January 27, 2016

PowerPoint and passion aren’t two words typically associated together, but when you add renowned presentation designer Nancy Duarte into the mix, you are inspired to change the world through effective presentations. The AMA Atlanta Chapter recently hosted “An Evening with Nancy Duarte,” and this post will offer a recap of the main takeaways.

A Bit of Background on Nancy Duarte

Duarte is the principal and CEO of Duarte Design, and the author of several books including:

She also worked with Al Gore to develop his keynote presentation “An Inconvenient Truth” which was so compelling that filmmaker Davis Guggenheim directed a documentary based on the presentation, and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.Duarte is also a frequent TED Talker, and works with the organization to improve other TED Talk presentations.

Duarte’s passion is to help people effectively communicate their ideas and vision for the world.

Communicators are Torch Bearers

Duarte opened with the idea that as marketers and communicators, we are torch bearers. We help people take the next step into a new concept, idea, or pitch. New ideas can be scary, intimidating, and filled with resistance, but as the torchbearer we hold the guiding light that illuminates the way into something different.

The Best Presenters and Presentations are Focused on Storytelling and Empathy

The greatest communicators use the story format.

PowerPoint slides should be a great narrative with assisting visuals and data. Duarte reminds us that slides can be beautifully designed but if they don’t tell a story they will not be effective [side note: Edward Tufte’s theories on visual data design and avoiding chartjunk are a great reference to utilize when designing your slides]. Duarte believes that stories impact our belief system and shape our collective conscious, so we can use stories to shape the perceptions and opinions of others.

To tell a great story, you must have empathy.

Duarte stated that the single most important element to begin a presentation with is empathy. She encourages spending time inside the skin of your audience to develop empathy so you can better communicate your vision. If we want to change our audience’s perception and get them on board with our idea, then we must empathize and tell our story within our audience’s perspective. Duarte calls this resonating with the audience. As presenters, we must “hit their frequency” if we want to effectively communicate our vision.

Tips on Presenting Change

An audience member asked Duarte for tips on presenting change, especially when your audience may be primed to resist. Duarte’s recommendations include considering the two polarities as you design your presentation – who will be motivated by your ideas, and who will resist?

Brainstorm a “bucket of resistance” by writing down all the potential ways your audience could resist, and then empathize with your audience through this resistance to bring them over to your goals and vision. Duarte reminds us that if we have to push people, then we haven’t thought about the situation empathically.

A Brand is a Story

The best brands tell a story. When corporations have a great story to tell, people want to join in on your journey and be a part of your brand. Duarte recommends hiring staff who share the same values of your brand because skills can be taught. To protect your brand’s story and ideals, sometimes you have to make decisions that value reputation over revenue.

Conclusion

Empathy and storytelling are rhetorically effective strategies that enable us to design compelling PowerPoint presentations, and convince the world that our vision and ideas are worth pursuing.

Blog written by Caroline Moore

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