Nancy Duarte has built a business on building presentations, in part based on her influential work with Al Gore on An Inconvenient Truth. She wrote a book about the art and science of creating great presentation slides: Slide:ology.
Since 1988, Duarte, Inc. has been focused on developing the presentations for leaders and brands. Their clients include almost half of the top 50 brands, notable experts, respected causes, and global consulting firms.
Nancy Duarte is a best-selling author with thirty years of CEO-ing under her belt. She’s driven her firm, Duarte, Inc., to be the global leader behind some of the most influential messages and visuals in business and culture. Duarte, Inc., is the largest design firm in Silicon Valley, as well as one of the top woman-owned businesses in the area. Nancy has written six best-selling books, four have won awards.
Structure Your Presentation Like a Story
After studying hundreds of speeches, I’ve found that the most effective presenters use the same techniques as great storytellers: By reminding people of the status quo and then revealing the path to a better way, they set up a conflict that needs to be resolved.
That tension helps them persuade the audience to adopt a new mindset or behave differently — to move from what is to what could be. And by following Aristotle’s three-part story structure (beginning, middle, end), they create a message that’s easy to digest, remember, and retell.
The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations
- Isolate the most crucial information on your slide and express it visually
- Clean up cluttered and confusing slides
Slide:ology will teach you how to think like a designer. Learn tricks that will let you isolate the most crucial information on your slide and express it visually.
Create Slides People Will Remember
- Use slides selectively
- Write the slides after you’ve prepared the speech
- Design slides people can “get” in 3 seconds
- Storyboard one concept per slide
- Remember that slides are a visual medium
Nancy Duarte explains how to create better visual presentations so you can communicate your ideas with efficiency, clarity and impact. She is CEO of Silicon Valley’s largest design firm Duarte, and the author of three books on the art and science of visual storytelling. Duarte appeared at the Stanford Graduate School of Business as a guest speaker for professor Jennifer Aaker’s class “The Power of Story in Business” on January 10, 2013.
5 Rules for Creating Great Presentations
- Treat your audience as king
- Spread ideas & move people
- Help them see what you’re saying
- Practice design, not decoration
- Cultivate healthy relationships with your slides—and your audience
To improve the visual design, pay particular attention to the last two points. Here, these two points are reframed as “Focus” and “Simplify”.
Nancy rightly points out that 90% of the creative process is actually destructive. You create a slide—and then slowly but surely see what you can peel away.
Do you have one main point? Consider using just a single word on a slide to convey your core message. Want your audience to remember several ideas? Don’t plop them all bullet-style on a single slide; reveal them one at a time, creating story, and share an example or anecdote to illustrate each one. Have an image or quote that accurately expresses your idea? Let it! Don’t be afraid to remove everything else from the slide, and let that one powerful image say it all.
Too many of us “hide” behind our slides. We overload them with text and complicated diagrams, hoping they’ll reduce the communication burden—when actually they increase it. Reduce the amount of text on your slides as much as possible. Put all of the details in your notes, and practice like crazy! Get in the habit of using slides only as ‘digital scenery’ and connecting eye to eye with your audience. Remember: the Audience is King.
The Glance Test
Since people can’t multitask, that means that audiences cannot simultaneously read your dense, bullet-riddled slides AND listen to you AND understand what you mean. Thus, your slide should function more like a billboard than any other media.
The audience should be able to quickly grasp the meaning of the slide before turning back to the presenter. And they should be able to do it in three seconds or less.
Designing Presentation Slides that Pass the Glance Test
- Each slide should communicate a single idea
- Speak to your audiences’ needs, concerns, and fears
- Design simple slides with a consistent visual style
- Arrange and layout your slides with care
These tips are gleaned from resources from the Duarte blog:
- 4 Tips and 1 Tool That Will Help You Perfect Your Slide Design
- 7 Ways to Make Your Best PowerPoint Presentations
Nancy’s TEDx Talk
Presentations that have a 3-act story structure, and they place the audience at the center as the hero, regularly change minds, spread ideas, and even start movements.
Always remember Hick’s Law to keep things simple. Don’t overwhelm people with too much information.
- TEDxEast - Nancy Duarte uncovers common structure of greatest communicators
- 7 Easy Ways to Create Your Best PowerPoint Presentations
- Nancy Duarte’s TED Talk: The Secret Structure of Great Talks
- How to Create Presentations that Don’t Suck
- Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte: Create Moving and Amazing Presentations