This morning, I woke up feeling a combination of anxiety and excitement. You know the feeling: butterflies, difficulty slowing down and thinking clearly, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, etc. I knew that at 2:00 PM EST, I would meet one of my idols, the one and only Nancy Duarte.
Now, if you’re in the field of public speaking and presentation, having a Skype interview with Nancy Duarte is meeting a living legend. She helped revolutionize visual design, delivery, and content; she worked on enormously popular projects such as Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth slideshow; and she completely changed my life/pedagogy/teaching philosophy. It’s the meeting I will tell students about in future classes, brag about in job interviews, and nerd out remembering for the rest of my life. It’s like meeting the Michael Jackson of public speaking and presentation. Seriously. Is this my life?!
If you’re wondering how I got here, it’s all thanks to the one and only Matt Gilhooly, Program Manager of Undergraduate Studies at Full Sail University. Once Chiara Ojeda and I transitioned from using Duarte’s Slide:ology to Resonate in the class we teach, Professional Communication and Presentation, Matt suggested we reach out to the publisher of the book to see if it was at all possible to speak with Nancy Duarte someday. I smiled but thought, “There is no way the most important woman in the field of presentation today would make time to talk to a mere mortal in Orlando, Florida!”
Crazily enough, Nancy Duarte actually agreed to make a Skype classroom visit. When I heard the news, my mind went completely blank. It’s funny; if you know me personally, you know I am insane. I am zany, outgoing, overly self-confident, and never at a loss for words. Throw Nancy Duarte in the mix, and I am completely silent. When we conducted our pre-Skype conference call with her earlier in the summer, I was so stunned that I could barely speak. As my family/husband/friends/students will tell you, I am NEVER at a loss for words. It was a dream come true just having her on the other end of a telephone.
The Skype interview was another story. 30 minutes before the “test,” I was shaking I was so terrified. 5 minutes before, I was just dead silent. I couldn’t say anything. I was about to be on a computer screen talking and seeing Nancy Duarte. At 2:00, I was so nervous I just sat completely still in my chair like a corpse.
And then, the Skyping began.
First of all, Nancy Duarte is stunningly beautiful. She was wearing a black and white dress I would have killed my own mother to own. Her hair was perfect; her office was perfect; her ensemble was perfect. But even more than that, she exuded this warm, friendly, kind blanket that wraps you up and makes you feel comfortable and happy. Within a few seconds, she was laughing and joking with Chiara and me. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. She, of course, laughed at us for being such superfans but, at the same time, immediately put us at ease. Nancy Duarte has magical powers, y’all. I am so serious. If she wanted to take over the world, we would all be putty in her hands.
Chiara and I talked with her for about 30 minutes about the upcoming goal for her talk with our class, her expectations, and what our students would contribute to the discussion. When I’m on my deathbed and look back on an important 30 minutes in my life, these are those minutes. Does that seem dramatic? Because I am totally serious. And after the hour Nancy Duarte committed to spending with my class on August 20, I might be able to go ahead and die of happiness… I promise to keep you posted.