Nancy Duarte Talks About The Use of Story


By Corrie Miller

Nancy Duarte is the Queen. Really. Duarte has been a game changer when it comes to presentation content and delivery. She is the author of Slide:ology and Resonate, two influential books on the subject, and was the mind behind Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” Presentation. She has truly changed the way people think about the use of images and story when communicating their ideas.

I invite you to have a watch of her TEDx talk where she explains her story arc theory she calls the Sparkline. This presentation has everything a presentation should have:


1. Passion for the story

2. Authenticity in its delivery

3. It is strategically built for the audience and takes them on a journey

4. It has a great hook at the beginning (“Every one of us has the power to change the world”), and call to action at the close

5. And it has a solid key message that inspires you to become a better presenter, laced with sticky messaging throughout that resonates with the audience.

And she explains how…

you can do it too.

She is brilliantly authentic and a wonderful storyteller. I hope you enjoy and have as many take-aways as we have.



Embedding isn’t cooperating today and if the video disappears, here’s the link.

To Your Voice,




By Corrie Miller

In our last blog post we talked about why your presentation might fail to meet its objective (connect with your audience, convert the sale). One of the biggies: Bad slidedecks. If your visuals don’t add anything to your talk, you’re wasting your time and your audience is tuning out. Let’s address this and show you some examples of what works.

According to the  Media Education Centre, research at 3M Corporation has shown that:

The brain processes images a whopping 60,000 times faster than words.

It’s called the Image Superiority Effect.


Furthermore, in the same article it is said that Psychologist Albert Mehrabian demonstrated that:

93% of communication is nonverbal.

Yes body language, eye contact and the like are crucial, but a big part of that non-verbal communication is what visuals you choose to compliment what you say.

Incorporating images into your presentations:

a) Gets your audience’s attention

b) Can contradict a point to be provocative, or for humour’s sake and

c) Reinforces a point to make it resonate with the audience. It makes it “sticky”.

Key messages strategically placed alongside your use of images can go a long way to aiding the retention of your subject matter in the classroom, in a sales pitch, or at that keynote address.

Ultimately if your audience remembers what you spoke about they remember you.

In my previous post I gave this example of what not to do:

Who hasn’t at some point been in a lecture hall where the speaker/teacher droned on and on (and.on.) while you frantically took notes, all the while not hearing one iota of what was being said? Yep, me too.

So what does work?

Here are some examples of Calculated Presentations’ slides using images to aid in the audience’s retention of information. These were used in a recent presentation given on the topic of presenting. Notes were available afterward.

If you have a very information-heavy presentation, speak to that fact but use fewer slides and hand out the notes afterward. Letting your audience know that you will have information for them after the talk let’s the audience relax and enjoy your presentation without having to worry about scribbling their way through it.

Always remember when putting together your next presentation that:

Images evoke emotion and emotion is what makes people remember. It’s what makes people BUY: Your product and  your idea.

Many companies still require their employees to present with very text-heavy branded slidedecks. If that is what you are up against, we would challenge you to insert just one or two slides where images serve as the backdrop to your information into your next presentation. Change can be made but sometimes it just takes some time to change conventional thought. When your presentations are getting that sale or influencing your audience and the competition isn’t, conventional wisdom will change.

Good luck!

To Your Voice





Did you catch Ron Finley’s presentation at TED 2013? He was a powerhouse who captivated his audience and received a resounding standing O. If you haven’t watched him you should:



Ron beautifully demonstrates what separates presenters who have their audience enthralled from those who don’t.

But a little aside…understand that it didn’t come easy nor was it a quick process for Ron to get to the TED stage.

When I was introduced to Ron he had a solid draft for his 12 minute presentation. This was about two months before he was scheduled to speak. His TED presentation was significantly different that his first rendition delivered at the Vancouver audition a few months before we met.

Just like writing a book or a movie script the final draft of a presentation often is very different than the first. It is a work in progress — a process.

Ron is a creative and a designer by trade. He was no stranger to the creative process and embraced it.

Tip #1 – Be patient while building your presentation. Give yourself lots of time to be creative and let your tap of insight flow.

Ron’s presentation was memorable. The TED conference twitter stream was jumping with nuggets of wisdom. These gems were purposefully built in to have legs and stick in the minds of the audience for weeks and months after.



And then this memorable finish in Ron’s vernacular …


Tip #2 – Invest the time to create the nuggets … those little gems that your audience will carry away with them and remember.


The qualities that I most admire in Ron was that he spoke from the heart (passionate man) and never wavered from the integrity of his story. Ron asked for feedback from many colleagues and peers. And some advised him to water down his words. I advised him not to – to stick with his story and deliver with the rawness that it is. I’m glad that he stuck to his guns because the proof of a story well told, that captivated hearts and minds, showed itself in February, 2013 on the TED stage in Long Beach, California.

Tip #3 – Your story is your story. Don’t give anyone the license to make yours wallpaper paste.

Well done and well said Ron – kudos! It was a pleasure working with you. Enjoy what grows ….



To Your Voice












The buzz is all about viral videos. Those videos that do the rounds on YouTube and have that certain something that captures millions of hits.

Corrie and I attended an early morning 7:30 am session (thank goodness for hot coffee) held by the Canadian Public Relations Society who hosted Nathan Lusignan the CEO of Point Blank Creative.  Nathan shared with us how to use video to strategically get your message out into what is now a crowded and competitive landscape and have the impact that you planned for.

My biggest takeaway? Align yourself with colleagues who have a large social media reach and get them onboard. Have them share to their followers and, fingers crossed, your video will spread through the masses exponentially. Or having someone like Jimmy Kimmel love your video and talk about it on prime time doesn’t hurt either.

Here’s Corrie and me with Nathan.

Nathan Lusignan, Corrie Ashton, Janice Tomich, CPRS, Vancouver















Thanks Nathan for your insight!

To Your Voice ~

Janice & Corrie


Don’t put pen to paper.

Don’t put a Sharpie™ to whiteboard.

And absolutely do not open up PowerPoint.

To build a presentation that will have your audience savouring your nuggets of wisdom like Tootsie Rolls Pops™ begin with brainstorming.

The fun stuff. Especially for those of you, who, like me, are lovers of sticky notes, coloured felt pens, and a little lots of chaos.

The first steps of creating a presentation are often the hardest. Impatience jumps in—we want it DONE and have our eyes on the goalpost instead of savouring the process.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy.

The beginning is where patience pays in spades. It is the foundation for the creativity that will make your presentation shine.

Try this first—Marc Heleven has put together a slidedeck that will open the tap to your creative juices. Spend a few minutes here and let’s see what transpires:


I know, you are itching to start peeling the sticky pad.  But we need to back pedal…just a little.

What is your key message? What do you want your audience to know, think, or do?

Now grab the sticky note pad!

Riff away and put ink to paper—what do you think your key message is?

Aim for five, ten, or 15 ideas. Which three stand out?

Which one has fog horns blaring and is making your heart beat? That’s the one.

Now on your white board, wall, or desktop it’s time to really get rolling and make note of everything that comes to mind — took a while didn’t it? Everything (yes, everything) that comes to mind that relates to your key message (you can fudge here and include ideas that slide under the bar and are a little off topic) gets a sticky of it’s own.

Keep going until you run out of ideas.

And check back for Part II.

To Your Voice,




Would you have thought that it is listening?


It is.


The pivotal point when public speakers move from good to great is when they listen to their audience and understand what they (the audience) need to hear.

This sounds counter intuitive doesn’t it? Our natural tendency is to share what we know (often cramming in far too much). Of course your vision and insight  is what you will be sharing but the secret is in how you will do it. How you share your ideas so they resonate so deeply with your audience they become your rabble rousing cheering section.

It’s done through thoughtful and strategic listening.

Gary Vaynerchuk spoke in Vancouver at the Financial Post’s Reach 2012 event this past week. He listens. Gary shared the secret to his success, “I’m always thinking from the customer perspective”.  Sounds easy doesn’t it? It’s not — it takes time and introspection.

Gary is where his customers are. He finds them on social media and he travels internationally to speak with them. Yes, I said speak “with”. Gary is a master at getting down on the floor and speaking with his audience and creating lively discussion. This is the  mark of a great public speaker — one who really listens to the questions and responses. He looks into individuals audience members eyes and “hears” what they are saying.

Listen at the 4:40 mark of Gary’s interview with Entrepreneur. He shares with us how many emails and tweets he responds to in comparison to what he blasts out. The skew is heavily weighted on the listening and discussion side. For example:

response to my tweet at #FPReach2012

response to my tweet at #FPReach2012









Not only does he listen while he is presenting, he is listening before and after his presentations. And he engages.

Gary also talks about the importance of story. A subject that has been batted about many times in this blog. But no story can be built or told until you know what your audience wants to hear.




Listen to your audience before you even begin to think of putting pen to paper or start creating your storyboard for your next presentation. That’s how you will create cheerleaders, fans, and customers who will in turn listen and engage with you.

To Your Voice,






At the end of a session with a client I ask, “What did you learn today that had the most impact?”

One common response is “Staying on Message”.

It is easy to become enchanted with your knowledge and to share all you know. Or go off on tangents because the content is remotely related. Or even worse interject a story that is entirely off topic.

Don’t do it! Your audience will become confused and you will lose them.

The first order of business when developing a presentation is to understand what is the message that you want your audience to take away. Yes, just one message.

While crafting your presentation test that all of your content can withstand your message litmus test.

Your audience will thank you.



just breathe

Yes, simply breathe.

You likely take the life force of breathing for granted. I know that I do.

When you bring your thoughts back to your breathing it forces you to be present.

Ums, ers, and uhs stem from our losing our train of thought and/or lack of confidence in our content.

Get back on track and resuscitate your confidence by using your full breath.



Next time you are practicing for an upcoming presentation try this when you feel a verbal distraction looming.

Stop. Yes, it is okay to stop. It is a normal part of relaxed conversation.

Take a deep breath right down to the core of your belly.

Exhale the breath slowly.

Now notice how you feel. In control, right? Ready to begin again without the verbal baggage.

Did it seem like it took forever? It didn’t – probably fifteen seconds max!

When you go live with your presentation and you feel the um, er, or uh bubbling think back to your practice – breathe a deep one and carry on. You’ve slayed it.

To your voice,



There is a movement afoot, created by audience unrest – those who feel the pain of bad presentations.

Think of the best presentations you have been to. You listened intently because the speaker engaged you with their speaking style, ability to tell a story, hooking you in from the first minutes, and leave the audience wanting more.

Are you an early adapter or are you lagging behind in your presentation skills?

The early adapters know how to engage their audiences. The laggards persist on hiding behind a lectern, their slides and present lecture style.

The tide is turning – those who choose to remain a talking head are feeling the sting of Twitter streams critiquing (not in a positive light) them as they speak.

Nancy Duarte, the powerhouse behind Duarte Design, articulates the state of presentations today and tells us about the leaders who are forging ahead – those who are educating us on how to present well so that audiences are engaged and learn deeply.

Check out Nancy’s insight into what makes a presentation great:


As Nancy said, Ted Talks are a brilliant example of presenting done right. Check them out for inspiration.


Two, yes count them, two, ideation creating presentations two days in a row.

Why would I run on about attending mind blowing presentations. Aren’t they all like that?

No, many run the range from milk toast to just plain crap. Under-practiced, no point, no emotion, etc. We’ve all endured more than our share.

What made these two special? They opened me up to changing my outlook and they ran raw and deep with emotion and heat. They made me squirm with discomfort about some of my own closed thinking, made me laugh, and had me nodding in agreement. Different than many presentations that bring images to mind of Charlie Brown adults spouting blah, blah, blah.

I attended Shifted with no expectations. Everything about the evening worked. District 319 in Vancouver is an unexpected gem of a theatre. It is located in Vancouver’s toughest neighbourhood – a refurbished jewel – the theatre not the neighbourhood. The lobby is a casual spot to meet people with a bar situated in the middle. The theatre space ushers you in with carmine red leather lounge seats. So comfortable, and drinks are welcome to join you. Civilized!

It was the speakers and the organizers who were the ruby. All spoke from the heart. As simple as that. No magic. They’ve all lived lives with the drive to embrace a shift. Right or wrong they took the dive.

Chloe Gow-Jarrett has a raw talent for creating an event. She collaborated with a team bar-none along with the help of her husband who blatantly adores her. Reading her blog posts illuminates her success – she had the guts to let go and trust them.

Chloe invited five speakers who hold some notoriety here on the west coast of Canada. Although a few fly humbly under the radar.

First up was Danielle LaPorte of White Hot Truth fame. I know of Danielle through her blog, Twitter feed, a quick electric hello at a conference, and knew nothing of her before life. She rode high in her other life. She chose, at an apex moment, another. Danielle has a gift – she allows you to feel what she feels while carrying us along in a story of learning.

David Bentall cracked open the door to his broken spirit and bleak marriage. He exposed the nastiness of criticism in a marriage and at work. David lived in a broken marriage for 10 years. “Something” held him there – he didn’t leave – but he did finally understand and he grew.

My friend Darlene Carty asked David this pointed question, ” When you came to the decision to change, was it for your own survival or the love of your wife and family?” David candidly responded, “At first for my self, than I realized it was the love of my wife and our family.” Heavy stuff and a testament of the courage to share.

As did Andrea Baxter.

I’ve met Andrea Baxter a few times. She is a driven and honest young woman. Andrea works hard. While working at her dream job- just acquired – she was offered another. Andrea took us through the process of making a momentous decision. And shared with us what a leap of faith looks like. She told us that once you make the leap it gets easier every time.

And the next speaker told us about leaping with the support of friends and his own determination.

When Tyler Mosher told us about breaking his back he made me feel the impact. While he spoke I was stuck to the leather seat and couldn’t move. He made me cry and he made my heart feel heavy. Tyler also made my chest feel big with his insight into valiant courage and the support of true friends.

The final speaker was Joel Solemn. He was the reason that I came to the event. I have been to Hollyhock on Cortes Island, that he and a band of like minded souls built. I’ve watched how Joel expanded into creating an investment fund that supports social change. And I knew that he was sick with chronic kidney disease and that a dear friend had donated her kidney to him. Simply, thank you for sharing your journey.

Are these people special? No, they are you and me.

Image attribution: Jason V

Part II to come – Luncheon for Ovarian Cancer Awareness ~ Featuring Virginia Greene

Be bold. Get heard. Inspire action.