Reviewing slide:ology - How to create slides which connect you to your audience

In my quest for learning how to create great presentations, I've stumbled upon "slide:ology - The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations", a book created by Nancy Duarte and published by O'Reilly in the summer of 2008. Unlike other books which generally teach basic ideas or concepts for making presentations, "slide:ology" gets down to the dirty little details of how to actually create great slides which help you communicate and connect to your audience. Read this review to find out if it actually manages to help people become better at making slides.

Don't Commit Career Suislide

The book starts with a very interesting adaptation of a popular quote from Abraham Lincoln: 'Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him powerpoint.' You might say it is a bit forced but I really enjoy it and tend to agree with it, especially when I need to survive a terribly boring presentation. If you think about it, most of the great people we encounter in our professional life, are people who are able to connect with their audience, especially when delivering presentation.

Nancy Duarte shows in the early pages of the book that most people creating presentations today are not people coming from a graphic design background but from business, computer science, communications and other diverse backgrounds. Delivering presentations is at the core of many jobs which have nothing to do with graphic design. Therefore, making bad slides is easy, and it will negatively impact our careers.
Why should we commit career suislide? If we choose to spend some time to learn the basics of making good or great presentations, we can definitely boost our careers. Fortunately for us, there are plenty of great books out there such as, "slide:ology" or the previously reviewed Presentation Zen.


Thinking Like a Designer

Nancy Duarte advises her readers to start thinking like designers not decorators. The great thing is that she also shows how one can achieve this goal. The book is highly practical and studies every important element you need to take into consideration when making slides: arrangement of elements, background, color, text, images, movement and interactions.

This book is about design details and examples. It starts with a good chapter on creating diagrams - those things loved so much by corporate executives. :)
Nancy Duarte shows almost any diagram you can think of and classifies them by type and usage scenario. Therefore you quickly learn which diagrams are best when you need to show a flow, a structure or a cluster of elements. A great help in understanding what type of diagram to use in order to show your idea for organizational restructuring or the flow of data between departments or systems.

Next, the book talks about how to display data. It analyzes all types of charts and it tells you when each type works best. This chapter is of great help, especially to corporate workers crunching data that needs to be presented to top management or clients. Also, it was a great source of inspiration for my slides on Communicating Data in a Visual Way.

One of the best chapters in the book talks about arranging elements. In it, Nancy shows how humans process information on slides and gives very practical tips on how to guide attention. She shows how to arrange images in relationship to text, how to use the size of visual elements and proximity to tell a visual story and how to make the best of empty space.

Another great chapter is the one about fonts, in which Nancy basically dissects the most commonly used fonts. In it you learn practical tips such as, how Sans Serif is better used in headlines and subtitles while Serif works best for a long sequence of words. She also analyses the personality of some of the most common fonts, information you can use in order to choose what kind of font works best for your presentation and your audience.

After reading all chapters, I definitely started noticing a change in my own behavior. It definitely helped me build on the principles shared by Presentation Zen by being even more careful to design elements such as fonts, arrangements, best use of images or how to best represent an idea in a visual way.

Examples, Make Overs and Study Cases

In her approach, Nancy Duarte is anything but cold and academic. She spends time to share a few slides make-overs, showing how to turn bad slides into great ones. As you would expect from a great book on making presentations, it includes also real-life study cases. One good example is about Hewlett-Packard and how the company managed to create a collections of presentation templates and assets which helps all employees communicate and, at the same time, accurately express the company's brand. Other companies which are the focus of study cases are: Citrix, Cisco, ZS Associates, Mozilla and Logitech.

All of this is shared in a very visual way. You simply understand what she's saying and why she is saying it.

Verdict – Buy

I'm sure you figured this out already. The verdict is a definite BUY!. Nancy Duarte has created a great book which is all about the technicalities of creating great slides. She definitely manages to make her readers start thinking like designers, careful about the stories they tell and how they tell them. "slide:ology - The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations" is a great complement to Garr Reynolds's Presentation Zen - Review Based on a True Story. Garr Reynolds teaches you about the mindset and the principles you must apply to all presentations while Nancy Duarte teaches you the "dirty-little details" about how to actually create amazing slides.

Purchasing Options

If you want to purchase "slide:ology - The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations", you can find it on Amazon US (for North American readers) or Amazon UK (for European readers). If you purchase it using these links, we will also receive a small commission from your purchase. Thanks a lot for making any purchase using these links.

Related content:

Reviewing Resonate, Nancy Duarte’s Second Book on Presentation Development
Presentation Zen - Review Based on a True Story
Linchpin - A Book for Both Project Managers and Their Teams

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