Presentation Zen, by Garr Reynolds
I can see why this book sells so extremely well. It's a beautiful work and features all sorts of great, visual examples to help drive home the author's points. Here are just a few of the great lessons I learned from reading this book:
Don't jump right into the slideware tool...lay out your thoughts using pencil and paper first. Better yet, do it with pencil and PostIt Notes. This seemed so backwards to me at first. After all, I've got the computer so why not use it from the start? After reading what the author had to say about this though I can see I'd greatly benefit from this initial step.
How many times have you been asked, "how many slides will you have in your deck?" I get hit with that every time I make a presentation. I love this excerpt from the book: The number of slides is not the point. If your presentation is successful, the audience will have no idea how many slides you used, nor will they care. Obviously you can take this to both extremes, but the point is we should be less focused on the number of slides.
How about these two questions that probably don't get enough serious consideration early on: What's your point? Why does it matter? Again, I frequently get too hung up on what I want to say and not so much on what I think the audience wants to hear about. I'm scheduled to make a presentation to a group of grad students in a few weeks and I'm starting to realize I don't know enough about their interests, goals from the session, etc., to properly frame my talk.
Don't force your logo onto every slide. Wow, that one won't go over well with our corporate communication team, but, it makes a ton of sense. As I think back about all the presentations I've sat through, there seemed to be a direct correlation between the degree of boredom and the number of times the speaker's corporate logo appeared. Seriously, if you look through this book you'll see templates are for losers. The most effective slides have few words/numbers and use an attractive graphic to help reinforce the point.
Look at each slide as a 3x3 grid and focus graphical elements more in the outer portions of the grid or on the intersection points of the vertical/horizontal lines. This one really becomes clear when you see it in action. The book features several wonderful examples that show how this sort of off-center balance is highly effective (and similar to the effect used in photography).
Speaking of images, the book features a list of some of the better stock photo sites. The author's favorite is iStockphoto but I prefer a free alternative called Stock.xchng (also included in the author's list).