Today I’m pleased to announce that my book on creating and delivering better presentation design is available for pre-order! Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks (published by Columbia University Press) ships this fall. I wrote this book because I believe people who work with data and data-intensive content need to improve the way they present their work. Better Presentations details essential strategies for developing clear, sophisticated, and visually captivating presentations.
This book is the culmination of a shift in my career, when I started paying closer attention to my approach in data analysis and communication. I first became really interested in data visualization around 2010 while working as an Economist at the Congressional Budget Office. At the time, I felt that we could improve the way we were communicating our work to our audience (a very specific audience, I should add, of Members of Congress and their staffs). So we started evolving how we presented our data visually and had some early successes with changing traditional report graphs, developing a line of infographics, and modifying some report layouts. (I spoke about some of this in my 2014 Tapestry talk).
It quickly seemed a natural pivot to think more carefully about how we presented analysis to different audiences such as the Director’s keynote address in front of hundreds of people, testimony in front of Congress, or smaller presentations to policymakers, decision makers, or analysts at academic conferences.
Since that time, I’ve spoken with hundreds of people—many who are researchers, analysts, scholars, and others charged with presenting their data and analyses—about how they can improve their own presentations. It’s clear to me that too many people approach the task of giving a presentation by converting a written document into slides. The result is often a text-heavy presentation saddled with bullet points, stock images, and graphs too complex for an audience to decipher—much less understand. But presenting is a fundamentally different from of communication than writing.
I describe three core principles for successful presentations in the book: Visualize, Unify, and Focus. Drawing on those principles, I describe how to visualize data effectively, find and use images appropriately, choose sensible fonts and colors, edit text for powerful delivery, and restructure a written argument for maximum engagement and persuasion.
I also include numerous examples of what to do (and what not to do) and the best techniques to display work and to win over audiences. My hope is to push presenters past the frustration and intimidation of the process to more effective, memorable, and persuasive presentations.
Over the next few months, I’ll post sections from the book and other presentation-related tutorials. I’m also in the midst of developing the online companion, which will include a list of resources, tutorials, and materials from the book you can download for your own presentations.
Pre-order the book now and stay tuned for more updates over the coming months.