If you are familiar with the Presentation Zen blog and book you probably recognize the name Garr Reynolds. I don’t have the name of the presentation, but I recently watched a video of Reynolds giving a presentation in Sweden. At first I was just interested in an opportunity to watch Reynolds give a presentation. I wanted to take note of his slides (which are excellent) and his presentation style (also quite good). But I found this particular presentation communicated some good ideas about design.
After spending some time speaking about Japan and general principles of presenting, Reynolds focuses on “thinking like a designer”, and offers 5 tips (although in the presentation he mentions 9 tips but only gets to five of them) – and the five make watching this video worthwhile. Here they are:
1. It’s not about the tools. You can have amazing technology tools for developing presentations, but ultimately it is about your ideas not the tools
2. Start in analog mode – Reynolds suggests we all take time away from our computers when planning our presentations. Instead of immediately jumping on the keyboard, consider doing some scripting or sketching as your first approach. I tend to agree with this suggestion. I often start planning out my presentation on a tablet that I use to script out the talk. I use this approach to brainstorm what methods I want to use, such as storytelling, images, text or video, and where and how they’ll contribute to the presentation. Reynolds shares a sketch book that is a series of open squares. Into each one he can place ideas, sketched images or the text that will eventually make up the presentation.
3. Take a risk – “In the beginner’s mind there are only possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few”. Reynolds reminds us that as children we were much more likely to experiment and try new things. We weren’t afraid to fail. He suggests we be more childlike in our approach to presentations as it may lead us to try new things. I’ve been adding some hand drawn illustrations to my presentations; just stick figures. But attendees rarely expect this sort of thing and it captures their attention. It’s always a bit of a risk though. I never know if they’ll get the message across effectively or how the attendees will respond.
4. Put yourself in their shoes – This is a basic principle of nearly all fields of design, and is a hallmark of the design thinking process where before you even begin trying to develop a solution you identify the problem by putting yourself in the place of the user and examine your services from their perspective.
5. Embrace simplicity – You hear everyone talking about making things more simple but on this point Reynolds shared the following “Shinpuru ni suru koto wa” – Japanese for “an act of simpleness is not simple to do” (that’s according to Reynolds who has been working in Japan on and off for 20 years – there are quite a few references to Japan in the presentation). Reynolds lays out some ideas for trying to achieve simplicity.
I recommend that you watch the video and you’ll probably get more than these five tips. For example, a sixth tip could be to “deliver a sticky message”. It’s not too hard to find a video presentation by Garr Reynolds but for those interested in thinking more like a designer for their next presentation this will be time well spent.
One thought on “Reynolds 5 Steps To Thinking Like A Designer”
Thank you for the excellent post on Garr Reynolds. I work for Peachpit Press and thought you and your readers might be interested in knowing that he just released his first online streaming video, Presentation Zen: The Video, where he expands on the ideas presented in his book and blog. The DVD is now available for purchase as well. More info can be found here: