Simon Morton’s career as an executive for a technology company exposed him to more PowerPoint than was good for him. In 2004 Simon founded Eyeful Presentations with two aims; ridding the world of ‘Death by PowerPoint’ and enjoying a relaxing, family future. Unfortunately for Simon (but great for businesses everywhere), his design and storytelling skills made a real impact. Ten years, two children, thousands of satisfied customers and six international offices later, it’s going rather well (if not exactly to plan on the relaxation front).
In this conversation, Simon discusses his new book, The Presentation Lab.
Geetesh: Your book, The Presentation Lab has quite a few home truths that will help others create better slides – but you did weave all these truths through an analogy of fiction in a believable laboratory. Tell us more about what motivated this analogy?
Simon: It all started by recognizing that powerful presentations work due to a number of elements come together in harmony. A strong story becomes more powerful and engaging when mixed with the appropriate visuals and delivered in a way that engages an audience. Similarly great visuals are nothing without a coherent message delivered through an engaging structure. We’ve all seen potentially great presentations fail because the elements (understanding the audience, strong message, engaging structure, valuable visuals, and presentation tools) were not working together – the book is designed to address this head-on.
The laboratory analogy was a natural next step as there are so many parallels to presentations – the need for careful planning, precision when mixing all the elements together and the fact that to achieve a great result, you need to put the hours in to get it ready for release! Ongoing testing, tweaking and enhancing your ‘formula’, be that as a presenter or lab scientist, is also key to success for both presenters and lab technicians.
Geetesh: What I really loved about the book is that I could just open it anywhere and read one of the small sections – and in fact learn something without having to read the entire book to understand what I just read. Tell us more about this approach.
Simon: That’s lovely to hear! As a self-confessed presentation geek, I’m a voracious reader of presentation, storytelling and design books but even with my passion of the subject, I find some of them a little too dense and overly complex to be of much use in my day-to-day work. When planning the book, we had a very specific reader in mind – someone who needs to deliver powerful presentations as part of their role (possibly internal communications or as part of a sales cycle) and wants to improve the impact and results from these engagements. As such, taking lessons from the great orators of our time (Dr Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, TED Talks) is inspirational but unlikely to provide them with ideas and approaches they could use immediately to improve the impact of their next presentation. Equally we wanted to bust some of the ‘quick fix’ myths that have been built around certain presentation techniques courtesy of well-meaning but often misleading articles and blog posts.
The net result was creating a book that people could not only dip into to address particular issues but also equip themselves with practical tools to get them on the right track. Techniques like the ‘audience heat maps’ and ‘presentation landscape wheel’ all help ensure the ‘presentation formula’ is correctly balanced and focused on the audience. For me, the measure of a great book is that is ends up covered in scribbled notes, post–it notes and highlighted sections – I hope the content and structure of The Presentation Lab means that it will become a scruffy but indispensable addition to many business presenters’ bookshelves!