It is nearly impossible to make it through a typical day without exchanging ideas. Whether it’s something as simple as suggesting a restaurant for a long-overdue night out or as complicated as showcasing the design of an entirely new product, we are forever involved in sculpting, sharing and selling our ideas. To be successful in these activities, we must be good storytellers.
What is it that keeps us glued to our seats when watching a thriller, or quickly turning the pages in a mystery novel? What is it about a particular presenter or presentation that draws us in, keeps us engaged, and sparks our imaginations? And why do some stories stay with us, while others don’t?
These are questions driving Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte. Nancy Duarte is CEO of Duarte Design, an award-winning presentation design firm. Although Resonate is her second book, as Nancy says: “Resonate is a prequel to my first book, Slide:ology. I thought the most pressing need in communications was for people to learn how to visually display their brilliant ideas...Come to find out, there was a much deeper problem.”
There is a simple image in Resonate that frames that problem. It’s one of a blank projector screen, on it the words: Campfires have been replaced with projector bulbs, and the power of story has eluded presenters in the workplace.
Big Idea: You can transform any presentation into an engaging journey for your audience that elicits a groundswell response by exploiting the storytelling structure and techniques normally reserved for cinema, performing arts,and literature.
Key Takeaways: There are nine rules for presenting a compelling visual story.
1. Resonance causes change. Make your audience the hero of the story to connect them to your idea—a connected audience will change.
2. Incorporating story into presentations has an exponential effect on outcomes. Story structure helps an audience remember your idea, and move them to action.
3. If a presenter knows the audience’s resonant frequency and tunes to that, the audience will move. When you really know someone, it’s much easier to persuade them.
4. Every audience will persist in a state of rest unless compelled to change. To move an audience, there must be something in it for them.
5. Use the big idea to filter out all frequencies other than the resonant frequency. Most presentations suffer from too many ideas, not too few.
6. Structure is greater than the sum of its parts. Story first, visuals second...they play a supporting role to the central story structure.
7. Memorable moments are repeated and retransmitted so they cover longer distances. Create a S.T.A.R. moment—Something They’ll Always Remember.
8. Audience interest is directly proportionate to the presenter’s preparation. Prepare and rehearse. Rinse and repeat. An oft-neglected activity.
9. Your imagination can create a reality. This quote by film director James Cameron sends the message that your ideas have the power to change the world. give them their due by communicating them well through a compelling narrative.
Liked Most: Ms. Duarte conducts many case studies and analyses of noteable presentations and their presenters, such as Benjamin Zander, Ronald Reagan, Steve Jobs, Richard Feynman, Michael Pollan, pastor John Ortberg, Markus Covert, Leonard Bernstein, Mozart, Alfred Hitchcock and Martin Luther King Jr. The insights revealed by her breakdowns are enlightening, and helped me to improve a number of things in my own upcoming speech. Resonate gave me a new and better way to look at and improve my storytelling skill both as a writer and a speaker.
Liked Least: I want this book to be a constant companion and reference... I want it as an app, preferably on the iPad as opposed to an e-book, so that I can move around it in a nonlinear way but retain the visual appeal and presentation. So what I like least is that I can’t do that, at least not right now. (Disclosure: I’m working around this by taking pictures of key graphics with my iPhone.)
Must Read: There are two components that you cannot miss. The first is “The Hero’s Journey Structure,” in which Ms. Duarte presents The Hero’s Journey drawn from Joseph Campbell’s work in a one-page circular illustration, and applies the structure to create “The Audience’s Journey” in similar fashion. Take a picture with your smartphone and keep it with you always.
The second thing you must read is how Ms. Duarte uses that structure to conduct a visual, four-page, line-by-line analysis of the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. She dissects the speech using a graphical device called a “sparkline” employed to identify key elements like repetition, metaphor, visual words, familiar references and even four levels of audience response (applause, heavy applause, sustained applause and cheering). This must have taken days if not weeks to conduct and create.
Best For: To be honest, I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit at some level from reading Resonate, for the reasons stated at the beginning of this review. Whether we are presiding or parenting, we are all attempting to create change through the exchange of ideas. As Duarte Design president Dan Post writes in his Foreword, “Resonate is intended for people with ambition, purpose, and an uncommon work ethic.”
Links: Visit the website of Duarte Design for excerpts, workshops and tools.
What Others Say: Garr Reynolds, another expert on presentations, says this: “Resonate takes you on a beautiful journey illustrating how to construct and deliver the kind of presentations that are truly remarkable, memorable...and may even change the world.”
Rating: 9.5 (out of 10)
Matthew E. May is the author of The Shibumi Strategy: A Powerful Way to Create Meaningful Change, forthcoming from Jossey-Bass. He blogs at MatthewEMay.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @matthewemay.