Things I Think Are Cool is a blog series where I talk about things I have found interesting and helpful. They can be time savers, productivity tools, podcasts, books, products, or even people.

In addition to blogging a lot, I also speak at numerous user groups and conferences.

One of the things that I always try to do when speaking (or writing a blog post, for that matter) is to create a story that ties the entire talk together.

Not necessarily a campfire tale, or something you'd read in a book, but rather a story where each concept introduced draws upon the previous element(s) - and by the end of the presentation, the attendee has gone from point A to point B. And (hopefully) understands how point B was achieved and most importantly why point B is worth traveling to.

One of the methods used to achieve that is slide design - and a fundamental concept in design is to not overwhelm the attendee with too much info on a single slide.

Another concept is to use as few words as possible on a slide. Keep the audience listening to you - instead of reading.

So it was with those 2 concepts, storytelling and slide design, in mind that I went searching for a book to help me out to create better presentations ...

And that book is what this week's Things I Think Are Cool is about: Dan Roam's Show and Tell

Why It's Cool

The first thing I noticed about this book was that it involved drawing stick figures ... many, many stick figures!

(And now the "artwork" on my blog is starting to make more sense, huh?)

I thought to myself that drawing some of the slides for a presentation would bring a fun and personal touch to the talk. Ideally keeping people engaged while adhering to the principal of not having too much info or text on a slide at once.

So I bought the book and I wasn't disappointed.

In it, Roam goes through how to create a presentation effectively - first by telling a story.

In his thoughts on presentation story telling there are 5 components - that when tied together will both tell a complete story and create a great presentation.

With your point in mind ... you need to explain:

  • Why
  • Who/What
  • How Much
  • Where
  • When
  • How

Cover all those areas for your given topic - and you'll have a coherent talk.

But even better - he goes on to show what type of drawings to use on the slides to convey each of those bullet points.

The idea behind drawing simple stick figures instead of using photos or a lot of text is to not overwhelm the audience with information. You want the drawing to be representative of the point - but not too realistic.

Too much realism - like a photo of a person - and the audience may get distracted at the person in the photo (people love looking at people) instead of listening to the presentation. But take the audience's natural instinct of being interested in looking at people - turn it into a stick figure - and now you have something that's interesting, but not distracting.

And examples are given for several different presentation types commonly encountered ... and how to apply the bullets points to each.

There's even a quick tutorial on how to draw stick figures! (Something I obviously haven't mastered yet!)

After reading the book and putting it's recommendations to use - I do feel like I have created more interested and effective talks, and I do recommend it.

How To Get It

You can grab it on Amazon. Or I'm sure any number of online sellers (or probably used bookstores too).

That's Cool!