Nancy Duarte’s Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences is a glossy candy shop of a business book, a breezy ride through a set of strong, smart, common-sense principles for effective presentations. Any newbie to business storytelling would do well to give it a whirl.
Duarte’s original contribution is the “Sparkline,” an EKG-like approach to mapping the structure of a real-time story. The Sparkline tracks the progression of a presentation from contrasting visions of “What is” to “What could be,” over and over again. It features at least one “STAR Moment” (Something They’ll Always Remember,” aka, a clever stunt) and concludes with a call to action. The book features compelling analyses of memorable presentations, such as Steve Job’s Macworld 2007 iPhone launch, with a Sparkline detailing the merits of each.
Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” plays large in this book, as the architecture for both effective storytelling and the author’s approach to educating readers. The content is a tad light in its promise of helping communicators “connect with the audience empathetically,” informing the reader that “You are not the hero,” and then “The audience is the hero.” But readability is a virtue here; the book is more an entertaining visit to Disneyland than a sober trip to the library.
Resonate might not be mistaken for an academic milestone (not a bad thing, BTW), though it might happily find its way onto an upscale coffee table. The unusual shape of the book, the lush photographs, fun graphics, and abundant white space (which on many pages outweighs the text by a lot) – all seemed designed to appeal to the busy professional. If you enjoy getting a storytelling primer from an author who knows how to walk the talk, this might be the book for you.