Nancy Duarte Talk Shines ...


It was standing room only at the Agency’s “Playing Field” yesterday to hear Nancy Duarte share her wisdom on how to create a presentation that grabs the audience by the scruff of the neck.

Most communicators know Nancy from her breakthrough book, slide:ology.

She recently published book No. 2, resonate, which dives into the type of content that truly engages an audience.

Through exhaustive research – speeches, screenplays, Greek tragedies, etc. – Nancy discovered all of these powerful stories follow the same framework, moving back and forth between “what is” and “what could be.”

nancy duarte what is what will be

It’s the gap between the two scenarios that creates interest and even drama.

The thinking is similar to our storytelling techniques in which we contrast “what was” with “what is.”

The part of Nancy’s talk that I thought was particularly insightful involved analyzing the 2007 Steve Jobs presentation that launched the iPhone and Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous I Have a Dream speech.

You know how ESPN basketball announcer Hubie Brown will break down a sequence from a Lakers and Celtics game during a stoppage in play? That’s essentially what Nancy did with these two communications.

Very cool.

The same way our clients must translate complexity into an understandable narrative, Martin Luther King Jr. had to address incredibly complex societal issues.

nancy duarte martin luther king

As Nancy explained, King partly accomplished this through metaphors:

America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

with the payoff later into the speech:

So we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

There’s a reason 47+ years later the King speech resurfaces in discussions.

One final point from the talk –

Be brave, allowing your passion to flow to the audience.

By the way, Nancy’s presentation did grab the audience by the scruff of the neck.

P.S. Yesterday also caused me to reflect on our own visual storytelling. As you know, we’ve embraced SlideShare, with our Aligning PR with Storytelling for the Happilly Ever After deck securing over 7,000 views (between the first upload and the contest version).

What you probably don’t know is Stephanie Phua, who interned in our Singapore office, designed these decks. It turns out that Second Chartered Bank is conducting a contest to find the “World’s Coolest Intern” and Ms. Phua has made the final 10. If the bank defines “coolest” as having a passion for social media, being relentlessly curious and open to feedback, then Stephanie deserves ice-cube status.


  • James

    Can’t believe there aren’t any comments on this post…. Great article exactly what I was looking for…thanks james @ a blog about a story which happens to be my life after grad school

  • Lou Hoffman

    Thanks James.

    Point your friends this way for comments.

  • Sara Nixon

    Great post, Lou. Thanks for sharing the key takeaways. Sounds like Nancy’s session really hit home for those constantly striving to grab their audience’s attention and keep it.

    What stood out for me is your line about passion and letting it flow to the audience. I think Nancy might’ve been touching on a more challenging aaspect of our job as professional storytellers: getting passionate about every story we tell. Easier said than done!

    Well, I’m off to YouTube to revisit King’s speech…

  • Lou Hoffman

    Thanks for weighing in Sara.

    One thing that Nancy did in breaking down the “I Have a Dream” speech is graphically show how the words moved from “what is” to “what could be.” Then, she actually categorized the speech content by:

    * Repetition

    * Metaphors

    * Familiar songs or scripture or literature

    * Political references

    Very cool to see it layed out this way and understand the genius of the speech.

    And I agree, one can’t make every race a sprint.

  • James

    Every PR student should have to read the Odyssey…it is the perfect story and the beginning maps perfectly onto nancy’s idea of the what is and what could be… Ulysses sits on the beach trapped by circumstance thinking about his wife and home and then tries to reach that ideal reality through challenges…..damn this blog is good….thanks for the high quality content and the name of the blog would make Melville very proud
    James @

  • Nancy Duarte


    You know how to put together an amazing audience. It was a treat to be there. Thanks for the invite and GREAT blog post!


  • Lou Hoffman

    Thanks Nancy.

    Continue to receive gushing emails, always a good sign.

  • Visual Thinking with #story10 tribe @nancyduarte “That Resonates with Me”

    […] Nancy Duarte Talk Shines Spotlight On Storytelling ( Filed Under: digital storytelling, visual notetaking, visual thinking Tagged With: Duarte Design, jocelynwallace, Nancy Duarte, nancyduarte, reinvention, storytelling, visual, visual thinking About jocelyn wallaceJocelyn Wallace is a professional speaker, coach and graphic designer. She specializes in visual thinking, graphic facilitation, and business model mapping. Jocelyn helps educators, business leaders and technology professionals take the complex to the simple with an emphasis on visuals. […]


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