Review of “Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences” by Nancy Duarte

“Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences” by Nancy Duarte 

One of the best things about being a librarian is that I possess the skills to do research and find the best sources to meet any information need. I’ve also become more adept at recognizing my personal information needs, and I have a sort of mental catalog of skills I want to develop and topics of interest that I curate materials for. I use RSS feeds combined with Chrome bookmarking and a personal learning site to keep track of useful resources as I find them. One resource that came up several times was the book “Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences” by Nancy Duarte. I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’d like to foster my professional development by presenting at conferences, and after reading several reviews I knew that Resonate would be a great resource to improve my skill set.

I present quite often in the classroom setting, and I found Resonate to be useful for my work there as well as my original focus of professional presentations. Resonate is clearly written in the context of presenting in a more formal business-like environment, but the majority of the material was relevant to what I do as a librarian. The book itself is physically stunning. The imagery is high quality, well-used, and informative (clearly a theme of the book!). It was a fun book to read, and Duarte uses practical examples throughout the text (many of which can be viewed online). Her examples transcend the business medium and include examples from entertainment and politics as well as the traditional Steve Jobs type examples. Duarte did an excellent job of presenting an idea, teaching it, and then analyzing it in the context of a famous/viewable example presentation.

This format made the concepts easy to grasp, and the concepts built upon each other in a way that felt like a natural progression. As in my review of “What the Best College Teachers Do”, I don’t want to include too much of the meat of the information because I feel that the experience of reading through the entire book is valuable to anyone who presents information to an audience. The most basic representation of her overall concept  for the structure of a presentation is: Beginning (picture of world as is) – – > Call to Adventure (what could be ) – – > Call to Action (how to make the change) – – > End (description of potential new bliss).

The gist of Duarte’s information is that a good presentation follows a story-like format, creates contrast, and resonates emotionally with the audience. She uses these ideas throughout the book and discusses them from different perspectives. Duarte includes some concrete rules (such as never spend more than 2 minutes on a slide) that are easy to implement alongside the more theoretical/conceptual information. She emphasizes the importance of devoting significant amounts of time to developing, practicing, and refining your presentations in order to get the best possible result (ex. “The journey should be mapped out, and all related messages should propel the audience closer to the destination” (76).)

I finished this book a few weeks ago, and was reading it while I developed my “Flexing Your Library Muscles” presentation. I know that my presentation was stronger because of Duarte’s information, and I wish I’d been able to finish the book before I created it in the first place! It’s funny how life sometimes makes connections for you, I just finished watching “An Inconvenient Truth” this morning before work and Al Gore’s presentation style is a wonderful example of Duarte’s main principles. He starts with laying a foundation of what’s going on, lets us know after every scary fact that the problems can be ameliorated, and gives us the message that we can make a difference in a way that’s emotional, funny, and non-threatening to our egos. The documentary was phenomenal and it was the best example I’ve seen of Duarte’s principles since I finished the book. Resonate is very inspiring and motivating, the message is clear that if you work hard at it, you can be a great communicator. I’m looking forward to putting these skills into practice in my new job!


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