How to Be a Presentation God (Scott Schwertly) book review

You have to approach How to Be a Presentation God with the right expectations. Ethos3 is known for its slick slide design, but this book does not divulge many of their design secrets.

Instead, it’s a hilarious romp through familiar territory: rehearse, don’t waste your audience’s time, keep slide design simple, use storytelling instead of bullet points. But it’s told with such unexpected humor it’s like watching a Seinfeld show. Sure, it’s a show about nothing. But it’s a scream!

The more interesting parts of this book cover Scott Schwertly’s personal philosophies about developing and delivering a presentation. Some ideas that stood out for me.

1. Design so a 10-year old could understand. This may seem outrageous at first. But really, what parts of your presentation would a 10-year old not understand? Those are the areas that could be simpler, more entertaining or simply removed.

2. Your audience is judging you. Your audience are not your humble servants, ready to raise their faces in glowing admiration of your epic vision. Rather, they are typical human beings, critical of your haircut, perturbed by your hand gestures and vexed by how you constantly mispronounce “expecially”. Personal grooming and presentation skills are not trivial.

3. Managing perceptions. It’s not enough to be a brilliant expert who has the right answer if you are boring and stammer and have coffee stains on your suit. The world is full of mediocre thinkers who are stars because they create a perception the audience likes. Smart is not enough. Don’t underestimate how quickly audiences will forget your brilliant insights if you don’t present yourself with some pizzazz.

I’m not sure I’m bought into the idea that “the only reason to give a presentation is to change the world”, even if it was first uttered by JKF. This puts a lot of pressure on every trainer, sales person and MBA intern who doesn’t have a vision to sell. And, anyway, who wants to live in a world that changes 30 million times a day?

Still, if your goal is to change the world, and especially if your personal style leans toward the irreverent, this book will kick you into a new direction.

But it’s a shame there wasn’t more content on slide design, Ethos3’s claim to fame. We really need a book on how to use PowerPoint (or whatever) to create those cool-looking viral commercials that pop up on YouTube and SlideShare (see below). Perhaps that will be Scott’s next book. Let’s hope so.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

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