March 25, 2022

Blog All Dog-eared Pages: Everything I Know About Life I Learned From PowerPoint by Russell Davies

A delightful book, that happens to be about giving presentations.

I've been giving talks for years, but I still learnt useful things reading Everything I Know about Life I Learned from PowerPoint by my friend Russell Davies. And it's changed how I've pulled together the presentations I've given since. I expect the presentation-averse would get even more from it.

Here are the sections I highlighted while reading, to give you a flavour...

Page vi

I'm using PowerPoint to stand in for Presentation Software — the category it created. ((I imagine Microsoft's lawyers will hate that. They'll be as angry as when people use Hoover to mean vacuum cleaner, or Google to mean 'abuse of monopoly power')

Page vii

When you prepare a presentation you do a lot of homework and research and thinking. It's natural to get attached to that stuff. You want to demonstrate the effort you've made. And to make it clear that you've thought about the edge cases and the extra things that people might ask about. If you do all that, though, you'll overwhelm your main point with detail, so just start by saying: this is what we're going to cover and this is what we're not.

Page 15

First, almost everyone can be a great presenter. You just need to talk about something you care or know about, and you need to do it to a supportive audience.

Page 26

"Find out who you are and do it on purpose." Said by the great Dolly Parton.

Page 99

And the conversational style of a good presentation helps too. It's not a speech, it's not radio, it's structured but conversational.

Page 103

So much of modern business life is like Tetris. Email, chat, Slack, everything. You complete a line and more stuff just comes at you.
A presentation also offers the special pleasure of being completable. A PowerPoint deck can be finished. You can tick it off. A presentation happens and then you can move on.

Page 125

This is your opportunity to ask for something that will make the world slightly better. You might as well take it. Otherwise what is the point?

Page 129

We call these things 'stories' but they don't have to be life-changing narratives with the tension and power of a Norse myth. Just some stuff that happened to some people.

Page 209

Everyone gets nervous, that's inevitable. A presentation is an important moment. You're occupying people's time and attention. That's bound to create some heightened feelings. The trick is to let your nerves push you into doing the right thing.

Page 247

But then you have to worry — what should I collect [in your ongoing library of slide and ideas in personal PowerPoint decks]? What would be useful?

It's simple. Things that interest you. Things you find fascinating. Remember — this is a long-term pursuit, there's not much point trying to guess what's going to be useful or career-enhancing ten or fifteen years from now. Instead you should have faith that what interests you is going to come in handy. Because it almost certainly will.

And if it doesn't interest you you're not going to do it diligently and it's going to feel like work.

Make your natural inquisitiveness into something a little more structured. Turn it from idly browsing the Internet into research.

Page 253

As the writer Steven Johnson puts it, in an article in the Wall Street Journal:

[...] We like to think of our ideas as a $40,000 incubator, shipped direct from the factory, but in reality they've been cobbled together with spare parts that happened to be sitting in the garage.

Posted by Adrian at March 25, 2022 05:27 PM | TrackBack

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