Book review – HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations by Nancy Duarte

Posted on: December 3, 2012

As I am doing a fair amount of training and coaching on presentation pitches at the moment (particularly for actuaries, construction consultants and lawyers), I thought I’d take a look at the various books on presentation skills to recommend to people who ask for additional information.

When I started reading this book, I thought that it was probably a little too basic. But that’s because it is written in a beautifully clear and simple style and information is presented in bite-sized pieces. The index (see below) acts as a great checklist for things to consider when preparing a presentation – whether for an internal or external audience. There’s a fair amount of general information about presentations that’s valuable for pitches too – although that isn’t its main focus.

Experienced presenters will find it a quick to read aide-memoire of good practice and I am sure, like me, that they pick up one or two gems:

  • “Rule of thumb – If your appendix is 50 slides, devote about 5 slides to your summary at the beginning”
  • “That’s because many presentations don’t feel conversational”
  • “Ask yourself – what new beliefs do I want them to adopt? How do I want them to behave differently?”
  • “Software forces linear thinking”
  • “Are you asking them to be doers, suppliers, influencers or innovators?”
  • “Juxtaposing what is with what could be”
  • “which Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen, aptly calls slideuments”
  • “the magic of TED is the 18 minute limit”
  • “Plan content for 60% of your time slot”
  • “Some experts recommend 1 to 2 slides per minute, or 30 to 60 slides for an hour long talk….In a 40 minute talk, I typically use 145 slides if you include builds)..the most popular presentations on social media sites have more than 75 slide that you can read in a couple of minutes”
  • “One reaction every 30 seconds”

I was impressed that it is bang up to date with using the latest technology (including advice for keeping remote audiences engaged) and communicating with the audience using social media before and after the event.

Even though the quote by Steve Jobs “People who know what they’re talking about don’t need Powerpoint” is included – there’s some good information on how to use it to best effect as well as solid guidance on using charts. And delighted that there was a mention of one of my favourite books “The back of the napkin” by Dan Roam.

Contents of Persuasive Presentations

Section 1 – Audience (Know your audience and build empathy)

  • Understand the audience’s power
  • Segment the audience
  • Present clearly and concisely to senior executives
  • Get to know your audience
  • Define how you’ll challenge the audience
  • Find common ground

Section 2 – Message (Develop persuasive content)

  • Define your big idea
  • Generate content to support the big idea
  • Anticipate resistance
  • Amplify your message through contrast
  • Build an effective call to action
  • Choose your best ideas
  • Organise your thoughts
  • Balance analytical and emotional appeal
  • Lose the jargon
  • Craft sound bites

Section 3 – Story (Use storytelling principles and structure to engage your audience)

  • Apply storytelling principles
  • Create a solid structure
  • Craft the beginning
  • Develop the middle
  • Make the ending powerful
  • Add emotional texture
  • Use metaphors as your glue
  • Create something they’ll always remember

Section 4 – Media (Identify the best modes for communicating your message)

  • Choose the right vehicle for your message
  • Make the most of slide software
  • Determine the right length for your presentation
  • Presentation
  • Persuade beyond the stage
  • Share the stage

Section 5 – Slides (Conceptualise and simplify the display of information)

  • Think like a designer
  • Create slides people can get in three seconds
  • Choose the right type of slide
  • Storyboard one idea per slide
  • Avoid visual clichés
  • Arrange slide elements with care
  • Clarify the data
  • Turn words into diagrams
  • Use the right number of slides
  • Know when to animate

Section 6 – Delivery (Deliver your presentation authentically)

  • Rehearse your material well
  • Know the venue and schedule
  • Anticipate technology glitches
  • Manage your stage fright
  • Set the right tone for your talk
  • Be yourself
  • Communicate with your body
  • Communicate with your voice
  • Make your stories come to life
  • Work effectively with your interpreter
  • Get the most out of your Q&A
  • Build trust with a remote audience
  • Keep remote listeners interested
  • Keep your remote presentation running smoothly

Section 7 – Impact (Measure – and increase – your presentation’s impact on your audience)

  • Build relationships through social media
  • Spread your ideas with social media
  • Gauge whether you’ve connected with people
  • Follow up after your talk

 

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