“Resonate”: The Presentation Form

I’m continuing my series on Nancy Duarte‘s book, Resonate (see Communicate for Change and What I Like About the Book).

As Duarte points out in her 18-minute TED Talk, she discovered a shape or form that exists in all great presentations. Duarte contends, “Most great presentations unknowingly follow this form” (36). It amazes me that great communicators seem to follow this form naturally or intuitively. I’m just hoping that it can be learned so that it becomes almost second nature!

Duarte notes that presentations have a beginning, middle, and end. They also include two turning points: the call to adventure (between beginning and middle) and the call to action (between middle and end).

The Beginning
In the beginning, “You should deliver a concise formulation of what everyone agrees is true.” This “will create a common bond between you and them and will open them up to your unique perspective more readily” (38).

In the beginning, you describe current reality, which sets the baseline of “what is.” The call to adventure introduces the big idea of “what could be,” which provides contrast with what is.

Contrast is a key component of the presentation form. Duarte writes …

Proposing what could be should throw the audience’s current reality out of balance. Without first setting up what is, the dramatic effect of your new idea will be lost. (38)

The Middle
According to Duarte, “The middle of a presentation is made up of various types of contrast” (40). She describes three types of contrast: content, emotion, and delivery. Duarte asserts that contrast is “at the heart of communication” (40).

The End
The last turning point is the call to action, which “clearly defines what you’re asking the audience to do” (42). After giving the call to action, the end should describe the new bliss. Duarte says “you create an ending that describes an inspirational, blissful world—a world that has adopted your idea” (44).

As I’ve said before, I think this fits well with Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones (see One-Point Preaching and 5 Years of One-Point Preaching).

Stanley and Jones provide something of a presentation form which they call a map — ME-WE-GOD-YOU-WE. The ME and WE sections are about finding common ground with the audience (the beginning). I usually include what Duarte calls the call to adventure here, or what Stanley and Jones call a “sticky statement.” On a similar note, Duarte states, “To create the call to adventure, put forth a memorable big idea that conveys what could be. … This turning point should be explicit, not muddled or vague” (39).

The GOD section is where you talk about the text (the middle). It deals with what is and introduces what could be from a biblical standpoint point.

The YOU section is where the topic is applied to the audience (the call to action). The final WE section is for casting vision (the new bliss). Stanley and Jones say, “you paint a verbal picture of what could be and should be” (129).

Duarte argues that presentations should end with the new bliss (what a world looks like that has adopted your idea), not the call to action (the application). I have a tendency to skip over the new bliss and go directly to my prayer where I pray about applying the call to action (although I probably touch on it in my prayer).

A future post in this series will look at how I’m keeping the presentation form in front of me when I prepare sermons, even though it’s still under development (it involves lots of sticky notes, thanks to Nancy Duarte). But first, my next post will discuss story and the hero’s journey.

In the meantime, does the presentation form make sense to you? How helpful is this to you?

Centre Grove Accepts the Matthew 28 Prescriptions

Just over a month ago, I wrote Transforming Congregations Through the Matthew 28 Initiative. The following weekend, a consultation team visited Centre Grove. At the end of the weekend, the team offered their report, which included a number of prescriptions. Earlier tonight, Centre Grove voted to accept the prescriptions (80% of the people who submitted ballots voted in favor of the report).

We spent the last month in an intentional time of discernment, including two listening sessions, led by our coach. We also conducted a 4-week small group study using Bill Hybels’ The Power of a Whisper DVD material. My sermon series the past was intended to help us discern God’s yearning for our church, as well.

Now that we’ve decided to move forward with the plan, we begin an intense year of working on the prescriptions that have been presented to us. We will work with a coach who will both guide us and hold us accountable (each prescription comes with a deadline). The process is intended to be a catalyst, so it will be intense.

But, before we start the next leg of the journey, we pause to celebrate and give thanks to God for guiding us this far. We give thanks also for God’s promised presence during the next leg of the journey. The God who has brought us this far will continue to work in and through us. It’s going to be a great adventure!

Sarah’s Second Gotcha Day

IMG_4060Two years ago today, Joleen and I were in Seoul, Korea, welcoming Sarah into our family (the day we “got” Sarah). Less than two days later, we brought Sarah home and introduced her to her new brother.

Yesterday, we celebrated Sarah’s gotcha day at Chuck E. Cheese in Altoona with Grammy and Pappy, eating pizza and playing games. It was a nice day out. Mostly, it was good to remember the gift that Sarah is to us, as well as remembering our first days together!

We may not continue posting every gotcha day in the future, but since we’ve posted Ethan’s first three, I thought we should at least post a second one for Sarah. Here’s a link to last year’s gotcha day post, which includes some earlier links as well.

In some ways, it’s hard to believe that it’s been two years. In other ways, though, it seems like both Sarah and Ethan have always been part of our lives!

“Resonate”: What I Like About the Book

Yesterday, I began a series of posts on Nancy Duarte‘s book, Resonate. The first post was simply about Duarte’s contention that the purpose of communication is ultimately change (which is one thing I love about the book). Before I continue engaging the material, here’s what else I like about the book.

The book is well-designed, visually (i.e., there are lots of pictures!). Of course, that’s what you’d expect from an expert presentation designer.

The book is well-written. It’s full of high-quality content. There’s no fluff, which leads to …

Each section is concise. Most sections take up 1-2 pages of written content. That makes it easy to read, review, and digest.

The book includes great examples (case studies), including Ronald Reagan, Steve Jobs, Benjamin Zander, among others. As a preacher, I especially appreciated the inclusion of John Ortberg, one of my favorite writers and preachers. And the discussion of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is amazing (the TED Talk discusses the examples of both King and Jobs).

Next, I’ll discuss “the presentation form,” which is what first fascinated me (including how communicators like MLK intuitively followed the form). Future posts will engage Story, the Big Idea, S.T.A.R. moments, and StoryMapping.

“Resonate”: Communicate for Change

Almost every book I read, I read only once (although I might review my highlights). One exception is Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley and Lanes Jones, which I’ve read three times in the last five years (see One-Point Preaching and 5 Years of One-Point Preaching).

Nancy Duarte’s Resonate, the latest book I’ve read, will be another exception. I came across Duarte’s work through her TED Talk on the book earlier this year (the 18-minute video is worth watching again and again; I’ve watched it three times, so far).

It’s going to take some work to process Duarte’s work as much as I need to. So, I’m going to write a series of several posts. I’ll sprinkle in some comparisons with Stanley and Jones’ work because I believe there are a lot of similarities. Stanley’s approach is much simpler and has been very important for me, but Duarte’s work has the potential to take communication to a whole new level.

One of the basic points Duarte makes is that the purpose of presentations is change (which certainly fits well with Stanley and Jones’ Communicating for a Change).

Communicating for change is not easy. Duarte writes …

Great presenters transform audiences. Truly great communicators make is look easy as they lure audiences to adopt their ideas and take action. This isn’t something that just happens automatically; it comes at the price of long and thoughtful hours spent constructing messages that resonate deeply and elicit empathy. (2)

Presentations are about change. … Organizations go through a life cycle of starting up, growing, maturing, and eventually declining—that is, unless they reinvent themselves. … If an organization doesn’t take a new path, it will eventually wither. (6)

This is certainly true for churches. That’s why the church I serve is going through the Matthew 28 Initiative, which is a strategy to help churches reinvent themselves and begin a new cycle of growth.

One of the reasons communicating for change is hard is because of the fear and sense of loss it highlights. Duarte suggests …

Keep in mind that a presentation is designed to transform the audience from one location to another. They will feel a sense of loss as they move away from their familiar world and closer to your perspective. You are persuading the audience to let go of old beliefs or habits and adopt new ones. (76)

People have an innate sense of fear when embarking on a journey with an unknown outcome. This element is what makes change so frightening.

Change involves the addition of the new and the abandonment of the old. …

Be cognizant of the sacrifice the audience will make when you ask them to do something, because you’re asking them to give up something a small—but still irretrievable—slice of their lives. (84)

Good advice. With change, including positive change, there is always loss.

Duarte’s closing chapter is called “Changing Your World.” Duarte reminds communicators of the importance of communicating their message …

Ideas are not really alive if they are confined to only one person’s mind. Your idea becomes alive when it is adopted by another person, then another, and another, until it reaches a tipping point and eventually obtains a groundswell of support. (194)

Well, there’s lots more to process. For now, it’s a good reminder that communicators, and preachers in particular, must be change agents, always communicating for change!

Put the Big Rocks in First!

At last week’s monthly mentoring group (which I mentioned here), I led the afternoon spiritual formation time. I used three props to focus on areas that I think are critical for leaders.

One of the areas I talked about was putting the “big rocks” in first. In preparation for last week, I remembered reading a blog post a few years ago (see Big Rocks First: Double Your Productivity This Week). The basic idea is that if you fill your bucket with small rocks (lower priority stuff), you won’t have room for the big rocks (higher priority stuff). Putting the big rocks in first makes you more productive because you’re completing the most important stuff (even if you don’t get to all the lesser important stuff, which you won’t).

I asked the leaders to list their “big rocks.” My big rocks are …

  1. Time with God
  2. Reading (or watching/listening to audio/video resources)
  3. Sermon Prep
  4. Exercise

These are all recurring big rocks. There are other big rocks that are on the list from time to time (i.e., projects, tasks, events, etc.) I’ve found that if I will put in these four big rocks first (and preferably early in the morning), I am much more productive!

It’s not easy. My temptation is thinking that if I could knock out a bunch of the small rocks, then I’d be able to focus on the big rocks. But there seems to be a never ending supply of small rocks, and eventually, I run out of room for the big rocks!

What are your big rocks?

The Price of Vision

In preparing for last week’s spiritual formation time at my monthly Matthew 28 pastors group meeting, which I wrote about recently, I came across (and used) a couple great quotes from Andy Stanley’s Visioneering: God’s Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Vision.

Stanley talks about what it takes to pursue a vision.

Any vision worth pursuing will demand sacrifice and risk. You will be called upon to give up the actual good for the potentially best. You will find it necessary to leave what is comfortable and familiar in order to embrace that which is uncomfortable and unfamiliar. And all the while, you will be haunted by the fear that this thing you are investing so much of yourself in may not work out at all. (125)

This first quote speaks of the risk inherent in pursuing a vision. The next quote reminds us of the commitment that’s required.

Vision requires courage and confidence. It requires launching out as if you were absolutely assured of the outcome. Vision requires the commitment of a parachutist. You don’t ‘sort of’ parachute. You are either in the plane or in the air. You either do it or you don’t. The tendency is to approach a vision the same way a first-time ice skater takes to the ice: cautiously, and never more than an arm’s length from the railing. (126)

Courage is knowing the risks and doing it anyway because the vision is worth it!

Leadership Wisdom in a Fortune Cookie

Last Thursday, I met with a group of pastors who are in the Matthew 28 Initiative. We’ve been meeting monthly since January. Each month, a District Superintendent leads a discussion on an assigned book. After lunch, one of the pastors from the group leads a time of spiritual formation. It was my turn this month and my spiritual formation time had a leadership focus.

This month, we ate lunch together at a local Chinese restaurant. At the end of lunch, the people at my table shared their fortune cookie messages. I said I’d save mine for the spiritual formation time. Ironically, the message in my cookie had a nice (and timely) leadership spin …

If you’re riding ahead of the herd, look back once in a while to make sure it’s still there.

I love this statement. There is no leadership without followers. If no one’s behind you, you’re not leading!

Sesame Street

A couple of weeks ago, we took the kids to see the Sesame Street show at the War Memorial Arena in Johnstown, PA. We attended the morning show (there were two shows later in the day), which was lightly attended (same as the Thomas & Friends and Barney shows we had attended before).

It was a nice day out. Here are a few photos from the event …

“Spiritual Leadership”

Earlier this year, I listed 15 Books That Have Shaped Me as a Leader. One of those books was the classic by J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership (I also talk about spiritual leadership in my last post, What Kind of Leader Are You?)

The main reason the book (which I read during my time as Asbury) made the list is because of a particular impact it had on me. I remember walking around the lower level of Crever Memorial UMC in Petersburg, where I was serving at the time, and reading the chapter on prayer.

It may be a little overdramatic, but it reminded me of God asking Solomon about the one thing he wanted (Solomon chose wisdom). It felt as if I had to choose between mastering the art of leading, preaching, or prayer. I chose prayer.

As important as leadership and preaching are to me (they’re at the core of what I do), nothing is more important than prayer. (Of course, full disclosure here: I believe that prayer will make my leadership and preaching better, so choosing prayer was a no-brainer! :-)).

Anyway, here are a few quotes from the book that I highlighted a few years ago when I read the book …

Real leaders are in short supply. (17)

The Bible shows us that when God does find a person who is ready to lead, to commit to full discipleship and take on responsibility for others, that person is used to the limit. (17)

Spiritual leaders are not elected, appointed, or created by synods or church assemblies. God alone makes them. (18)

In chapter 8, Sanders lists a number of essentials of leadership: discipline, vision, wisdom, decision, courage, humility, and integrity and sincerity. Sander’s lists grows in Chapter 9 where he adds several other qualities: sense of humor, (holy) anger, patience, friendship, tact and diplomacy, inspirational power, executive ability, the therapy of listening, and the art of letter writing (written before the advent of email).

On time, Sanders writes …

A leader needs a balanced approach lest it become his bondage and downfall … If the leader sincerely plans his day in prayer, then executes the plan with all energy and eagerness, that is enough. A leader is responsible only for what lies within the range of control. The rest he should trust to our loving and competent heavenly Father. (98)

Easier said than done.

On the cost of leadership, Sanders’ contends …

The toll of true leadership is heavy, and the more effective the leadership, the higher it goes. (115)

No cross, no leadership. (116)

Scars are the authenticating marks of faithful discipleship and true spiritual leadership. (116)

Sanders discusses many other topics, but I’ll close with some of his words about prayer. Sanders reminds us …

Prayer was the dominant feature of (Jesus’) life and a recurring part of his teaching. (86)

[W]e are to pray in the power and energy of the Spirit … praying in the Holy Spirit releases supernatural resources. (88)

The goal of prayer is the ear of God. Prayer moves others through God’s influence on them. (91)

Prevailing prayer that moves people is the outcome of a correct relationship with God. (91)

Great leaders of the Bible were great at prayer. (92)

This book, written in the mid-1960s, offers some timeless words on leadership!