Nancy Duarte Webinair

September 23, 2010

Yesterday evening I logged on to the second of the “Outstanding Presentation Workshops” series of webinars organised by Ellen Finkelstein. They  are led by some well-known personalities from the world of presentation coaching and you can register for them free of charge. Its a great initiative and thanks to Ellen for organising them.

The speaker last night was Nancy Duarte of  Duarte Design, the author of Slide:ology and a forthcoming book Resonance. Her talk was entitled “Think like a Designer: design principles that will make you a rock star“.

I’ve participated in a webinar led by Nancy before (see my post Duarte’s Six Tips for Remote Presenting). She’s a good (although perhaps not great) speaker and puts her principles into practice, producing some very good slides that enhance what she has to say. So one of the benefits of logging into her talks is to see really well designed slides and how they can be used effectively.

Nancy based her talk around the themes that she sets out in Slide:ology, so there weren’t any major new revelations for me, but it did reinforce some key points. I’d have liked to have heard more about the ideas in her new book, which is due out next week, so I was a little disappointed. She’s giving a free webinar next week when the book is launched, but all the places are taken, so I’ll have to miss out on that, although she did say that she would post a broadcast of the event on the web.

The key points I picked up  from yesterday’s presentation were :

Importance of design

  • Design driven companies perform better than average (evidence from British companies performance on FTSE)


  • Powerpoint is the second most used program by businesses after e-mail (I’d have thought Word would have been used more, but I’m sure she’s got some figures to back this up)
  • Powerpoint isn’t “evil”, but it is usually badly used
  • The Powerpoint default setting is the source of a lot of the problems (i.e. leading to slides comprising lists of bullet points in a hierarchical structure) – turn it off!

Presentation design

  • Make the presentation memorable
  • Identify one piece of information that will stick with the audience

Slide design

  • Minimise “noise” on slides – keep them simple and to the point and strip out all unnecessary detail
  • Use white space as a design element
  • Text on slides needs to be readable by everyone in the audience
  • Convey one idea per slide

Using pictures

  • Represent ideas with pictures – slides should be visual
  • Don’t be obvious when selecting pictures – throw out your first idea – brainstorm to come up with new ideas


  • Slides are a backdrop to enhance the presentation – not the “main event”!
  • Create more visibility and minimise noise

A couple of tools she mentioned during the talk were the Presentation landscape and the Glance test checklist. These are worth downloading from the Duarte website where you can also find some short presentations which get across Nancy’s message about presentation and slide design and also provide some examples of really well designed presentations.

I’ll be interested to see what ideas Nancy has included in her new book.

Next week the” Outstanding Presentation Workshops” webinar will be given by Olivia Mitchell who has one of the best blogs on presentation skills “Speaking about Presentation”. As a regular reader of her blog, I’m looking forward to hearing what she has to say.


I came across this entertaining talk given by John Cleese to a conference in Belgium on “Creativity” via Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen Blog.

I guess many people associate “creativity” as something that artistic types have (or need). But it’s not restricted to the arts. We all need to be creative from time to time, whether it’s producing a painting, writing a poem, working out a scientific theory, designing a bridge or something more mundane such as pulling together a presentation or writing a report.

In his talk, John Cleese stresses a number of key points:

  • “sleeping on a problem” can help to solve it
  • leaving something for a while after it’s finished and going back to review or revise it can often allow you to improve the original – this ties in with my own experience. When working on a report I try to leave it for a day or two, and then reread before I issue it. I usually find there are things that I can improve.
  • the key to creativity is to avoid interruptions –
  • “we don’t get our ideas from our laptop” – ideas come from the unconscious – to be creative we need to “get off the grid”

His main conclusion is that in order to be creative you need to create a “tortoise enclosure,” with “boundaries of space and time” to provide an atmosphere that is safe and free from the threat of interruption. Again I can relate to this. When working on a problem, trying to think how to approach a report or some course notes, or problems associated with running a business, it can be difficult to think straight when working in the office. I find that things often become clearer if I get outdoors and go for a walk out on the moors or in the woods away from everything. I guess that’s my way of creating a “tortoise enclosure”.  There’s probably also an additional benefit. According to John Medina, the author of “Brain Rules”,  exercise boosts brain power. So although disappearing for a few hours out into the countryside may seem like “skiving off”. In fact it can be quite the opposite – a way of enhancing creativity and productivity. Workaholics who anchor themselves to the desk are probably fooling themselves that they’re achieving more.