5 Rules for Creating Great Presentations from @NancyDuarte

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Marta Kagan
Marta Kagan



With over a quarter million presentations under her belt, including notable ones like Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth , Nancy Duarte reigns supreme as the world's most sought-after presentation expert. Recently, Nancy paid a visit to HubSpot in preparation for her appearance as keynote speaker at 2011 HUGS , and shared a bit of her wisdom on what sets apart great presentations from average ones.

nancy duarte

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Nancy Duarte's Five Rules for Creating Great Presentations

Face it. Most presentations are not great. Many of us have come to rely on tools like Powerpoint to facilitate meetings and convey ideas—yet more often than not, we fall short.  

How in the world is a slide like this going to inspire action?

bad slide

Great presentations can and do inspire change. They make meaning. They move people. 

Use these five simple but powerful rules to elevate your next presentation from mundane to magnificent.

RULE #1: Treat your audience as king. 

Like any good content, great presentations focus less on the author and more on the audience. Don't just throw together slides that force your point of view on the audience; design slides that meet THEIR needs. What does your audience want? What unites them? What incites them? What can you do for them? Why should they adopt your view? And finally, what steps do they need to take? Don't forget that the last slide is the one they'll most remember, so take extra care to be very clear on that final page.

RULE #2: Spread ideas & move people. 

Don't just share your ideas or your data; make meaning. Don't focus solely on changing minds; put some effort into changing hearts. Powerful imagery and though-provoking video are excellent tools for connecting your audience to your message emotionally—which after all is how humans ultimately make decisions, and what separates man from machine.

RULE #3: Help them see what you're saying. 

On average, half your audience will be verbal thinkers, and half will be visual. Cater to both by brainstorming graphics that will effectively communicate your words. Then apply a consistent look that helps attract, not distract your audience from your message.

RULE #4. Practice design, not decoration.

Nancy rightly points out that 90% of the creative process is actually de structive. You create a slide—and then slowly but surely see what you can peel away. 

Do you have one main point? Consider using just a single word on a slide to convey your core message. Want your audience to remember several ideas? Don't plop them all bullet-style on a single slide; reveal them one at a time, creating story, and share an example or anecdote to illustrate each one. Have an image or quote that accurately expresses your idea? Let it! Don't be afraid to remove everything else from the slide, and let that one powerful image say it all.

RULE #5. Cultivate healthy relationships with your slides—and your audience.

Too many of us "hide" behind our slides. We overload them with text and complicated diagrams, hoping they'll reduce the communication burden—when actually they increase it. Reduce the amount of text on your slides as much as possible. Put all of the details in your notes, and practice like crazy! Get in the habit of using slides only as 'digital scenery' and connecting eye to eye with your audience. Remember: the Audience is King.

You can hear Nancy share more wisdom in person at the 2011 HubSpot User Group Summit next month where she'll be the lunchtime keynote speaker. Better yet, consider attending BOTH the Inbound Marketing Summit —where you'll hear from folks like Guy Kawasaki, Dan Heath and Chris Brogan—and HubSpot User Group Summit, so you can meet Nancy in person AND up your overall inbound marketing game. The two events are back to back in Boston this fall.

In the meantime, take a moment to ponder Nancy's Golden Rule: Never deliver a presentation you wouldn't want to sit through yourself. 


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image credit: from Nancy Duarte's best-selling book,  Slide:ology The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations

Topics: Presentations

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