Nancy Duarte is one of the foremost business communication experts in the world today. Before I read (and review) her latest book, Illuminate, I wanted to cross this one off my list!
As far as persuasive presentations are concerned, I can tell you now that it’s mainly in Section 3 of the book. Duarte explains the ‘persuasive story pattern’ that is present in many of the best stories, speeches and presentations.
Duarte says, “All good presentations – like all good stories – convey and resolve some kind of conflict or imbalance. […] The most persuasive communicators create conflict by juxtaposing ‘what is’ with ‘what could be’.”
She discussed this pattern in her 2011 TEDx Talk.
While this persuasive story pattern is gold, there’s little else in the book to help you be a more persuasive communicator per se. Rather, the book is chock full of tips and advice to help you be a more professional presenter.
To me, the main thing that comes through is an emphasis on preparation. You’ll find checklist after checklist of things to consider, plan and do ahead of your presentation to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
The book will get you thinking about how you can be better prepared for:
- Your audience – profile and segment your audience; decide which audience members to prioritise and define the change you want to effect in their beliefs and/or behaviour; connect and build rapport ahead of your presentation
- Your delivery – give yourself ample time to rehearse and master your timing; practice with a timer (counting up first, then down) and time-stamp the end of each quarter of your presentation so you know exactly where you should be; seek quality feedback for your rehearsals; film your rehearsals so you can evaluate yourself and make adjustments
- The set-up – know the venue, the room layout and seating plan; be mindful of where you fit into the agenda; get to know the tech team and anticipate any glitches
- Q & A – plan when to take questions (not right at the end); anticipate the questions you’ll get; know how to handle tough questions and maintain control of the session
There’s also a useful section on slides. Here’s my favourite tip:
“Each slide should pass what I call the glance test: People should be able to comprehend it in three seconds. Think of your slides as billboards. When people drive, they only briefly take their eyes off their main focus – the road – to process billboard information. Similarly, your audience should focus intently on what you’re saying, looking only briefly at your slides when you display them.”
This book is as good a guide to presentations as any. If it’s the only book you read, you won’t be disappointed. If, like me, you read a lot in this area, the main insight is the persuasive story pattern. Start by watching Duarte’s Tedx Talk and if you want to go into more depth, pick up a copy of the book.