Is there a science to giving presentations? Are there repeatable patterns for delivering inspiring, engaging conference talks? Or are some people just born with the gifts of supreme charisma and effortless knowledge transfer that enable them to wow audiences?
Resonate, authored by Nancy Duarte, is a book that gives hope to all wannabe presenters; continually telling us that there is a science and there are repeatable patterns that allow anyone to deliver captivating presentations that bring audiences to vigorous applause
According to Duarte, the science of great presentations is, ironically, emotional storytelling. And after two weeks of reading with fascination through her book Resonate, I find it hard to disagree with her. Although I'll try...
Storytelling is sciene
Throughout Resonate, and from the very beginning, Sparkline diagrams are used to show the ups and downs in various speeches - from Steve Jobs game-changing iPhone launch to Marting Luther King's most famoust of speeches. Using Sparklines, Duarte shows similar underlying patterns in each of them. It's extremely difficult to not agree with her when the information is visually laid out in this pattern.
Duarte examines these talks in serious depth, explaining the patterns she thinks make them astonishingly-successful. For example, she continually bangs on about the need to create contrast between what is now and where you want to the audience to get to. She talks about STAR moments that you need to plant in the minds of your audience. And she talks about making your audience the hero, and not you.
I was utterly compelled when she took apart the storyline of Star Wars. She explained the different phases of the story, the large contrasts, and the emotions that viewers were being made to feel. Admittedly, there is an abundance of creativity, but there is also an incredible amount of structure and science.
I literally cannot wait to start work on my next presentation. I want to try out all of these interesting techniques to make my talk more compelling and enjoyable for my audience. But maybe I'm just gullible...
What about charisma & personality?
Was it really the storyline structure of their talks that made Job's and Luther King's speeches so memorable and captivating? Or were these two immensely-motivating orators simply gifted with a supreme natural charisma that mesmerised their audiences?
I don't recall a single sentence in Resonate that acknowledge the importance of personality and style. And I find that too hard to just accept. I struggle to accept the idea that anyone can become a world class comedian, and therefore find it difficult to acknowledge that anyone can deliver top-draw, super-compelling presentations.
Ultimately, whether nature or nurture wins this battle it doesn't really matter, because if you read this book you will create better presentations, even if you aren't performing live on TV every week.