Review: “HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations” by Nancy Duarte

nancy

Precision coaching for all presenters

By Peter Watts

Nancy Duarte’s Guide to Persuasive Presentations is a concise primer to the skills of presenting, from planning your pitch through to polished delivery.

Of particular value are the sections on how to put together high quality visuals. Some of the book’s best sound-bites are found when Duarte discusses how to create slides that work for an audience, and since reading that section I’ve found myself looking out far more in my own work for the “visual cliches” that Duarte warns about.

This focus on visual layout gives the book a cross-over to the world of blogging because if you are a presenter who also blogs, you’ll find ideas about the use of layouts, diagrams, and imagery. All valuable for an appealing web-page.

This brings us neatly to the topic of social media, and another strength of the HBR Guide. The book brings presenting right into the present day with topics about how you can blend social media resources such as Twitter into presentations, and how to make the maximum use of web-based backchannel communications.

Nancy Duarte is incredibly generous with how she shares the stage. Every chapter contains references to subject matter experts from multiple fields, and advises different books you might like to try out. Backchannel communications for example, is a relatively new topic for me, and right there on the same page that Duarte introduces the topic, she accompanies it with a recommended author from whom you can find out more.

Now for the confession: This wasn’t the Nancy Duarte book that I initially wanted to review. My target was her recent and much-discussed book “Resonate”, but sitting at London’s Heathrow Airport and trying to buy a copy for my Nook e-reader, I discovered that Duarte’s electronic coverage is surprisingly patchy.

The HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations is the only Duarte title Barnes & Noble have in e-book format, while Amazon do slightly better; they have the HBR guide and “Slideology” available for Kindle. No trace of Resonate at this stage however.

Still, having chosen to go with the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations as my first trip into the writing of Nancy Duarte, I’m pleased that I did. The guide gets full marks as an all round primer, with specific focus on presentation visuals. It also deserves a place on a virtual bookshelf due to it’s generosity as a resource guide to additional subject matter experts. Finally, it gets fullest marks for it’s brevity. Brilliantly concise.

Now on the look-out for “Resonate” as an e-book!

UPDATE: March 26th

Resonate on the iPad

It turns out that Resonate is available on the iPad. Thank you Nancy for dropping by the blog to share. First look is deeply impressive, and a full review will be coming shortly.

Presentation books: The Pin Drop Principle

The Pin Drop Principle

David Lewis and G. Riley Mills

Published June 5th, 2012

by Peter Watts

“Acting is all about honesty. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

It’s my favorite quotes from George Burns, and for “The Pin Drop Principle” it sums up both the book’s number one strength, and its number one weakness:

Strength:

The book is written from a strong acting and stage perspective, by two gentleman who clearly know their art, and how to apply it to business presentations.

The acting insights throughout the book serve a purpose, are relevant, and offer pointers and ideas.

Weakness:

In places the book does indeed seem to tell you how to fake not just honesty, but any number of different emotions. If you place emotional integrity near the heart of your delivery, then there are bits you’ll find yourself disagreeing with.

It’s also worth noting that this is a book based around a successful commercial training concept. The introduction is so laden with marketing plugs for that concept that I almost didn’t get past page ten.

I’m glad I did though, because the authors, David Lewis and G. Riley Mills, have good ideas to put across.

One of the founding concepts of The Pin Drop Principle is being aware not just of your objective in a presentation, but also your intention; the emotional impression that you want to bring to your delivery. Are you seeking to challenge? To involve? To calm? To warn? Even to manipulate?

If you think of a cliche grand actor wandering the stage during rehearsal demanding “Yes, but WHAT’S my motivation???” then you won’t be far off the general concept.

The book suggests identifying those motivations, or your intentions, and then demonstrates how you can put them front and centre of your public speaking.

If you have had some experience of presenting, and are looking for the next stage, this book will help you put the 3D of emotional intention into your delivery.

The authors also combine a couple of topics that many books leave out. There is a section on the inner workings of storytelling, an excellent section on the importance of listening as a presenter, and some strong insights into getting the best out of your voice.

Certain fundamental subjects however are under-represented. Controlling nerves is one, and the structure section is another. Both are short. It’s as if the authors had in mind a reader who had already gone through a basic training course. That’s why I would say this is not a book for the novice presenter.

If you have already had some professional training and plenty of real-time practice, then this is an ideal book to give you ideas for how to get to the next level.

For the experienced presenter there is something to be gained as well. I found the sections on intention, story-telling, and voice to be particularly interesting.

I’ve presented a couple of times since reading the book, and on each occasion found sections of it’s content staying with me. The concept of “intention” has led me to consider my daily deliveries from a different angle. Basic tips, such as remembering to protect the voice by drinking plenty of water, have also come as useful reminders for this coffee-addicted presenter.

For the final words, I return to George Burns and to a quote that the authors use in the book:

The secret to a good speech is…. “ to have a good beginning and a good ending, then having the two as close together as possible.”

Getting the beginning and the ending close together is something that Lewis and Mills do well. “The Pin Drop Principle” is a lean book, that is a quick read, and importantly, is available as an e-book.

For an experienced business person, looking for an easy-to-action evolution in their delivery style, “The Pin Drop Principle” is ideal.

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