Book Review: Encyclopedia of Slide Layouts by Andrew V. Abela, Ph.D. and Paul J. Radich

I just finished reading Encyclopedia of Slide Layouts, by Andrew V. Abela, Ph.D. and Paul J. Radich (Soproveitto Press, Great Falls, VA). As a fan of Abela’s Chart Chooser (http://www.labnol.org/software/find-right-chart-type-for-your-data/6523/ ), which I use often in Excel training, I had great expectations for this book. I was not disappointed!EOSLcover

In addition to teaching a lot of Excel, I also teach a lot of PowerPoint. Microsoft introduced SmartArt way back in Office 2007. And, still I’m amazed at how many people don’t know it’s there. Even if they do, many folks are not just sure how to use it. This book is the key to that and so much more. For me, the subtitle states the real value of this content: “Inspiration for Visual Communication.” Indeed, it is.

One of the things that hooked me into this book was the acknowledgement that “presentation” doesn’t always mean projected onto a screen. One of my pet peeves has always been content on a screen that the audience has to squint at to read. I tell my students that while that’s happening, all the audience hears from the speaker is “blah, blah, blah.” If the message is important (which hopefully it is, or why would you be going to all this trouble?), knowing the best visuals to support it is a presentation design imperative. The book begins with Abela’s trademarked Extreme Presentation Method as a backdrop to choosing slide layouts. One is give a good foundation for using the book in these first pages. So, don’t skip the Roman numeral pages in front!

Another bonus here, is that in a world ruled by bad PowerPoint presentations, the authors acknowledge other visual-aid design tools, such as Chartco, Diagrammer, PowerFrameworks, as well as SmartArt found in PowerPoint (Office 2007-2013). You’ll learn what a “squint test” is why you want to do it before you ever put your visuals in front of an audience. One of my favorite new terms is “chart junk,” which is basically anything that may look cool to you in the moment, but serves no real purpose on a slide or handout, except to muddle its message and bleed printer ink.

Very business-centric, the book features real-life examples from The Corporate Executive Board (CEB), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), BusinessWeek, and others. Some examples can get a little mired down in advanced business principles. For the average information worker, though, it’s worth slogging through, even if you have to break out your old books from college as reference. I promise after using this book, you will be looking at your own presentations and those of others, critically. That’s not a bad thing!

The book is available from http://www.ExtremePresentation.com and Amazon.com starting 1/23/2015.

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