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Nancy Duarte TweetChat Recap: How to Win over an Audience

- October 19, 2011 - 2 Comments

On Tuesday October 18, we held a live TweetChat with best-selling author and presentation guru Nancy Duarte, CEO of Duarte Design. (She created the presentation you see in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.)

During the hour-long chat, Nancy shared a truckload of sage presentation advice, tips on how to spread ideas, tell stories, and ensure the next time you present, your audience will be truly riveted. Thanks to everyone who participated in the chat and congrats to Cisco partner @CapNetSols who won a signed copy of Nancy’s book Resonate.

If you’d like to watch Nancy’s Virtual Partner Velocity video covering this topic and how to truly resonate with audiences, the replay is here. (And be sure to take the survey after you watch Nancy’s video to get your copy of her most recent book “Resonate” and for your chance to win an iPad 2.)

And now, for a full summary of the TweetChat. (You can also visit our TweetChat room to view the transcript.)

To help facilitate discussion, the @PartnerVelocity Twitter handle asked Nancy 10 prepared questions. There were plenty of great audience questions as well, so for easier reading, those are posted after the Q&A along with Nancy’s Golden Nuggets and tips.

@PartnerVelocity Q1: How does social media change the way we communicate stories to our audience?

@nancyduarte: Ideas that spread on social media use story structures and content that contrasts. It’s what makes them appealing to repeat.

@PartnerVelocity Q2: How does contrast help with storytelling?

@nancyduarte: Audiences are riveted by tension and release of story. Tension is created through contrast btwn “what is”+”what could be”

@PartnerVelocity Q3: Practice makes perfect! What are some common storytelling mistakes?

@nancyduarte: Don’t be afraid to STAND OUT and be different instead of camouflaging in your environment. Story will help.

@PartnerVelocity Q4: If u have data to convey in a presentation, how do u do that & still tell a story?

@nancyduarte: There IS narrative in data. What makes the #’s go up and down? How BIG are the #’s? How do the #’s contrast w/ other info?

Keep asking yourself “why” and a story will emerge

@PartnerVelocity Q5: How does storytelling change when it’s a global audience?

@nancyduarte: Story changes in west vs east. There’s a less finite ending in asian stories. They’re usually inconclusive with heavy context.

@PartnerVelocity Q6: Who’s the “hero” in a sales pitch meeting?

@nancyduarte: The hero in a sales pitch is the buyer. If they don’t buy, you fail. Their decision determines how your story ends.

@PartnerVelocity Q7: How do you identify a protagonist?

@nancyduarte: A protagonist is the central figure of a story. It’s easy to think the presenter is the protag, but the audience is.

@PartnerVelocity Q8: Any tips for creating repeatable sound bytes?

@nancyduarte: If you repeat a soundbite enough in your talk, it could become the headlines the next day

@PartnerVelocity Q9: What is a S.T.A.R. moment?

@nancyduarte: a S.T.A.R. Moment is “Something They’ll Always Remember”. Every presentation should have one.


Do you believe anyone can become a great storyteller? Or one must be born as one?

@nancyduarte: EVERYONE can be a grt storyteller, the craft that has to be honed. Tho it seems natural to some, they work hard to be great.

What timespan is appropriate to release your story – hours, days?

@nancyduarte: Story can be used as a thread/theme or as an anecdote during your presentation

What is the best way to bore an audience? Any personal stories?

@nancyduarte: Your audience can read your slides faster than you present them. They’ll be done and you’ll look dumb for being “slow”
Do you have any general presentation tips/golden rules?

@nancyduarte: Use story to cause PAIN (to move them away from “what is”) or PLEASURE (to draw them to “what could be”)

Duarte’s Golden Rule: Never deliver a presentation you wouldn’t want to sit through.

How do you work with executives who may not want to be “raw and honest”?

@nancyduarte: People think story is personal and not business, audiences are human and love to hear stories of how others transform.

Execs that don’t want to be raw+honest through story don’t have the same loyal following as those that do.

What’s the best way to present a list of action items?

@nancyduarte: There’s a finite list of actions an audience can take: Doer, supplier, influencer or innovator

What blogging tips do you have?

@nancyduarte: Blogs need to use contrast to create a rhythm and pacing too. Persuasion isn’t just for presentations.

I know Steve Jobs could do it. But any tips on how to leave your audience with an emotional tie to a product?

@nancyduarte: Steve Jobs marveled at his own products. He modeled for us what he wanted us to feel about his products.
Any tips for nervous presenters?

@nancyduarte: Think about your audience until it feels like they’re a friend. Nerves occur ‘cuz you think they’re a threat.

An audience will root for the presenter if you’ve established your likeability and humanness.

Any simple tips on how to make a presentation look “cool” if you aren’t savvy with PowerPoint?

@nancyduarte: Effective slides are simple, strip everything away until the only thing left is a mnemonic device for the audience.

Our company crams 10,000 things on a slide. How do I create compelling slides if I’m not a designer?

@nancyduarte: Companies that cram a ton on slides are using PPT to create docs and that’s fine. Call it a doc, distribute it as a doc.

It was amazing at how many times the audience laughed at Jobs’ iPhone launch. What are other ways to connect to an audience?

@nancyduarte: Connect to an audience by getting a physical reaction fromt he audience like laughing and clapping

How do I get in my audience’s shoes and know what they really want to hear?

@nancyduarte: Map your content to the audience. Global audiences need diff pacing, language and regionalized stories

Audiences are riveted by tension and release of story. Tension is created through contrast btwn “what is”+”what could be”

How far in advance do you typically prepare for a presentation?

Before every presentation I rehearse an hour at minimum, sometimes 2, one time 35 hours. I also breathe deeply.

Who or what inspires you when you have to think creatively? How do you “recharge”?

@nancyduarte: To be creative, I clean my office 😉 Then, I work analogue. Write long-hand, move sticky notes around and sketch

What if no one likes me? how do i make an audience really like me?

@nancyduarte: An audience will root for the presenter if you’ve established your likeability and humanness.

Your goal is to figure out what your audience cares about and link it to your idea.

Identifying shared experiences builds a path of trust so strong that they feel safe crossing to your side.

Your personal values aligned with theirs will ultimately drive their behavior.

Do you recommend asking the audience questions and getting them involved as a way to engage and connect?

@nancyduarte: Yes, ask the audience questions or host a Q&A, but don’t end on Q&A, end by describing the new bliss w/ your idea adopted

Every bit of content you share should propel the audience to your desired destination.

Can you talk more about the storytelling arc? how you go back & forth from what is to what could be?

@nancyduarte: To create a presentation with shapeliness, use the contrast between “what is” and “what could be” to create tension

“Stories are the currency of human relationships”–Robert McKee

For story, use the slides to create suspense, surprise and other emotions

What is your favorite speech or presentation you have seen?

@nancyduarte:  My favorite speech is MLK’s “I have a dream” congrats on the new memorial!

What’s the one thing you do before every presentation?

@nancyduarte: Before every presentation I rehearse an hour at minimum, sometimes 2, one time 35 hours. I also breathe deeply.

And, of course, no TweetChat would be complete without nuggets of wisdom. Here are a few nuggets Nancy shared with the Twitter audience.

  • The enemy of persuasion is obscurity.
  • Designing a presentation w/out an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it “to whom it may concern”
  • A common story mistake is to not be raw and honest about the middle of the story: where the roadblocks and resistance occur
  • 6 ways social media helps your presentation resonate:
  • Mentors are selfless and think of themselves in the context of others.

And, her final, parting tweet was this:
If you can communicate an idea well, you have within you the power to change

Thanks to all who joined the chat, whether you watched or tweeted in questions. Which tweets from Nancy will most help your presentations?


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  1. Nice job, Nancy. I like the STAR idea, and the practicing a presentation, and ppt docs are ok, as long as you call them that and distribute them that way. My blood pressure spikes when presenters read me their ppt slides. ugh.

    • Agreed. I encourage presenters to push the details & deeper info to a handout. This relieves the burden of "too much stuff" and clears the way for effective storytelling. Thx Duarte & co.- you, Jobs, and Garr Reynolds have been my teachers!