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Review of Presentation Patterns: Techniques for Crafting Better Presentations

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ISBN: 0321820800

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An invaluable resource, full of practical advice, tips and ideas. I strongly recommend it.


Presentation Patterns is a new book about creating and delivering presentations. Authors: Neal Ford, Matthew McCullough and Nathaniel Schutta have huge speaking experience, and while they share a software industry background, the patterns, tips and workflows they identified are a very valuable source of help for anybody aiming to improve their presentation skills.

This book is not is a tutorial on what to click in Keynote or Powerpoint in order to receive a standing ovation. While it does describe how to obtain certain effects using these tools, it is mostly tool-agnostic.

The title contains word “Patterns”, which clearly indicates how the content will be structured. Book is logically split into three parts called Prepare, Build and Deliver. They guide through each stage of crafting a talk. Content starts with discussing different motivations for presenting (Patten: The Big Why). Later on, it covers writing an abstract (and possible negative consequences - Pattern: Abstract Attorney), discusses how different type of talk constrains slide deck construction, how to engage audience, etc. This construction allows to work on a presentation while reading, as patterns and antipatterns which you might find relevant are organised chronologically as to when they are applicable.

Thanks to LunarLogic, who bought the paper edition in time for it to arrive in sync with electronic edition I got from DZone, I could work with both formats simultaneously. For the first time, I went cover to cover. Mostly while travelling and mostly with the paper edition. It was a good decision and allowed me to get to know the content. Later, when I worked on the presentations I had lined up, I was using electronic edition mostly, as patterns often relate to and link to each other.

Each pattern description follows the same format, which consists of “other names” for the pattern, a “definition”, “motivation”, “applicability”, “mechanics”, “related patterns” and “known uses”. This allows to look up things about and compare patterns easily, and is helpful when looking for a solution for particular problem. While the material often reads like “but that’s just common sense”, after actually using tips mentioned during some presentations, I had a very strong “I wish I knew that”.

Along the descriptions, you will find a number of presentation-related anecdotes about, for example, how Venkat Subramaniam was able to prepare a talk from scratch while on a flight. While they have medium entertainment value, they are a very valuable list of “what might happen” stories, gently reminding about presentation-related Murphy's Law.

While this book nicely coexists with titles like Slideology or Presentation Zen (which it also mentions a few times), if you are pressed for time and your talk is coming close, you will benefit from Presentation Patterns the most. Of, course, if time permits, get and read all three, do so. Had my choice been limited to only one, I’d go with Patterns.

There is a website accompanying the book: .

It contains a sample pattern described, a glossary of all patterns described in the book ( /) and a “Presentation Patterns Projector Sanity Test”, a set of slides useful for checking and setting up a projector before a talk.

If you do give presentations, the book is for you. If you don’t do it (yet), it’s a valuable read for when you have to. It’s full of ideas you can apply while reading, and I really wish it has been around a few years ago. Highly recommended!

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Andrzej Grzesik.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)