepreneurs whipped out their copy of the Presentation Zen DVD, and some had the book. I whipped out MY copy of the book that I always carry in my bag when I go to coach, to show and recommend. Turns out, the leader of DreamIt, David Bookspan, has been a Presentation Zen fan as long as I have.
Presentation Zen is a blog.
Garr Reynolds maintains an active blog–www.presentationzen.com–that is at the top of my list of sources and ideas on presentation, design, and modern communication methods. If you can’t wait to get the book and DVD, jump into some of the articles and links on the Presentation Zen site and witness the future of presentations.
As an example, among the long list of archive posts in the sidebar are these links to four different, radical presentation methods. The last link is a comparison of the “methods” of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
The Takahashi Method (king-sized text)
The Kawasaki Method (10 slides, 10 ideas)
The Godin Method (a pioneer of big photos)
The Lessig Method (high-speed slideshow)
Check out the blog, and if you like what you see I recommend you subscribe to the RSS feed for Presentation Zen.
Presentation Zen is a movement.
I’ve heard a few people refer to the “Presentation Zen” style. I’ve also heard “West Coast Style” and even “Steve Jobs” style. Without straining for a definition, it’s enough to say that there’s a revolution going on in the way anybody–including business people–present with slides. In it’s purest form it’s a radical departure from the title/bullet/sub-bullet style and cluttered slides that is the de facto standard now and the cause of so many boring, time-wasting presentations. You can see it in the examples below.
Here’s a quick sample of what Presentation Zen slides look like. I found these all on SlideShare. I think it’s significant that their authors each titled their piece “Presentation Zen.” None of these are by Garr Reynolds, the author of Presentation Zen.
So you’re excited about dumping all your old habits and completely redoing your investor presentation in this new visual style. Not so fast!
But Will Investors Like It?
Is this radical Presentation Zen / West Coast style appropriate for venture investor presentations?
Yes and no.
Yes: 99% of the investor presentations I see can learn a great deal from these more visual styles. Less text, more images, more white space, better design. I heartily encourage all entrepreneurs to learn and practice the style.
No: if you turn your entire presentation into images and minimal text, you’ll be sacrificing some of the detail that investors need, even in an initial presentation. And if the photos are overdone, or are too cute or cliched, you take the risk of making a bad impression and losing credibility with investors.
So if you’re excited by this new method, be careful. Don’t go whole hog. Big photos or big text, no matter how great they look, won’t by themselves make your presentation great. Nothing’s that easy.
There is a time a place in investor presentations for a text slide with bullets, or a a well-crafted chart or diagram with great detail. The trick is to know when to use which type of visual support. To pick the right tool for the job.
Stay tuned. I’ll be blogging more in the future about different types of slides and how to use them for best effect in your investor pitch.