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“Ask yourself: so what?”

“Ask yourself: so what?”

When art meets science

Who: Johannes Bögershausen, PhD candidate at SBE

Book: Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds

Target group: students of the School of Business and Economics

“As a tutor I see a lot of presentations by master’s students and I wish more of them had read books like Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.” The German Johannes Bögershausen, a PhD candidate at the Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, read the book a long time ago, but appreciated the simple advice of the American author. “It’s more like an instruction book with lots of visualizations. It’s original, inspiring and well written. He gives, as the subheading says, simple ideas on presentation design and delivery.”
The author Garr Reynolds lives in Japan; his approach has a Japanese flavour, with lessons from the Zen arts. “I remember him using two Japanese words, dakara nani, meaning ‘so what?’ When preparing for a presentation you should always put yourself in the shoes of the audience, and ask: ‘so what?’ What has the audience learned after my presentation? What’s in it for them?” Another good piece of advice: “If you have to create a PowerPoint presentation, don’t start by sitting in front of the computer. Get out, go to the park or a café, take a piece of paper and sketch the structure. Know your message, know the purpose of your talk, know the audience.”
What are the main things that concern Bögershausen in today’s student presentations? “I feel that some of them could have deliberated more about structure. Consequently, many want to tell everything, so you end up with far too much text on the slide. Sometimes it’s more powerful to work with one picture and one word. I also notice inconsistent use of font and unprofessional images. It’s a pity, because there are so many sources of high quality images on the internet.”
Reynolds’s book is not only about storytelling, but also about the visual side of presentation, such as the rule of thirds. Bögershausen draws two horizontal and two vertical lines on a piece of paper, resulting in nine rectangles. He circles the intersections, referring to a basic photographing technique. “These are the areas you should place your main image or text. If you do it somewhere else, it doesn’t feel right for the audience.”
Shouldn’t the university put more effort into teaching these skills? “Public-speaking skills are very important, but I understand why university doesn’t make them its core business. Yet, students should really understand that university is a perfect learning environment. If you mess up a presentation here, it doesn’t seriously harm you, as it can do in later life at work.”  

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