Business Delivery Design Interview Tips Video

Video Q&A’s with Zen-master Garr Reynolds

Garr Reynolds popped by the office a bit ago, and we thought it’d be fun to answer a few of the most popular questions people ask.

1. How do your methodologies apply to scientific or technical presentations?

Read more about the presentation landscape.

2. How many slides should I use?

3. If we simplify our slides using your methodology and then need to circulate the slides how do people know what the content of the presentation was?

Nancy Duarte

AUTHOR |

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  • Hi guys, just loved it.
    The good mood made me watch it with a smile,
    and a couple of laughs now and then…
    Keep it like that…

  • Hi guys, just loved it.
    The good mood made me watch it with a smile,
    and a couple of laughs now and then…
    Keep it like that…

  • Daan

    Thank you for these insights, Nancy and Garr. If possible, I would like to ask you to elaborate on the first issue: scientific presentations.
    You state that perhaps scientific discussions are best served with a 5-10 minute ‘top-right quadrant’ presentation, followed with an informal discussion using print-outs of a well crafted document (perhaps in the form of a paper you just published). This seems like a splendid idea and works excellently for discussions within a research group or by a student with his supervisors. However, at some point you will have to make a trip to a conference and give a presentation to the 50-500 people gathered there. And this is where pretty much all scientists fail (professors just as much as students). Currently these presentations end up in the ‘top left quadrant’ of your matrix: you need to be your best, just like at a sales pitch or keynote at CES (you are selling your research, and your scientific career if you are a PhD), but the current norm is to stuff all your knowledge into a few slides and rush through this in slightly more time than allowed. And preferably while wielding a laser pointer and turning your back to the audience. Some of these issues are easily solved, but the main hurdle on the path to better scientific presentations is one common response: ‘That does not apply to scientific presentations.’ Now, you have given us some insights in how we could transform the notion of scientific presentations (turn off the projector and discuss your work in an informal setting using printed material), but could you help the scientific community by showing us ways in which to present complicated, information-dense material at the same high level in which you train people to give keynotes and sales pitches? These conferences are truly unbearable! Should we perhaps forego them altogether and find a new way of sharing research? In other words: can we either move scientific conference presentations to the upper right quadrant of the presentation landscape, or can you come up with a paradigm shift that allows for good and interesting presentation while still in the upper left quadrant?

  • Daan

    Thank you for these insights, Nancy and Garr. If possible, I would like to ask you to elaborate on the first issue: scientific presentations.
    You state that perhaps scientific discussions are best served with a 5-10 minute ‘top-right quadrant’ presentation, followed with an informal discussion using print-outs of a well crafted document (perhaps in the form of a paper you just published). This seems like a splendid idea and works excellently for discussions within a research group or by a student with his supervisors. However, at some point you will have to make a trip to a conference and give a presentation to the 50-500 people gathered there. And this is where pretty much all scientists fail (professors just as much as students). Currently these presentations end up in the ‘top left quadrant’ of your matrix: you need to be your best, just like at a sales pitch or keynote at CES (you are selling your research, and your scientific career if you are a PhD), but the current norm is to stuff all your knowledge into a few slides and rush through this in slightly more time than allowed. And preferably while wielding a laser pointer and turning your back to the audience. Some of these issues are easily solved, but the main hurdle on the path to better scientific presentations is one common response: ‘That does not apply to scientific presentations.’ Now, you have given us some insights in how we could transform the notion of scientific presentations (turn off the projector and discuss your work in an informal setting using printed material), but could you help the scientific community by showing us ways in which to present complicated, information-dense material at the same high level in which you train people to give keynotes and sales pitches? These conferences are truly unbearable! Should we perhaps forego them altogether and find a new way of sharing research? In other words: can we either move scientific conference presentations to the upper right quadrant of the presentation landscape, or can you come up with a paradigm shift that allows for good and interesting presentation while still in the upper left quadrant?

  • David Smith

    Nancy and Garr – Excellent set of videos. I work for a scientific organisation in England and we are constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of our scientific presentations.

    Quick unrelated question – We are looking into recording and uploading presentations from our scientific conferences. We have worked out the visual recording, but I was very impressed with the quality of the sound recording in these videos. Just wondering what headsets you are using and how you feed them into a record device?

    Many thanks

  • David Smith

    Nancy and Garr – Excellent set of videos. I work for a scientific organisation in England and we are constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of our scientific presentations.

    Quick unrelated question – We are looking into recording and uploading presentations from our scientific conferences. We have worked out the visual recording, but I was very impressed with the quality of the sound recording in these videos. Just wondering what headsets you are using and how you feed them into a record device?

    Many thanks

  • As a current grad student in Applied Physics, I especially enjoyed the answers to the first question. In a large research group with scientists working on several different projects, it’s challenging to give a group meeting presentation that will be useful to everyone. My best idea so far would be to give an “elevator speech” at the beginning (top right of landscape), followed by the key results (center), then leaving the remaining time for Q&A about the rest of the data (bottom left). I would be really interested to hear about other presenters’ experiences.

  • As a current grad student in Applied Physics, I especially enjoyed the answers to the first question. In a large research group with scientists working on several different projects, it’s challenging to give a group meeting presentation that will be useful to everyone. My best idea so far would be to give an “elevator speech” at the beginning (top right of landscape), followed by the key results (center), then leaving the remaining time for Q&A about the rest of the data (bottom left). I would be really interested to hear about other presenters’ experiences.

  • Really good blog. I love the word Slideument – unfortunately that has become the most standard way of distributing information. People try to put all the information on their slides, because that is the only document that they prepare and distribute. Instead of the presentation tips, maybe you should advice people first to create a text document which they will distribute and then select only the key points to their presentation?

  • Really good blog. I love the word Slideument – unfortunately that has become the most standard way of distributing information. People try to put all the information on their slides, because that is the only document that they prepare and distribute. Instead of the presentation tips, maybe you should advice people first to create a text document which they will distribute and then select only the key points to their presentation?

  • Sam

    I would like to echo Daan’s suggestion/question: how can we alter the presentation landscape for conferences, where the audience is 50-500 other researchers and you need to “sell” your result in 20-30 minutes? The “slideument” already exists in that context: that is the full paper with all the nitty gritty details, but your audience can’t absorb that much information in such a short time.

    Simon Peyton Jones has a collection of advice (http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/simonpj/papers/giving-a-talk/giving-a-talk.htm) which can serve as a starting point for computer scientists, but there’s definitely more to it.

  • Sam

    I would like to echo Daan’s suggestion/question: how can we alter the presentation landscape for conferences, where the audience is 50-500 other researchers and you need to “sell” your result in 20-30 minutes? The “slideument” already exists in that context: that is the full paper with all the nitty gritty details, but your audience can’t absorb that much information in such a short time.

    Simon Peyton Jones has a collection of advice (http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/simonpj/papers/giving-a-talk/giving-a-talk.htm) which can serve as a starting point for computer scientists, but there’s definitely more to it.

  • Christian

    To provide some – hopefully constructive – criticism: I am slightly disappointed about the rather »unreflected« first video. The problem is IMHO that theoretically you are describing the problem very nicely. But by publishing it as it is you essentially provide an »excuse« for scientists to provide a slideument rather than a presentation.

    Talks that rely on the presentation of data are per definition shifted towards the slideument area of the matrix, you are absolutely right about this. But as a consequence scientists have to spend even more time to try and provide a »real« presentation. In my personal experience almost 50% of the presented data can be stripped from almost every presentation I have encountered (my own included). Scientists are used to publishing very detailed descriptions of their work and together with the fact that scientific presentations are generally shifted towards slideuments this is potentially a real killer for good presentations. So instead of pointing out the fact that scientific presentations are shifted towards slideuments and stopping there, it is extremely important to point out that because of this shift even more effort has to be made to avoid all the details and talk more about the bigger picture. By following some of the really high profile scientific presentations (TED as an example) it becomes obvious that this forks far better than a »conventional« scientific approach.

    One of the most remarkable scientific presentations I have encountered was somebody who had the privilege of being a keynote speaker with a 45 min time slot. He provided a rather stunning overview of the things and techniques he was interesting in without any real data whatsoever and simply stopped after about 18 min. This talk was followed by the most interesting Q & A part I have ever experienced since the people simply asked about details **they** wanted to hear about rather than being forced to listen to details the presenter might find interesting but they don’t. The short overview teased them and left them with the feeling that they wanted more. I think this approach, although hard to achieve, provides at least one possible answer to Sam and Daan’s question.

  • Christian

    To provide some – hopefully constructive – criticism: I am slightly disappointed about the rather »unreflected« first video. The problem is IMHO that theoretically you are describing the problem very nicely. But by publishing it as it is you essentially provide an »excuse« for scientists to provide a slideument rather than a presentation.

    Talks that rely on the presentation of data are per definition shifted towards the slideument area of the matrix, you are absolutely right about this. But as a consequence scientists have to spend even more time to try and provide a »real« presentation. In my personal experience almost 50% of the presented data can be stripped from almost every presentation I have encountered (my own included). Scientists are used to publishing very detailed descriptions of their work and together with the fact that scientific presentations are generally shifted towards slideuments this is potentially a real killer for good presentations. So instead of pointing out the fact that scientific presentations are shifted towards slideuments and stopping there, it is extremely important to point out that because of this shift even more effort has to be made to avoid all the details and talk more about the bigger picture. By following some of the really high profile scientific presentations (TED as an example) it becomes obvious that this forks far better than a »conventional« scientific approach.

    One of the most remarkable scientific presentations I have encountered was somebody who had the privilege of being a keynote speaker with a 45 min time slot. He provided a rather stunning overview of the things and techniques he was interesting in without any real data whatsoever and simply stopped after about 18 min. This talk was followed by the most interesting Q & A part I have ever experienced since the people simply asked about details **they** wanted to hear about rather than being forced to listen to details the presenter might find interesting but they don’t. The short overview teased them and left them with the feeling that they wanted more. I think this approach, although hard to achieve, provides at least one possible answer to Sam and Daan’s question.

  • OMG! Im such a fan guys! Thank you so much for sharing this, love your great vibe and your friendliness to the subject. I have to get me to one of those Duarte Seminars, I´ll start saving. Take care!

  • OMG! Im such a fan guys! Thank you so much for sharing this, love your great vibe and your friendliness to the subject. I have to get me to one of those Duarte Seminars, I´ll start saving. Take care!

  • I’ve read both of your books and was fortunate to meet Garr at the Tableau User Conference in July.

    I think you’ve both contributed quite a bit to my understanding (and enjoyment) of public speaking. The feedback I receive now with comments like (you seem so natural…nice slides, did you do those?) can be directly attributed to the influence both of your books had on me.

    Many Thanks!

  • I’ve read both of your books and was fortunate to meet Garr at the Tableau User Conference in July.

    I think you’ve both contributed quite a bit to my understanding (and enjoyment) of public speaking. The feedback I receive now with comments like (you seem so natural…nice slides, did you do those?) can be directly attributed to the influence both of your books had on me.

    Many Thanks!

  • Nice banter here folks! Here’s some feedback:

    @daan Your points are well taken. We’ve been working for a while at developing best practices for the science community. The format is mostly reliant on the audience. If the audience is full of peers that work on very similar projects, the presentations can have more dense scientific content. But, if a scientist is presenting to potential investors for a company, that’s a different ball game. We just worked with a wonderful scientist at Stanford who won millions of dollars from a presentation he gave. I’m hoping to interview him on the blog (I just e-mailed him to see if he’s game). We’re hoping to provide more insights into technical, scientific and financial presentations.

    @David Smith I have no idea how it was recorded (it sure is nice to be the queen). We had it hard-wired into the video camera and then ran it through a couple audio cleaners before posting it

    @naveen we call it a slide summary (similar to an executive summary in a business plan). I just searched and realized that I’ve never posted that process. I’ll do so in the next couple weeks for you.

    @samuli I actually work that way. I put everything I need to know on the slide and then after rehearsing, begin to pull content into the notes.

    @sam niiiice link. Thanks

    @christian I think you’re right. We should have clarified that if someone is sharing research with peers, they can create a slideument and distribute it as a slideument and then discuss it together. I’m going to try to interview a scientist from Stanford who did a remarkable job and got funding because he re-crafted the language in his presentation to resonate with the judges. Thanks for your enthusiasm and patience as we work as a community to establish best-practices.

    Hats off to you all!

    Nancy

  • Nice banter here folks! Here’s some feedback:

    @daan Your points are well taken. We’ve been working for a while at developing best practices for the science community. The format is mostly reliant on the audience. If the audience is full of peers that work on very similar projects, the presentations can have more dense scientific content. But, if a scientist is presenting to potential investors for a company, that’s a different ball game. We just worked with a wonderful scientist at Stanford who won millions of dollars from a presentation he gave. I’m hoping to interview him on the blog (I just e-mailed him to see if he’s game). We’re hoping to provide more insights into technical, scientific and financial presentations.

    @David Smith I have no idea how it was recorded (it sure is nice to be the queen). We had it hard-wired into the video camera and then ran it through a couple audio cleaners before posting it

    @naveen we call it a slide summary (similar to an executive summary in a business plan). I just searched and realized that I’ve never posted that process. I’ll do so in the next couple weeks for you.

    @samuli I actually work that way. I put everything I need to know on the slide and then after rehearsing, begin to pull content into the notes.

    @sam niiiice link. Thanks

    @christian I think you’re right. We should have clarified that if someone is sharing research with peers, they can create a slideument and distribute it as a slideument and then discuss it together. I’m going to try to interview a scientist from Stanford who did a remarkable job and got funding because he re-crafted the language in his presentation to resonate with the judges. Thanks for your enthusiasm and patience as we work as a community to establish best-practices.

    Hats off to you all!

    Nancy

  • Art Johnson

    It’s a real delight seeing two of my favorites exchangng ideas like this. Even though I’m in sales we often have the same problem that scientists have with data-laden slides. It’s a losing battle getting slides like this removed from the deck so I suggested a method of showing the eye chart for “context” and then doing a zoom-in to whatever the take-away is in the chart. This method satisfies the need that folks seem to have for dumping everything they know about a subject on a single slide, but quickly moves to the one message that needs to be extracted.

  • Art Johnson

    It’s a real delight seeing two of my favorites exchangng ideas like this. Even though I’m in sales we often have the same problem that scientists have with data-laden slides. It’s a losing battle getting slides like this removed from the deck so I suggested a method of showing the eye chart for “context” and then doing a zoom-in to whatever the take-away is in the chart. This method satisfies the need that folks seem to have for dumping everything they know about a subject on a single slide, but quickly moves to the one message that needs to be extracted.

  • I was happy to look at your discussion, but I just finished today Garr’s wonderful book: it is so much more about in it, like storytelling, and design, etc!

    I did learn so many different things from it!
    More, a lot more from this discussion video.

  • I was happy to look at your discussion, but I just finished today Garr’s wonderful book: it is so much more about in it, like storytelling, and design, etc!

    I did learn so many different things from it!
    More, a lot more from this discussion video.

  • gregg gullickson

    You’re right – your humanity came through on the video and that made me interested in what you were sharing. Thanks – both of you make learning about presenting fun.

  • gregg gullickson

    You’re right – your humanity came through on the video and that made me interested in what you were sharing. Thanks – both of you make learning about presenting fun.

  • My comment might be lame, but I really needed to hear your content. When I present to large audiences, I have to be able to read and respect my message and adapt my presentation to meet their needs. Thanks so much.

  • My comment might be lame, but I really needed to hear your content. When I present to large audiences, I have to be able to read and respect my message and adapt my presentation to meet their needs. Thanks so much.

  • gary bass

    Great insights.
    thanks for that, hopefully a regular ‘thing’..

    What are the chances of either or both of you getting to Australia?? Melbourne …
    What would it take?? I note Garr was in New Zealand recently for master classes..always a chance!

  • gary bass

    Great insights.
    thanks for that, hopefully a regular ‘thing’..

    What are the chances of either or both of you getting to Australia?? Melbourne …
    What would it take?? I note Garr was in New Zealand recently for master classes..always a chance!

  • Mark Gardner

    Fascinating videos and as a fan of both books I really enjoyed them.

    I am responsible for Company induction slides – how would you categorise this type of presentation and the type of slides it requires?

  • Mark Gardner

    Fascinating videos and as a fan of both books I really enjoyed them.

    I am responsible for Company induction slides – how would you categorise this type of presentation and the type of slides it requires?

  • These videos came out really well. I’m curious what kind of camera you used. Did you have special microphones or lights?

  • These videos came out really well. I’m curious what kind of camera you used. Did you have special microphones or lights?

  • Rahul

    First of all great website, great video and I just ordered both your books.

    I’d like to reiterate some of the comments posted here. Daan is right, most scientific presentations are horrible.

    Much of the scientific (“medical” in my case) audiences are often turned off by stylistic treatments of information (whether it’s justified or not). If you are selling to potential investors, that may work, but if you’re presenting to your peers, there is a culture demanding “hard data” and lots of it.

    Most of this information will end up being too “high-resolution” for projection and become an overly complex, unreadable slide. The opposite end of the spectrum is just as bad: dumbing down the data to make it pretty. There must be a happy medium.

    I really liked your idea of presenting the important ideas and concepts as a formal presentation and providing a document for more in-depth review later.

    Copies of slides printed on paper, to me have always seemed to be difficult to interpret if you weren’t at the presentation (or the material wasn’t covered). However this is what is most commonly distributed. I thought that Garr mentioned Sliduments in his book as something to avoid. Edward Tufte said to just skip the slide and provide a paper handout with the information which people can look at. What would you say is the best way to reconcile this to present a lot of or complicated information?

    Thanks for everything you’ve shared with us. It’s all incredible stuff!

    • Neil Pettinger

      I often have to present data (on things like resource use) to doctors. I agree that there’s a demand for hard data instead of slick presentations. So I just use Excel, and use the zoom function (a lot) whenever we need to see the detail.

  • Rahul

    First of all great website, great video and I just ordered both your books.

    I’d like to reiterate some of the comments posted here. Daan is right, most scientific presentations are horrible.

    Much of the scientific (“medical” in my case) audiences are often turned off by stylistic treatments of information (whether it’s justified or not). If you are selling to potential investors, that may work, but if you’re presenting to your peers, there is a culture demanding “hard data” and lots of it.

    Most of this information will end up being too “high-resolution” for projection and become an overly complex, unreadable slide. The opposite end of the spectrum is just as bad: dumbing down the data to make it pretty. There must be a happy medium.

    I really liked your idea of presenting the important ideas and concepts as a formal presentation and providing a document for more in-depth review later.

    Copies of slides printed on paper, to me have always seemed to be difficult to interpret if you weren’t at the presentation (or the material wasn’t covered). However this is what is most commonly distributed. I thought that Garr mentioned Sliduments in his book as something to avoid. Edward Tufte said to just skip the slide and provide a paper handout with the information which people can look at. What would you say is the best way to reconcile this to present a lot of or complicated information?

    Thanks for everything you’ve shared with us. It’s all incredible stuff!

    • Neil Pettinger

      I often have to present data (on things like resource use) to doctors. I agree that there’s a demand for hard data instead of slick presentations. So I just use Excel, and use the zoom function (a lot) whenever we need to see the detail.

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