Imagine my surprise when I saw a new interview with Nancy Duarte on Inc. In “Great Speakers Are Like Yoda, Not Luke Skywalker,” Kimberly Weisul interviews the Duarte Design CEO and presentation expert. Although much of Duarte’s advice can be found in her book, Resonate, I loved the short piece because of its focus on the role of the speaker as mentor rather than hero.
Duarte on The #1 Presentation Mistake…
After working on hundreds of thousands of presentations, Duarte says the biggest problem she sees in the land of public speaking and presentation is a lack of empathy. What I like about Resonate and about Duarte’s approach is that she talks about audience analysis in such a fresh way. If you read traditional public speaking textbooks, you’ll see the standard, boring chapters on audience demographics, attitude, and environment that typically elicit a “duh!” response. Duarte talks about audience analysis from a real life perspective. For example, in her interview with Weisul, Duarte says, “When you have an opportunity to present, you tend to start to process information from your own perspective. Usually, it’s all about the information you want to give instead of being about the information the audience wants to receive. You need to spend an enormous amount of time thinking about what the audience wants to receive. You need to really think through who you’re talking to, and how to make a deep connection with them. Then you need to create content that supports that” (Source). Yes, we should consider the audience’s age and gender and culture. More importantly, we should be thinking about what all audiences need and want: to share an experience, to be entertained, to learn something new, to feel moved, to be inspired… The standard textbook audience analysis isn’t going to get you there, but Duarte’s advice in Resonate definitely will.
Duarte on Being A Yoda, Not A Luke Skywalker
In her book and in her TED Talk, Duarte mentions that a great presenter’s role is that of Yoda (a mentor) as opposed to Luke Skywalker (a hero). She explains what she means in her Inc. Interview. Duarte says, “In movies and myths, there’s also often the mentor, who comes alongside the hero to help them get unstuck or give them a magical tool. That’s Yoda. When you’re presenting, that’s you. If you look at it that way, suddenly you’re more humble” (Source). As a public speaking and presentation teacher, easing into a Yoda role is effortless for me because it is my goal to teach students, to come alongside them and to give them new, powerful communication and presentation tools. However, I have to remember to adopt this mindset when I am presenting in other areas such as at work to fellow faculty or at a Junior League meeting.
Understanding the role of the presenter is important, but understanding the relationship between audience and presenter is even more essential. Duarte explains, “The presenter’s success is completely dependent on the audience adopting the idea. The presenter is not the protagonist. You need to take that and respect that. The audience has the power to take your idea and spread it far and wide. Or it can die” (Source). Once we realize that the success of our presentation hinges on our audience, we can remedy presentation mistake #1… We can spend more time focusing on our audience so that they will love and enjoy our message and, ultimately, adopt our idea.
Read more from Nancy Duarte on Duarte Blog, on LinkedIn, and on the Harvard Business Review.