Start with the light

Doc Searls on his blog.

So where does [architect] Bill Patrick start, working unassisted by computer?

“I start with the light,” he says. “I say ‘where do we want the light?'”

We wanted our light coming from the direction of our hilltop view toward San Francisco Bay. We also wanted to enjoy that light outdoors as well as inside the house. The result is a lot of glass on every floor facing the Bay, and a deck or balcony outside every room on the Bay side the house. The roof is nearly flat, to maximize interior space within the local limits on roof height above grade, and the whole thing is not only beautiful, but unlike anything else, anywhere. It expresses Bill’s art, and it reflects our original intentions.

In other words, it’s a creation, not a replication or a variation. I also can’t imagine seeing this house as a template for anything else.

The same principle applies for any communicative act – letter, email, text, talk, presentation, etc. Start with the light; with what the purpose of the act is. And work backwards from there.

More here.

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Words and visuals: Why are you there?

[E]xamine your work from previous talks [and] remember this rule of thumb: if your presentation visuals taken in the aggregate (…) can be perfectly and completely understood without your narration, then it begs the question: why are you there? (Presentation Zen)

Presenting the appalling presenter

Just in case there’s anyone who doubts your ineptitude, indolence, ignorance and supercilious nature, make sure you include the following elements in your next presentation:

* Ass Narcissism – “I’m just going to turn my back on you now and read all my slides off the screen. Enjoy the view!”
* Tolstoy wannabe – “I know that I can fit the entire text of War & Peace onto the next three slides. Thank God for sub-bullets!”
* Myopia – these presenters literally cannot see beyond the end of their nose and so fail to notice that their audience is either asleep or has gone home.
* Tunnel vision – those who can see only the one person in the audience who is smiling and nodding out of sympathy, not the other 99 who have fallen asleep/gone home.
* “I’m Eclipse Boy!” – “There must be some moth in my genetic heritage; but you can read the slide off my chest can’t you?”
* Hypoempathy – presenters who use the phrase, “Now this is a very important point” more than once never ask themselves the essential question – important to who[m]?
* “Gotta sing, gotta dance” – “Sure, this topic could have been covered in an email, but what can I say? I just loooove being bathed in the glow of the data projector.”
* Jazz hands – a subset of “Gotta Sing” in which the presenter imitates a puppeteer on speed (thanks Mike)
* Slide amnesia – a subset of Ass Narcissism, when the presenter seems surprised that a certain slide has popped up on screen and is forced to read it out word for word …
* Dispunctional – the presenter has no concept of time and is eating into the next presenter’s slot or, worse yet, into coffee break.
* Complarrogance – a rare condition, characterised by all of the above symptoms. (Fortifyservices)

Presentations and that creature called PowerPoint

UPDATE (7-17-06) – Here is an exhaustive list of links to excellent websites and blogs on presentations.

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7-11-06 – I have put together a few of my favorite resources. This is a work in progress. Stay tuned.

A good (short) blog post on the pros and cons of using slides in presentations. A longer detailed discussion: “PowerPoint Presentations: the good, the bad and the ugly“.

Edward Tufte has done wonderful work on helping people improve the visual quality of presentations. The title of his article on PowerPoint is self explanatory: “PowerPoint is Evil“.

Do NOT miss this: A brilliant take on what Lincoln’s Gettysburg address would have been like had it been presented on PowerPoint. And the author’s “Making of“.