Monday, May 4, 2009

Review of Presentation Zen

When I read books, I often take notes.  Sometimes I take notes in the books themselves, other times I put notes down in notecards, I will also put notes in a personal wiki.  You could say that I don’t really have a system.  One thing is fairly consistent, I normally don’t go back and look at the notes (whether I can’t find them because of my “system” or I just don’t think about it).  So with my most recent read, I’m going to try something new… I’m writing about it in my blog.

Presentation Zen is an extremely good read.  I wouldn’t be doing it justice by putting my notes in a personal file.  This book should be shared.  I know I’m not the first reader or reviewer of this book, but I think word needs to spread about its virtues.  I have put off reading this book because I really haven’t done many presentations in the past.  When I signed up to speak at the Richmond Code Camp, I finally had a good reason to pick it up.

Presentation Zen is definitely tied in specifically about giving presentations; however, its lessons transcend this single topic.  The approach to presentations given here deal with design, storytelling, and simplicity.  These are valuable lessons for people of all walks of life, especially software developers.  Be warned, you will not look at presentations the same way again.  In fact, some presentations that you previously tolerated will become nearly intolerable.

One of the reasons I think this book was enjoyable and timely for me is that it shares elements with some other great books I’ve read in the last year.  I strongly recommend all of the following:  Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor your Wetware by Andy Hunt, A Whole New Mind by Dan Pink, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig.

All of these books challenge the reader to approach things with a different mindset.  There are consistencies through all of these books that seem surprising, since all of the authors are from different fields.  Also, every one of them is extremely relevant to software development.  That’s interesting because only one of the books was written by a software developer.

Back to Presenation Zen, I hope to improve my presentation style and maybe achieve the level of design and the naturalness of delivery that Garr Reynolds describes in its pages.  As I am not there yet, I am hooked on his blog where he posts videos of masterful presentations that capture this style.

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