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Big Five Questions

The Guru’s Big Five Questions – Nancy Duarte

Nancy Duarte
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Nancy Duarte is a communication expert who has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, wired, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times and on CNN.

Her firm Duarte Inc., is the global leader behind some of the the most influential messages in business and culture. As a persuasion specialist, she cracked the code for effectively incorporating  story patterns into business communications. 

Her book Resonate spent nearly a year on Amazon’s top 100 business book bestsellers list. Her latest book, Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies and Symbols, is out now.

We want to help our readers build their skills as presentation designers, speakers and coaches, learning from a wide range of our colleagues from across the world, so in this occasional series, The Guru’s Big Five Questions, we ask the experts the same five questions about their inspiration, their hopes and their role models in the ever-changing arena of world-class presenting. This is what Nancy had to say:


What’s the greatest speech in history and why?

Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is one that was delivered at the right moment, to the right audience. And because it was delivered in a way that empathetically resonated, it became embedded in our national psyche and an important part of our history.

The moment, the words, the gathering, the timing were all aligned and his delivery was uniquely perfect. The sound of a Southern Baptist preacher hadn’t been heard nationally before and he was mesmerizing.



What’s the greatest business presentation / sales pitch and why?

Steve Jobs is the master presenter. There’s been a pretty big gap between how he delivered a presentation and most of the rest of us.

Believe it or not, I’ve transcribed all of the known speeches he’s given and study them. Like, really study them.

I love his iPhone launch speech. The audience exhibited all the classic signs of being caught up in a moment: laughing, clapping, gasping, cheering, and gawking. The best way to know the power of a talk is watching the audience react.



Best political / cause orator today and why?

One of the greatest living storytellers is Scott Harrison, CEO of charity: water. He runs one of the fasted growing non-profits and built a unique model to fund it. He has business people cover his overhead costs so all the money donors give goes to building wells.

The organization was founded from Scott’s personal story of redemption and he travels the world telling some of the most amazing stories you’ll ever hear. The entire organization leads through storytelling.

What’s the one most important thing that anyone making a speech should do more than anything else?

They *must* consider their audience. Even if it’s the speech of your life, you have to think through how the audience will receive it and map your material to their mind and heart. Think through how they might resist and what would motivate them. The best ideas in the world will not be adopted if they are communicated in a way that doesn’t resonate.

Who inspired you starting out in the business? Who inspires you now? My husband started the business. I worked a “real job” and taunted him to give up on this “stupid idea”. He had his heart fixed on making it successful and begged me to really look at the potential of it all. When I really understood what he was trying to do, I jumped in and we’ve worked side-by-side ever since. I’ve devoted my life to work and my family, so I’d say that my husband and family fuel and inspire me.


What presentation technology excites you most for the future?

So far, presentation technology hasn’t had a massive reinvention in a while. Features have been piled on and technology has ratcheted up collaboration but my long-view is that there’s a lot of room for new innovation with technical solutions in this space.

Emma Bannister
Emma Bannister is passionate about presenting big, bold and beautiful ideas. She is the founder and CEO of Presentation Studio, APAC's largest presentation communication agency, and author of the book Visual Thinking: How to transform the way you think, communicate and influence with presentations.
Emma Bannister
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