The Takahashi Presentation Method


The entertainment is in the presentation. – John McTiernan

The Takahashi method is a minimalist approach to presentations. Named after its inventor, Masayoshi Takahashi, it’s a technique that uses only a few words on each slide in large text. The words are meant to capture the key point that’s being made – somewhat in the style of a newspaper headline.

It’s an interesting approach and contrasts with other presentation methods such as conference style presentations, as described by Andrew Abela, and inspiring presentations, in the style of TED talks. Conference style presentations are detailed slides, filled with content, but structured with headlines in a way that means the general story can be told and the detail read later. Inspiring presentations often have a picture or a few words dominating the page, and are used to tell a story and draw you into the narrative.

These approaches are better, it is argued, than the traditional use of slides filled with bullet points and dense text – that’s the whole death by PowerPoint approach.

But is the Takahashi method a simple visual technique, different only because of the way it looks or does it possibly have a deeper use that’s isn’t obvious at first glance?

In the book Index, a history of the by Dennis Duncan we are told about the character Lotaria in Italo Calvino’s novel If on a winter’s night a traveller who reads by feeding books into her computer and looking at the frequencies of repeated words – deducing from them the meaning in the text. This might seem like cheating, a shortcut – why should authors put all that effort into writing carefully constructed prose if you simply look at an automated analysis of the work instead?

For a start it’s faster than reading everything and sometimes you want to figure out what the key points are in a text. I fed a number of papers into a program that extracted bigrams and trigrams – repeated two and three-word combinations to see if they helped get a sense of what the paper was all about. And I found that it was a surprisingly useful technique. If an author comes up with a bigram that usefully encapsulates a concept then it tends to be repeated, and the repetition helps you pick out what the author considers important. These bigrams can then be used as a connected set of ideas, a “string of pearls” to step through and talk about the ideas in the paper.

Takahashi’s method seems perfect for this approach, a distillation of key points that support the telling of a story. But will it work in practice? I need to think about how to try it out.


Karthik Suresh

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