Achieving Presentation Zen

It is important to seek harmony between the elements of your presentation to achieve the consistency of the whole and the perception that each of the points is connected and part of the same message.
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One quality that we value at Grupo Salinas is being fast and simple. In a globalized world, rapid response is key and simplicity is a necessary condition to achieve speed. But simplicity has value in itself. Simplifying complexities is a sign of useful intelligence.

In our group of over 100,000 employees in more than nine countries, developing communication skills is essential.

I have recommended in the past several books on the subject. One of them is Slide:ology, by Nancy Duarte, who gives tips for effectively developing ideas in a presentation. In the world of business, a good presentation opens doors, while a poor one can do exactly the opposite.

Another interesting book on the subject is Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds, who discusses simple principles of Japanese design that can improve presentations.

He says: if we open our eyes and are willing to think differently, we see that there are design lessons all around us. Balance, harmony, moderation, simplicity and naturalness. These are some of the principles behind Japanese culture. Design does matter.

Reynolds, who is a professor of marketing and design in Japan, has become an expert in the quest for simplicity and harmony in design, applying the principles of Kaizen, a continuous improvement philosophy that we embrace at Grupo Salinas.

Here are a few concepts worth noting:

  1. Be clear and simple. Many people avoid simplicity because it is often associated with something being poorly done, when in fact, it is quite the opposite. Simplicity eliminates elements that hide the essentials. Unless you learn to synthesize, tasks will take longer, cost more, and be less effective.

  • Start without prejudices. Adopt a beginner's mind. In the expert's mind, there are few possibilities; however, the world is completely open for the beginner's mind. Someone may have extensive knowledge in what he or she does, buy they should take a step back to resolve the problem as a child would, without preconceived ideas.
  • Resolve problems. The usefulness of design, at its most basic level, is finding the solution to a problem. Having a better understanding of the key fundamentals of design makes things simpler for us and our audience.
  • Capture attention. To achieve a successful presentation, you need to capture the attention of the public in less than 60 seconds, by doing something memorable and dramatic, such as relating a personal anecdote or explaining an unusual idea, to bring the audience where you want them to be for the remainder of the presentation. Tell stories, don't show slides.
  • Tell a story with pictures. Designing messages that include images is highly effective in attracting the attention of the public as well as helping them understand and remember main ideas.
  • Give each item the necessary space. Use blank spaces in your displays. One of the most common mistakes is to saturate space with text and images, when in fact blank spaces are powerful amplifiers that help create a whole, in addition to contributing clarity, beauty, meaning, calm, focus, and cleansing.
  • Less is more. And even less is even more. The time it takes audiences to look at a screen is time they will not be looking at you (the most important element of a presentation). Most people cannot understand text on a screen while listening to a person.
  • Use color sparingly. Color is one of the most powerful stimuli. It attracts our attention and affects us emotionally. Use color rationally; it can be used to call attention to something, to direct the audience's eye, to categorize, organize, create unity, evoke emotions, and set a mood.
  • The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It is important to seek harmony between the elements of your presentation to achieve the consistency of the whole and the perception that each of the points is connected and part of the same message.
  • Seek continual improvement. Kaizen requires a commitment and willingness to change, as well as a long-term outlook that seeks education and growth through small changes.
  • In the end, it's all about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful, always with an open mind and taking into account your audience. Limits are great allies because they lead you to resolve creatively and ingeniously.

    Remember that design matters.

    Let your ideas go far.

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