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November 19, 2008

Game changing presentations with Nancy Duarte

Nancy Duarte is the worlds leading and highest profile expert on building presentations that are game changers.

Head of the Duarte design company, Nancy led the effort for Al Gores An Inconvenient Truth talks, which later led to the movie and an Oscar award.

She helped us with a a few questions for consulting professionals while en route to a presentation at Carnegie Mellon.

CP: Consultants rely on presentations probably more than any other managerial discipline. We are probably among the principle abusers of the medium. So rather than what should they do right, what are a couple of the disastrous errors that they should avoid when building presentations?

ND: Most presenters build their content and slides from their own perspective instead of from the perspective of the audience. It’s easy to reverse the priorities and think that my slides are most important, then me, then the audience.

In reality, that’s exactly backwards. Most important is the audience and what they need, then the presenter and then the slides. Yet so often when it’s time to write a presentation, they sit down and open up PowerPoint. We encourage presenters to step away from the computer and develop an audience needs profile.

Take a walk in their shoes and think through what they need, what their fears are and how they might resist your message.

CP: Your agency produces the best and most creative presentations that I have seen. For many it is a real jolt to see it done like that or that it is even possible in MS Power Point or Apple's Keynote.

Are there some techniques people can apply to help them in creating reasonably good quality and entertaining presentations?

ND: Only have one point on each slide. So often a presenter packs too much into one slide. I’d rather see a presenter clip through a series of slides than sit on the same slide for a long time.

If the diagram or data you need to get across is complicated, have it build and emphasize each point you’re discussing.

CP: I saw a recent run on your Blog about presentation clichés. I thought it was right on the money. What are some of the more common presentation clichés to avoid in particular when pitching to clients or reporting back on value achieved?

ND: Don’t use a target, water droplets or a handshake in front of a globe. Many times these images are used when a more clever and memorable one could be but these cliché’s are the easiest cop-out. Take the famous handshake for example. What’s really being communicated is partnership.

If you brainstorm many types of partnerships you might get a range of things like salt and pepper, Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers, two peas in a pod or an ecosystem. Each of these new metaphors have nuances and subtleties about a partnership that could become a beautiful analogy for the value you bring to the relationship.

It takes a bit more work, but it delivers more meaning.

CP: You run a service industry company, although a little unique. Success is often driven by being able to quickly grab the attention of a prospect or client. What sorts of themes, techniques or tactics should consultants use for building attention demanding presentations?

ND: Don’t start your presentation about you, begin your presentation with content that’s relevant to your audience. So often we take the traditional approach by stating who we are, how big we are, where we are located instead of making observations about who they are and how we can meet their needs.

It’s easy to state facts, figures and logical reasons why they should hire us. Once you’re constructed all that analytical information, step back and determine where you can add stories, intrigue and drama.

Make sure you are the one who determines what kind of mood your audience is in when they leave the room.

CP: I am really impressed by your use of a range of multi media tools, techniques and display mechanisms. Where do you find this stuff? Are their software programs, outside of Keynote and Power Point, that consultants should be investigating?

ND: It seems like PowerPoint and Keynote are dominant but there are some interesting (free) web-based applications that are emerging on the scene too. I would encourage consultants to think beyond just a projector.

It’s very easy to convert a presentation to work on an iPhone, VoIP phone, HTML and Flash. If a presentation is built and expressed well, it can become a viral message that can be embedded into blogs and social networking sites.

Everyone who wants to improve in presentation design and delivery should buy Garr Reynold’s book and subscribe to his site of the same name PresentationZen. Made to Stick is a must-buy book for people developing their corporate stories.

Everything that Seth Godin has written is smart and insightful.

As with all people who have achieved stunning success, Nancy is a very modest person.

Her book Slide:ology is THE must read book for building presentations that really work.

A real guide to shapes, text, and a plethora of design tips, techniques and skills. I think it is a must have reference for any consulting professional or professional speaker.

Another reason why Nancy has become the go-to person for all corporations who want presentations that make a difference. Check out her seminar series  if you are really serious about supercharging your career. 

Thanks Nancy!