Van Jones’s “one brilliant slide”

A presentation can be built around one central slide. Van Jones gives us a perfect example — not only of how such a slide looks like, but of how to present it with impact as well. The central question of the presentation is: “Is there some way we could connect the work that most needs doing with the people that most need work?”

The central slide contains the answer, green-collar jobs. Van takes about half the presentation time to set up that one slide. Once arrived at the slide, he reveals it in meaningful steps before he gets to the answer. The simple grid he uses to visualize his complex topic is inspired by the FCB grid. In step one he already guides our attention to a specific point, “The Fourth Quadrant” — the point where we can expect the answer. After that he leads us to that point. He makes it so easy for us to follow his thoughts, that his final conclusion feels absolutely natural and satisfactory.


The slide is simple, and elegant, but not self-explanatory. Without Van’s input it would be meaningless to us. Yet, combined with his well structured and enthusiastic presenting it takes us one glance to get his point. The presentation is 23 minutes long, and divided in two parts of about 11 minutes each. In the first part he introduces the central question, and leads us to the slide; in the second part he delivers the answer. At the very end he summarizes, and delivers his call to action, “Let’s do it!”

Van Jones is an environmental advocate, civil rights activist and attorney. The presentation took place at the Pop!Tech conference, 2007. (Note: The president at the time was George W. Bush.)

Paule Wendelberger