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In the world today, the ability to express yourself and communicate with others is one of the most important skills in school and in the work place. Whether you’re a college student presenting a project in class, or in the work place selling a product to a client, your ability to make engaging presentations may be the difference between success and failure.

As an expert and consultant in presentations, Garr Reynolds has been sharing his ideas of “Presentation Zen” with fortune 500 companies, as well as the everyday citizen in the form of a blog and a book.

His ideas of Presentation Zen help steer us away from the text-filled Powerpoint presentations we are used to and bored of, and helps us engage the audience effectively. Here are some important features of Presentation Zen:

Simplicity
Garr Reynolds emphasizes elegance in simplicity; don’t fill your slides with bullet points and text. Instead, you could include a picture, or a simple statistic that you can then elaborate on in your speech. In addition to editing your slides to make sure there is no un-needed text, edit your speech so that there is no unrelated or unimportant information. A good speech is like an iPod; it’s designed to be simple in both form and function, and that’s what makes it a great product.

Story & Personality
Presenting what you want to say in the form of a story, whether a personal one or not, is a great way to engage the audience and have them remember your message. Also, don’t forget to infuse your personality into your speech; give them a reason why they would want to listen to you, don’t just be a robot revising what you have prepared.

Be Conversational and Interact with Audience
Be conversational, don’t make the audience feel like you are talking AT them, talk TO them. A great way to interact with the audience is to ask simple questions related to what you’re about to talk about, multiple times throughout your speech. Be casual in your delivery as well.

Reaching Presentation Zen with Video
Well-made videos can be a great tool in any kind of presentation, and can be helpful in achieving a “Presentation Zen” style. The picture superiority rule suggests that adding a visual component, or “showing not telling”, helps the audience remember your points much better. Here is a 30 second video explaining this rule.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=cLLDUyy8utY]

A video experience takes advantage of the picture superiority rule by delivering both a visual and audio representation of your message simultaneously. More importantly, videos help us engage our audience in multiple ways. Instead of struggling to paint a picture in your audience’s mind using your words, a video can demonstrate a certain feeling or setting depending on the purpose of your presentation. Also, a useful trick is to insert a short video in the middle of your presentation; it re-engages any viewers who might’ve lost interest mid-way, and it gives your audience and yourself a short break from each other.

How to create a video
Although videos can be useful, it takes recording equipment, editing skills, preparation, and a lot of other skills that you may not possess. Fortunately, there are online tools that can help us with this task, such as GoAnimate.

GoAnimate is a suite of web applications that makes it easy to create professional animated videos. It’s ability to engage the audience, whether as an official commercial or internal training video, makes it a great tool in helping us achieve Presentation Zen.