Ask the Expert: Nancy Duarte on Creating Persuasive Presentations

December 2, 2015

Nancy Duarte

As CEO of Duarte, Inc., Nancy Duarte has shaped how the world perceives brands such as Apple, Cisco, GE, and Google. She is also the author of three award-winning books. Her latest book, Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences spent more than 300 days on Amazon’s top 100 business book bestsellers list.

We were extremely fortunate to borrow a few minutes of Nancy’s time. In this interview, Nancy discusses the art of using presentations to create an emotional connection with your audience. Today, presentations, whether they’re created with PowerPoint, Prezi or other tools, are more important than ever and have more scale than ever when LinkedIn SlideShare can place your presentation in front of 70 million monthly visitors.

Q&A with Nancy Duarte, CEO of Duarte, Inc.

LinkedIn: You literally wrote the book on persuasive presentations. In your opinion, what are the biggest opportunities that await content marketers who aim to improve their presentation skills?

Nancy Duarte: I think there are huge opportunities to improve remote presentations and re-imagine company events. Many people try to re-purpose the same content for multiple platforms, but marketers need to adapt each piece of content for the audience and the platform of consumption.

Webinars are wildly popular, yet some marketers are taking the same text-heavy slides and tossing them into a screen share. Instead, content creators need to give smaller bites of information to lure and re-lure the audience back from their inbox.

There’s also a huge opportunity to re-imagine events. Everything from interactive booth presentations to crafting a journey through your event can be infused with story.

LinkedIn: In your eyes, how can content marketers be persuasive without making consumers feel like they are being sold?

Nancy Duarte: At the strategy level, marketers are the keepers of the brand and the stories of the organization. Leaders of the marketing organization should be infusing the organization’s stories into each piece of content.

My co-author actually advocates for the role of a corporate folklorist, a person that would speak with employees to gather the history of the company, collect artifacts from the company’s journey, and distill these stories and artifacts into a narrative.

Customers want to feel like a brand connects with them in some way. It’s not just about the functionality of a product or the efficiency of a service, it’s about an emotional connection. Building content that tells the brand story that connects with each target segment will enhance the connection to the final product.

In addition to connecting with the brand narrative, content marketers should use contrast to move between “what is” and “what could be”. Downloadable guidebooks, webinars, and events should point customers to a brighter future that includes your product or service by showing how the future is better, instead of simply “selling” a feature set.

LinkedIn: PowerPoint catches a bad rap sometimes. What tips can you share for making the most out of PowerPoint? Specifically, how can content marketers tell stories within the templates and confines of PowerPoint?

Nancy Duarte: People love to hate PowerPoint, but it’s a useful tool! My shop creates beautiful cinematic presentations in PowerPoint because we think of presentations the way filmmakers think about making a movie.

Unfortunately, most templates have a slide for a chart and a slide for bullet points, so presenters just fill in the template, instead of considering the structure that makes a great story.

Instead, I recommend using sticky notes to map out the message and talking points before opening PowerPoint. Once you have a strong underlying structure, you can think about creative ways to visualize the slides, while still adhering to the template or brand guidelines.

PowerPoint is also useful for creating visual documents, which we call slidedocs. It’s the perfect tool for pairing words and pictures, so marketers can use it to create hand-outs for events, downloadable PDFs, and follow-up material after a sales call.

To see more examples of exemplary work from Nancy and her team, visit Duarte.com. And be sure to pick up a copy of Resonate for more of Nancy’s expert visual storytelling advice.

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