General (and Technical) Presentation Tips

We have all been to conferences or seminars and have seen excellent presentations; we have also seen presentations that were not interesting or somehow failed to convey much useful information to the audience. Because I regularly attend conferences about turfgrass, I take a special interest in the subject of presentation design and delivery, and wish to recommend a few books and a particular website to those who also have an interest in effective communication.

I am particularly fond of these three books by Dr. Edward Tufte, statistician, noted expert on the visual display of data, and professor emeritus at Yale University. These books are:

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

Envisioning Information

Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative

Dr. Tufte has also written an essay that anyone who gives presentations should read, study, and keep for occasional reference. This is, of course, The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint.

Another book about ideas and how they are remembered is Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. This book explains the six principles of ideas that are remembered (sticky ideas) and at the Made to Stick website there are additional free downloads, including one on how to make your presentation stick.

When it comes to the design of the presentation itself, and the visual materials that may accompany it, I suggest reading slide:ology by Nancy Duarte. This book provides all the information necessary to create great slides.

Garr Reynolds is the author of Presentation Zen and the blog of the same name. This blog is a wealth of information about presentation technique, effective communication, good design, and examples of good and bad presentations. Reynolds has written about making effective presentations of technical material, which I think is especially important for scientists and for those in the turfgrass industry as well.

If you are interested in making the best presentation possible the next time you are on stage, I would read the Presentation Zen blog and would look into the aforementioned books. Do you have other resources that have been especially helpful to you? For even more about data presentation, statistician John Tukey’s Exploratory Data Analysis (1977) is also an excellent resource, as is his chapter on Some Graphic and Semigraphic Displays from Statistical Papers in Honor of George W. Snedecor (1972).

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