“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?

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