Nancy Duarte on Presentations That Resonate



Nancy Duarte explains that “language and power are inextricably linked,” and I think this is so important in a world where very few people present well.  If you are a strong presenter, you have the power to change minds.  If your public speaking skills are powerful, you can interest and engage people.  You could talk about anything from Aristotle’s three modes of persuasion to a ham sandwich!

At work this afternoon, I overheard a few teachers talking about their students’ poor presentations.  Why are those presentations so poor?  I believe it is because so many of our instructors don’t lead by example.  If an instructor is merely lecturing, the students are going to disengage because the material doesn’t matter to them.  If students aren’t paying attention, they’re not going to learn, and if they don’t learn, they can’t apply.  Our job as instructors is to engage students, and lecture doesn’t work.

It all boils down to Duarte’s purpose: presentations that include storytelling allow audiences to be informed and entertained the same time.  We learn through story.  When teaching a class, how often are we just reciting data?  How often do we tell a story to reinforce our purpose?  More importantly, how often are we asking our students to participate and tell their own stories?  How much discussion is taking place in your classroom?  How much active participation?  How much Facebooking?

If you’re teaching public speaking and presentation, engagement becomes even more important.  We can’t ask our students to create and present superstar presentations if our own classes involve dull, boring, lecture.  What can we do to lead by example?

Duarte explains that a moving presentation follows a sparkline weaving “what is” and “what could be.”  Teachers, do your lectures follow this structure?  If not, you must rethink your approach to your own presentations, as you aren’t putting your audience’s needs first.  Here is Duarte’s sparkline:


You’ll have to purchase Nancy Duarte’s resonate in order to fully understand her sparkline, but she provides some amazing resources on her website:

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