Ben Sauer
Sky Sand 1 Sand 2 Cactus Sand 3 Sand 4

Tell great stories about your design work.

The secret of explaining design isn't a series of screens.
It's the story around it.

  • Engage your audience with a well-structured presentation
  • Transform uninspired stakeholders into enthusiastic collaborators
  • Overcome anxiety and stress with proven techniques
  • Increase your influence and upgrade your design career

Death by Screens will teach you a less-obvious method of presenting, one that ensures your stakeholders will get that elusive ‘it’: why you’ve designed it that way, not just what you’ve designed.

You’ll learn what to say, what to show, in what order, how to do it with confidence, and how to have productive conversations with stakeholders.

Whether you’re presenting in a high-stakes scenario or not, Death by Screens teaches you how to be a strong communicator, vital to developing a successful design career.

Presenting soon? Get this book. Death by Screens is highly practical and (mostly) skips the theory - be a better presenter, fast.

Cover art by Kyle Bean
Cover design by James Gilyead

Published by Clouds and Clocks Publishing

"Storytelling is the key to getting that elusive seat at the table, but most designers don’t see themselves as storytellers. In this book, Ben covers what the early-career designer needs to get heard in a corporate environment."

Jeff Gothelf

—Jeff Gothelf, Co-author Lean UX and Sense & Respond

"This book is like the ultimate confidence booster for designers! Say goodbye to those scary meetings and hello to awesome chances for growth. Get ready to level up your design game and show 'em what you're made of!"

Fonz Morris

—Fonz Morris, Lead Product Designer, Netflix

About the Author

Ben Sauer is a product and design leader, author and speaker.

As a UX Designer at the award-winning agency Clearleft, one of the first UX agencies in the world, Ben worked with clients such as the BBC and Tesco. His design for Evo magazine won Apple’s Newsstand App of the Year.

Ben worked at Babylon Health as a Director of Product leading a team of 100 on AI-based products worth $100m+.

He’s a seasoned writer and blogger, contributing writing to books like The Great Redesign, and Meeting Design. He’s spoken at numerous events and companies around the world: The Economist, The NEXT Conference, VW + Audi, UX London, Penguin Random House, and many others.

Ben has trained teams worldwide in design, with his methods being adopted by teams at Amazon and the BBC. During his time teaching for O’Reilly, he taught people at NASA.

headshot of ben sauer headshot of ben sauer running a workshop

Contents

1. Introduction: Death by Screens

  • This book: how it can help you
  • Why stories work: people are hard-wired to pay attention to them

2. First steps: prepare early to save time later

  • Know your stakeholders: map your audience’s concerns and expertise
  • Choose your setting: take control of where, when, and how you present
  • Send the invite: attract constructive input by managing expectations
  • Start with structure: work on the slides later

3. Structure Part I: set the scene

  • Introductions and welcome: set yourself up as the host
  • The whys: why this work, why now, and why this meeting
  • The attention-grabber: use a surprising quote, quiz, or story to engage your audience
  • Principles: explain how you approached the design
  • Share your insights: show what you learned, not your process

4. Structure Part II: show the design through a story

  • Warnings and caveats: avoid nasty surprises
  • Frame the feedback: explain what’s useful and what’s not
  • The scenario: describe who is using the design and why
  • The story: show your hero using the design
  • Outcomes: give your story a happy ending for the user and the organisation
  • Discussion: questions, comments, and answers
  • Close the meeting: make the next steps explicit

5. Writing: sharpen your rationale with well-crafted words

  • Transcribe it: get a first draft fast
  • Edit: use tools to make your words clear and concise
  • Headlines: refine to make them memorable
  • Use the Goldilocks Zone of detail: not too much, not too little
  • Repetition: drive your main points home with consistent wording
  • Kill your darlings: focus on the essentials by editing ruthlessly

6. Slides: design for listening, not reading

  • Minimise words on screen to keep people listening
  • Reveal content bit-by-bit so your audience doesn’t jump ahead
  • Include sections so they know where they are
  • Use variety to alleviate boredom
  • Leave space for detail following the presentation

7. Rehearse: Improve your performance with feedback

  • Find your style: confident delivery comes in many flavours
  • Record yourself: find out what to improve by recording a rehearsal
  • Self-assess the basics: speed, volume, rhythm, and expression
  • Get feedback: use peers to help you find problems you cannot see
  • Physical confidence: use your face and body to engage the audience

8. Prepare: manage the details with care

  • Polish the presentation: minimise distraction
  • The room: set it up for the best audience experience
  • Remote presentations: setup like a broadcaster
  • Disasters: plan contingencies for worst-case scenarios
  • Don’t go it alone: designate a moderator, note-taker, and timekeeper

9. Discussion: translate unclear feedback into useful critique

  • The 6Ds of design discussion: Deference, Detail, Determine, Delay, Document, and Delegate
  • Discuss outcomes: focus on the ‘why’ of the work
  • Inclusive discussion: get the most from everyone’s input
  • After the meeting: follow up with your stakeholders

10. Resilience: managing yourself and your feelings

  • Prepare and practice: the best way to reduce anxiety
  • Expect the unexpected: adapt when problems arise
  • Self-awareness: reframe your negative thoughts
  • Visualise: mentally rehearse the performance
  • Ground yourself: use mindful breathing

Final thoughts

Useful extras

  • The task checklist
  • Reduce communication debt: use recorded presentations and huddles
  • Culture-fit: tailor the presentation to suit the organisation

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