The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

“We are all storytellers—it’s in our DNA,” Garr Reynolds told a packed audience at AstraZeneca KK’s offices in Osaka on December 14. Explaining that improved presenta­tion skills lead to increased work­place confidence, he captivated the 119 attendees for an hour, using music, humor, easy-to-understand examples, and more than 400 stimulating slides.

Citing the book Brain Rules by mole­cu­lar biologist John Medina, Reynolds said that vision is the most powerful sense, and visual storytelling conveys information in a way that is easier for people to remember.

He used interactive activities to re­mind participants not to be self-critical, but instead to take a chance and try different things and to use creativity to think outside the box.

“Your feelings are contagious,” Reynolds reminded the audience, adding that a genuine smile that carries up through the eyes can help you make a real connection with listeners. Speaking from the heart and using positive vocabulary helps show passion for the topic.

Good presentations are a lot of work for the creator, but are easier for the audience to comprehend. Explaining his process, Reynolds recommended not starting on the computer, but instead setting aside quality time alone to think and to take an analog approach using sticky notes to storyboard the entire talk.

He suggested narrating ideas over multiple slides with larger text and visual graphs to simplify presentations, and avoiding slides with dense information that makes them difficult to read.
Reynolds said video clips are better than photos, and the use of supporting quotes from well-known people offers credibility. His last piece of advice was not to end a presentation with a question and answer session, but to make a final point instead.

“In today’s world, when it is more and more difficult to keep people focused, preparing a captivating presentation and passing the information to the audience in a way that sticks is a must,” said Michaela Smith, area director of sales and marketing at InterContinental Osaka. “I found Garr’s presentation extremely to the point, because he was doing exactly what he was presenting: passing the information to his audience in a very ‘sticky’ way. It is not often that we get the opportunity to learn from professionals about presentation skills.”

Mari Matthews, corporate officer at AIG Holdings Japan and vice-chair of the ACCJ Government Relations Committee added: “The most important thing is to be passionate with what you do and spread it through communication. Passion is contagious. I got a lot of technical information about presentation skills, but the really strong impression is that Garr is passionate and loves what he does!”

Mari Nogami, vice president of com­mercial excellence at AstraZeneca KK Japan, who had previously seen Reynolds only in training clips on the corporate website, tremendously enjoyed his live presentation. “It was a great opportunity to network with people from other companies—especially AIG, who are in the same building. It was a great reminder to me that making a presentation is not slides and reading. I should improve my skills. Many colleagues came to me and said that they were really impressed and inspired by Garr’s event. Thank you for giving AstraZeneca a great opportunity to learn from him!”

Rose Tanasugarn sits on the ACCJ–Kansai Membership Relations Committee.