“Resonate” resonates for online video

Nancy Duarte, head of Duarte DesignWhen we hang out with true experts, and have an open mind, we can learn a lot from them. Nancy Duarte is a bona fide expert in the field of presentations, with a bio that includes working with clients ranging from Adobe to Google, Al Gore to TED. She writes that a couple of years ago, “I set out to uncover how story applies to presentations,” and the result is a book with the catchy title Resonate.

I’m drawn addictively to the word “story,” and the attractive book seemed like a present begging to be opened. The cover promised: “Present visual stories that transform audiences.” Wary as I have become of promises to transform, I started reading greedily.

At first I was disappointed. My initial impression was that the opening chapters seemed too influenced by the corporate world. Do I really believe that “A business is usually founded because someone came up with a clear vision of the world in the future as an improved place.” Really? Sometimes businesses make the world better, of course, but has news of the greed-induced Great Recession not reached Mountain View, CA, home of Duarte Design? It seemed overblown to talk about addressing an audience at a company meeting in these terms: “You are not the hero who will save the audience; the audience is your hero.” Really? Odysseus was a hero, Aung San Suu Kyi is a hero.

But I got over it, and riffling through the book now I see that Duarte’s examples and intent focus at least as much on people who are improving the world versus improving the bottom line. (Not that there’s anything essentially wrong with improving the bottom line.) And with or without heroes, I found a lot of value in these pages because of the advice she gives about storytelling.

For those of you determined to make better online videos, what’s most valuable in Resonate is the linking of Duarte’s astute analysis of what makes a great presentation to killer examples of actual presentations. Those examples are not all videos, but that doesn’t matter at all.

Best of all, she’s posted some of these examples online, as Extended Web Content. Some of these presentations are truly inspired and inspiring, and I encourage you to click on all of them. Ideally, you’ll have her book in hand, and you’ll look at the extended web content when you come to the page it connects to. But you’ll absorb something valuable from many of them even without owning Resonate.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream …” speech is among them. And there’s a bonus: on her blog, Duarte recently posted an analysis of this speech that’s pretty darn brilliant. I’ll embed her video here, so you can watch it at your leisure:

Your comments, as always, are welcome.