Book review: Slide Rules: Design, Build, and Archive Presentations in the Engineering and Technical Fields

I have trouble with slides. I hate them. I’ve followed a training of presentation to make better ones, and with more or less no slides anymore. I liked that training very much, but it’s difficult to apply to scientific presentations. As such, I’ve decided to read this book who is about scientific presentations (published by IEEE-Wiley) and to see how other people apprehend slides.

Content and opinions

There are five rules according to the book. Rule 0 is actually acknowledge the bad state of current presentations. When I see some presentation in my current company, I want to tear my eyes out of their sockets or rip my ears of my head. That bad. But we can do better.

Rule 1 is “Revisit Presentation Assumptions”. I like this one, it’s true. Presenters say that people expect slides to be the way they are. That’s untrue. Listeners don’t want to fall asleep during presentation, they want a story, they want to be fed with what they need. That’s the first rule.

Rule 2 is “Write Sentence Headers”. This one intrigued me, I wasn’t expecting that one. But when confronted with the result, I have to say that it seems more promising than my former titles. It’s all about telling the proper story, and getting rid of text in the slide.

Rule 3 is “Use Targeted Visuals”. That was actually my man rule before. Or more exactly, don’t use any visuals, unless you need one. It actually starts with not exposing the complete slide (when you have to use a bullet point list, typically), or selecting relevant numbers on a graph, a proper photo… It also means that you may have to modify your company slide template… But actually, I’m not sure my CEO use them anyway, because he knows they are made by bad internal communication people.

Rule 4 is “Archive Details for Future Use”. I usually let this one out, but now I realize it is an important rule. Your bosses or colleagues will reuse the slides. So you need to make them self-contained with your knowledge inside. Not necessarily on the slide that you present, but somewhere.

Rule 5 is “Keep Looking Forward”. Yes, we need to accept the fact that today’s presentation won’t be tomorrow’s. They change everyday and it is good to ride the trend and not be too late. Which is why I read the book in the first place, to keep on changing my ways.


I liked the strong position the book takes one hanging presentations in firms, the compromise it offers but it is always to enhance the situation the reader is faced with. Definite mandatory read.

One thought on “Book review: Slide Rules: Design, Build, and Archive Presentations in the Engineering and Technical Fields”

  1. Many scientists should be reading this book. As you go in conference you sometimes wonder if this is the narcoleptic convention or the anonymous depressives club.

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