Friday, November 12, 2010

Book Review: Using Resonate by Nancy Duarte to improve everyday presentations

When I agreed to review Nancy Duarte’s latest book, Resonate, I did so with the desire to find nuggets that everyday presenters could use. Those who have to present regularly in small group settings such as sales presentations, team meetings, project updates, and budget reviews, don’t have the time or desire to use some of the techniques that main stage conference presenters have the luxury to use. So this review is written from that perspective, and I have structured it around the nine rules Nancy uses in organizing her book.

First, let me start by saying I think that almost every presenter can benefit from reading this book. Nancy and I agree that if a presentation does not have a good structure, the fanciest visuals in the world won’t matter. That’s why structure is the first thing I address in my workshops and it is why Nancy refers to this book as a "prequel" to her first book on creating visuals. Even if you have heard this before, you will see some new ways of thinking about the planning of your message by reading this book.

So let’s look at what an average corporate presenter can learn from the nine rules that Nancy shares in Resonate.

Rule #1: Resonance causes change
In this first rule, Nancy asks us to shift our perspective from self-centered as presenters to being focused on serving the audience and helping them along their journey. A good starting reminder for all presenters.

Rule #2: Incorporating story into presentations has an exponential effect on outcomes
This chapter is the core of the book and the one I found most insightful. On page 26 Nancy has a masterful illustration of the differences between reports, presentations and stories. Pay attention to the differences and see how each is unique. Then, on page 36 she introduces what I consider to be the most important concept of the book, The Presentation Form. It is not a form in terms of fields to fill in, it is a shape that shows how presentations move between "what is" and "what could be" in powerful ways. When I saw Nancy describe this in a live presentation recently, a light bulb went off that explained some of why my presentations have improved since making a few key changes. The form applies to all presentations even though the examples she gives are main stage keynote style presentations – not the ones most of us will deliver. For an everyday presentation, craft your message so you move between describing the current state and the state you want the audience to move to, flowing between the two as you move through your message. Reread this chapter a few times.

Rule #3: If a presenter knows the audience’s resonant frequency and tunes to that, the audience will move
This chapter is about knowing your audience, something that both Nancy and I feel is not done well by too many presenters. The diagram on page 71 is very insightful and illustrates well the desire to move the audience to share more of what we know and understand. Spend some time with this diagram and how it can help you see your role as presenter in a slightly new way.

Rule #4: Every audience will persist in a state of rest unless compelled to change
Once you have discovered characteristics of your audience, this chapter examines how important it is to craft a message that moves them from where they are to where you want them to be. Nancy gives some good ideas about what you need to consider when creating this path.

Rule #5: Use the big idea to filter out all frequencies other than the resonant frequency
I like Nancy’s idea of a filter and I have been talking about using a filter for a while now because it is a perfect analogy. You will want to put a lot in to your presentation, but you need to use a filter to strain out anything that will not be purely focused on the key message you want to communicate. I think the story section on page 108-111 is a particularly good guide for presenters in crafting focused stories that do not ramble on without making a clear point.

Rule #6: Structure is greater than the sum of its parts
Once you have all the ideas, you need to arrange them in a coherent structure or else the message is confusing. Nancy gives some good advice on different ways to organize your information on pages 128-129. Keep these pages close when deciding on the structure of your presentation. Use the great process recap on pages 142-143 as a quick reference guide when collecting and organizing all the ideas you have that may be part of your presentation.

Rule #7: Memorable moments are repeated and retransmitted so they cover long distances
In main stage keynote style presentations, Nancy shows how you want the audience to take away something that they will never forget. This is the toughest idea in the book for everyday presenters to apply in their hurried work life. Most presenters don’t have time to carefully create these “over the moon” ideas. For most presentations that happen every day, I think this is really an extension of defining the goal of the presentation. You’ve thought about what you want the audience to do, know, understand, feel, etc, at the end of the presentation. Make sure you clearly state that during the presentation.

Rule #8: Audience interest is directly proportionate to the presenter’s preparation
This chapter is all about delivery and preparing for your time at the front of the room. Entire books are dedicated to delivery, and Nancy hits some key points in this chapter. The advice to screen your presentation before others is great advice for high-stakes presentations, but probably not practical for most regular everyday presentations. You should rehearse before you deliver, but if that can only be done at home in front of an empty room or cooperative family, that’s fine in my opinion.

Rule #9: Your imagination can create a reality (James Cameron)
Nancy leaves us on an inspirational high by showing how presentations have literally changed the course of history through a number of case studies. It highlights the importance of crafting an effective presentation. If you want to be a successful communicator, you need to make every presentation count.

Is this book valuable if you are an everyday presenter? Absolutely. Look past some of the examples that may not be from the world you live in, and focus on the key ideas that are applicable to all presentations.

If you want to watch a webinar that Nancy did introducing some of the key concepts in the book, she’s put the video online at

To purchase your own copy of Resonate by Nancy Duarte, you can buy from Amazon in the US by clicking here and Amazon in Canada by clicking here.


Blogger Nancy Duarte said...

Thanks Dave. Nice review. I really appreciate it.

7:36 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home