087 Nancy Duarte on How to Create and Deliver Epic Performances

087 Nancy Duarte on How to Create and Deliver Epic Performances

Listen Now

Dream.

Leap.

Fight.

Climb.

Arrive.

This pulse of words beats through Nancy Duarte’s latest book, Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, And Symbols. Co-written with Patty Sanchez, Illuminate inspires audiences all over the world by showcasing how great leaders create effective change.

Want to take your presentation to the next level? Listen in as Nancy Duarte focuses on the speech portions of her model, and she shares how to create and deliver epic performances.

Nancy Duarte is a communication expert. Her firm, Duarte, is the global leader behind some of the most influential visual messages in business and culture. In addition to Illuminate, Nancy is the author of Slide:ology and Resonate.

In this episode we discussed how to:

  • Understand and utilize the Three Act Structure: a winning presentation model for leaders and speakers. (2:00)
  • Turn a performance from good to epic with rehearsals. (26:46)
  • Use visual aids in your presentation. (41:33)

Find out more about Nancy Duarte and her upcoming events. Download Nancy’s Torchbearer Toolkit, a free presentation diagram and workshop, and a free copy of Nancy’s eBook: Slidedocs.

00:00 Michael Port: Welcome to Steal the Show with Michael Port. This is Michael. Today’s guest is Nancy Duarte. She’s a communication expert who’s been featured in Forbes, Fortune, Fast Company, Wired, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Huffington Post, LA Times and on CNN. Her firm, Duarte, is the global leader behind some of the most influential visual messages in business and culture and has created more than a quarter of a million presentations. That’s a quarter of a million presentations. As a persuasion expert, she cracked the code for effectively incorporating story patterns into business communications. Resonate, her second book, spent nearly a year on Amazon’s top 100 business book best seller list. Duarte, is the largest design firm in Silicon Valley, as well as one of the top women owned businesses in the area.

00:58 Michael Port: Nancy has won several prestigious awards for communications, entrepreneurship and her success as a female executive. She’s been a speaker at a number of Fortune 500 companies and counts many more among her firm’s clientele. Nancy has spoken at numerous conferences and her Ted X talk has had over one million views. She speaks at business schools and lectures at Stanford University a few times a year. Nancy has over 25 years of experience working with global companies and thought leaders. And she has influenced how the world perceives some of the most important brands and entities, including Apple, Cisco, Facebook, GE, Google, Ted and the World Bank. She’s the author of five books, most recently co-authoring “Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, And Symbols” with Patty Sanchez. Hi, Nancy.

01:55 Nancy Duarte: Hi, how you doing?

01:57 Michael Port: I’m fantastic and I wanna talk about “Illuminate.” I’m sure many of our listeners have read your other books, certainly “Resonate,” “Slideology,” some of the best work in the industry by far. And I hope they’ve also read “Illuminate” because the work that you did around the epic tale, I think is so incredibly important. And so what I’d like to do in this time that we have together, is I’d love you to work us through the structure that all leaders utilize. This dream, leap, fight, climb, arrive structure and I’d love to learn more from you about how to create a dream speech, a leap speech, a fight speech, a climb speech, an arrive speech. And focus our energy, our time on the speaking side of that model.

03:07 Nancy Duarte: Yeah.

03:08 Michael Port: That sound good?

03:09 Nancy Duarte: Yeah, that would be fun, to unpack the whole freaking thing, huh?

03:12 Michael Port: Yeah, why not? I think we can do it.

03:15 Nancy Duarte: I think so, too.

03:16 Michael Port: So, let me just give them an overview of “Illuminate.” This concept that you’ve brought to bear in the book, and then, let’s start working through.

03:24 Nancy Duarte: Yeah so, what this is, is we found a model that’s based in storytelling, that leaders need to have in their heads. Because it’s actually a model of empathy for them to understand that when you’re trying to move people, you’re actually causing them to go through with a story. We call it a venture scape. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And what happens is a lot of times, leaders are very future-facing and they forget the present of how their teams are feeling. So, we broke down a kind of a movement. A lot of people just worry about, “I have a talk on Tuesday. Oh my gosh, I need to go do this talk,” instead of thinking about the larger epic tale that this feeds into. What is the larger purpose of this moment? And how do you make sure it aligns with the larger transformation you’re driving your team to. So, the beginning has two steps to it. The beginning of any great venture scape has the dream leap. Now, if you do a really, really, really good job on the dream speech, a lot of times, the leap happens at the same time. And the leap is them committing to your dream.

04:34 Nancy Duarte: So, sometimes like I’ve seen it where presenter will do a brilliant job on a speech, and people will run out the door and sign a card, or they’ll sign a big commitment wall, or they’ll take their picture, make a commitment, post it up on social channels saying, “I’m in.” So, that’s the dream leap. That’s like the beginning of any great tale, and then you move into the middle, which is the messy part of any transformation, and that’s the fight and the climb. So, if you think about great movies or stories, the protagonist may fight to get the girl, lose the girl, have a near missed death experience with the dragon, get impaled with an arrow in his shoulder while he’s still has to climb out of a ravine to get back to where he’s supposed to be. [chuckle]

05:18 Nancy Duarte: That’s the messy middle. And when we make a decision to move as leaders, when we make a decision to make a new future, a new declaration, or a new product launch, whatever it is that we’re doing, we are causing people to jump in to this messy middle. And we need to understand what it looks like through their eyes, and it looks a lot like a really hard fight, and a really hard climb. What’s the sacrifice we’re asking them to give? What’s the time they may have to give? Are they gonna spend time away from their kids to make my dream come true? I need to know that. And I need to make sure I see it through their eyes and communicate from that place. And then obviously, if you get through the messy middle, you arrive.

06:00 Nancy Duarte: Now, we didn’t say celebrate, we call it a moment of arrival, because sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. It’s only in Western culture that we think every single story has a happy ending, but sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, so when you arrive, you need to be cognizant of what wounds they may need to lick, and what celebrations they need to experience too. So that’s kind of the basic three act structured dream leap, fight, climb and then arrive. And some companies will have hundreds of these going at the same time, sometimes everyone maybe aligned around one great big transformation, it just depends. And you do hundreds and hundreds of speeches, stories, ceremonies, and symbols along the way, to move them along the venture scape.

06:47 Michael Port: I love that you reference the three act structure, because for those who are familiar with the three act structure, they can see how this fits into that. So in your first act with your exposition, the gifts of circumstances et cetera. That’s the dream and the leap a part of this model, and then of course you move into act two where you have all of your conflict, and your action, and that’s the fight, and the climb. And then, of course, the resolution is the arrival. And the language that we use is so important when we are working on any project, that you’ve done such a wonderful job of languaging the different types of speeches. And I think it would really help folks go into the content creation portion of their process, with a clear focus. So in the dream stage you have a vision speech and you have revolution speeches, in the leap stage you have pursued speeches and renunciation speeches, in the fight stage, battle speeches and underdog speeches, and then the climb stage, progress speech and crossroad speech, and arrive, you have victory speech and surrender speech.

[chuckle]

08:04 Michael Port: And each one, right, it’s so exciting, each one gives you language to start to formulate your ideas around. So I would love you to start to take us through these different type of speeches, and give us an example of each one if possible.

08:23 Nancy Duarte: Yeah, what we’ve done, at least in the book, was we have identified the situation under which one would be needed. So what’s fascinating is the dream leap phase, always kinda happens at the beginning of something new, obviously. So, the vision speech is very, very important for when you’re casting something new. What’s interesting about say, it’s coupled with, so the vision speech is the motivating speech, and the revolution speech is the warning speech. So sometimes if you are, I think Steve Jobs started so many of his presentations about, “We have a revolutionary new product.”

09:10 Michael Port: Sure.

09:11 Nancy Duarte: And that’s not necessarily a revolution speech. A revolution speech would be one where you’re going in and fighting a great enemy. Which is a very different stance than creating a new frontier. And Mr. Jobs did do that at one point in time, when he did a speech, and he rallied his team when he took over the Mac group, and he put up a pirate flag, which would be the symbol that he used. He put a pirate flag up, and he called themselves pirates. And they were gonna work within the organization, and they were gonna be the revolutionaries within their own company. And so, that’s an example of one of those. In the leap phase, what’s interesting about that, is that this is where you’re trying to get people to commit. So, that’s why that pursuit speech is where you… In story telling they pursue an elixir, they make this thing so desirable. It makes the protagonist go through the entire journey, including that messy middle.

[chuckle]

10:12 Nancy Duarte: And make it seem like it’s gonna be worth it. We’re in pursue to this, so it’s going to be amazing. For a renunciation speech, that’s when something has to be renounced, so that the people can move forward. And it’s a warning speech, it has to be renounced. So, that’s a bit what Mr. Gore did with an “Inconvenient Truth,” he basically said, “Look, we have a really big crisis,” and over the course of several years, he perfected a presentation. It’s hard to do, ’cause I actually excerpt the speeches, where I would actually kind of read it to you, which is kinda awkward but.

10:56 Michael Port: Oh, so it’d be like a Terry Gross interview. You know, say, “Can you read, read from page… ” Yeah, exactly.

[laughter]

11:03 Nancy Duarte: So he does cover a strong emotional appeal to solve the problem of climate change, because our very lives are at stake. So he’s wanting us to kind of renounce our life style, or die kind of a thing, you know?

11:16 Michael Port: Yeah.

11:16 Nancy Duarte: So that’s what you have to do in a renunciation speech.

11:19 Michael Port: And for those who don’t know, Nancy is the one who worked with Vice President Gore on all of the visuals for that speech. You were a major part of the development of the work.

11:33 Nancy Duarte: My team did, I actually let my team do that. I didn’t work with him directly myself, because he was on so many peoples’ bucket list here, that they got…

11:43 Michael Port: They were fighting for it.

11:45 Nancy Duarte: Yeah, they gotta fulfill their dreams of working with him.

11:47 Michael Port: Yeah. That’s cool, that’s really cool.

11:48 Nancy Duarte: Yeah. It’s fun.

11:49 Michael Port: That’s very cool.

11:51 Nancy Duarte: So, you wanna keep going down this thing?

11:54 Michael Port: Yeah, no, I do, I really do. I know for you, maybe you’re like, “Well, I don’t know,” but I think for folks, it’s such a unique concept. Because what I find, is often when people come and they start working on speeches, they look at this blank piece of paper, and you can give them a “Well, first think about this. Then think about this. Then think about… ” You can do that and it can be helpful, but I think going into it, having an idea of the style, the… Even just with…

12:33 Nancy Duarte: The temperament.

12:33 Michael Port: Exactly. I do a speech called “The Think Big Revolution,” and it is a revolutionary speech. But I make sure that, at least in my work, I make sure that I don’t just adhere to one particular style. Because it’s like the boy who cried wolf, if every speech you give is a revolutionary speech, after a while, like you said with Steve, you’re like “Really? It’s not… I don’t know if… “

13:00 Nancy Duarte: Well, in his case, they really were all revolutionary. [chuckle]

13:03 Michael Port: Yeah, that’s true. But even in general, you know how somebody’s gonna bring themselves to that particular situation, and it may not be called for at that time.

13:14 Nancy Duarte: Right, that’s why this model’s so important, ’cause the leader needs to modulate to where the hearts of the people are. And that’s why a revolutionary speech all time would be exhausting. We have motivating and mourning speeches, but we also have motivating and mourning stories, and motivating and mourning ceremonies. So, in each phase, dream has vision speech or revolution speech. But there’s also a heed-the-call story, or a neglect-the-call story, and then there’s an immerse deeply ceremony and a mourn endings ceremony. So it’s a combination of this tool kit where you can pick the right method to communicate at the right moment. So it’s amazing. This was so much fun. It was so much work. Four years, man.

13:57 Michael Port: Yeah. Well, that’s the other thing. From what I understand is that you spent a lot of time on this book, more than the other books when you first wrote it…

14:06 Nancy Duarte: Yeah, and I’m the co-author.

14:08 Michael Port: Right. So what happened? You wrote it, and then you brought it out to the publishers. And then you went back and did a full rewrite after that, is that correct?

14:18 Nancy Duarte: Yeah, we did. Yeah, so I had basically built a book that was very similar to “Slideology” and “Resonate.” It was nine by nine color. And then I went with a publisher, we signed it, and then they’re like “We only want eight by eight black and red, and we want it to be a big think book.” So the other version had a lot of pictures, a lot of examples that were… The structure of the last book was speech, story, ceremony, symbol. And we really decided that instead, we changed the structure to dream, leap, fight, climb, arrive. So, it was a big race whistle. We thought we nailed, it and then the publisher said that, and then I sent it to a friend of my mine who’s a futurist at a large public company and she goes “I just expected more from you.” And we were like “No!” So, I literally tore it up and threw it into a fire. We sat there crying and torn up.

15:12 Michael Port: Oh, wow.

15:13 Nancy Duarte: And we cut out the things we were gonna keep, and then we just literally threw the rest in the fire.

15:18 Michael Port: Well, I imagine you could do a wonderful speech based on that whole epic experience, and then that was the ceremony portion of it right there.

15:29 Nancy Duarte: Yeah, it was. There was some really… That and I got stuck in the elevator when we went away to write it. [chuckle] There’s all these little things and it was really… You can’t contrive a ceremony. It was our own emotional reaction to what was going on, and it wasn’t ’til it was done that we went “Oh, how weird.” Like what you just said, we just experienced a ceremony, a cleansing ceremony and that’s what happens when you are… A lot of times it happens in the climb phase, ’cause that’s when people wanna give up. So the climb phase and story telling, there’s a moment in Joseph Campbell’s heroes journey called the “Inmost Cave,” ’cause what happens is the protagonist starts to weigh, the risk, and the reward, and the pros and the cons, and the sacrifice. And they’re like “I don’t know. Do I wanna bail out or am I gonna stay with it?” Our travellers do that too. My employees do that too. It’s like “Wait, is she asking too much of me, and do I wanna keep climbing?” And that’s the point Patty and I were at when we were like “Wow! We need to throw this whole book away. Do we wanna keep going?” So in the climb phase in the tool kit, in the book, there’s this moment of a ceremony called “Heal the Wounds Ceremony.” Gather in retreat to heal your wounds, let off steam, and bond our hearts together before re-committing.

16:45 Nancy Duarte: And that was what we did. We were just like “Oh my God! We just did that. We just did a heal the wound ceremony.

16:50 Michael Port: Oh, wow 

16:50 Nancy Duarte: And we did that, and it gave us the strength, and the energy to plow forward and rewrite the book, and finish it.

16:57 Michael Port: Well, I think this is inspiring to new creative artists, regardless of their age. When you’re moving to a new area, you often have very good taste. Who was it that said this? Ira Glass. Ira Glass, and I paraphrase, said that “When you first go into a creative art of some kind, you have great taste, and that’s why you wanna go into this art. But, the work you’re doing might not match up to what you believe you should be doing, because your taste is more advanced than your skill at that point.”

[chuckle]

17:43 Michael Port: And many people give up at that phase, because it’s so unfulfilling. And that’s the messy, messy part. And artists will move through that and over time, you’ll start to produce work that is in line with your taste, is up to par. And it’s a great example, I think it’s inspiring to people, because even you who has been doing this for a long time, who has incredible reputation for being masterful at contact creation.

18:13 Nancy Duarte: Oh, wow. I’m gonna take you home with me.

[laughter]

18:17 Michael Port: There’s no doubt about this. This cannot be news to you.

[chuckle]

18:21 Michael Port: And you’ve done a number of books. So to see somebody who has mastery of a particular subject matter, or a particular type of work, in that messy struggle is inspiring. One of the things that we find, a lot of our clients have a really hard time rehearsing, because they are not comfortable with the messiness that is rehearsal.

18:51 Nancy Duarte: Yeah, the humility.

[chuckle]

18:52 Michael Port: What’d you say?

18:53 Nancy Duarte: The humility.

[chuckle]

18:54 Michael Port: Well, sure. As an actor, when I would perform, we had no expectations of greatness in the first few months of rehearsal. The first thing you do is a table read, and you just sit there and you read it, and you say, “Well, okay, so Nancy Duarte is a communication expert, she’s been featured in Forbes.” You are not trying to perform anything. Over time, you start to embody that work, you identify your objectives, and your intentions, you chose all the tactics that you gonna use to go after those objectives, et cetera. And you develop that character over time, just like you develop the character that you’re to bringing to a particular speech over time. But people who haven’t had that experience, they feel so uncomfortable often, when they feel like they’re not doing it right. It doesn’t work. And you’re demonstrating here, that you are willing to be comfortable with that discomfort that comes with messiness, and you say, “Well, this is part of the process but it’s important to us. So we are going to keep fighting. We are gonna keep climbing until we arrive.” And of course the future is uncertain. You do not know…

20:06 Nancy Duarte: Yeah, it is.

[chuckle]

20:07 Michael Port: You do not know if people are gonna accept it well. All you can do is put it out there.

20:11 Nancy Duarte: Right.

20:11 Michael Port: So I think it’s inspiring, and I know that my listeners will find it inspiring. Let’s back up for one sec to the fighting stage. Because you have the battle speech and the underdog speech. You use “Braveheart” as an example for the battle speech, and then Tesla for the underdog speech.

20:29 Nancy Duarte: Yeah.

20:30 Michael Port: Yeah. So talk to us, give us a little bit of a break down of how these work.

20:34 Nancy Duarte: Yeah. So, an example, say of a battle speech would be, let me see, I didn’t bring my glasses in today, I’m having the reference back to the book. But what’s interesting is one of the battles, so everyone is familiar with “Braveheart” where he paints his face half blue half white, and he’s trying to encourage the troops to run right back into battle, after they’re basically war torn and half dead. And sometimes that’s what you need, is to rally everybody and re-ignite the fight. So we gave an example of Alibaba’s Jack Ma, and then one of my most beloved friends is also featured in the book, and that’s Jacqueline Fuller, and she runs Google Giving. And so, we outlined the speech that she gave back when Google was gonna be investing to help fight human trafficking. During the launch, she described obviously the state of the problem, and then what Google was gonna do to fight it, and fight it like a deadly virus. Sometimes things like a metaphor or something people can connect to that fights hard.

[laughter]

21:43 Michael Port: Sure.

21:44 Nancy Duarte: Is another way to do it.

21:45 Michael Port: Sure.

21:47 Nancy Duarte: The underdog speech is very David and Goliath like, “We’re behind, nobody is gonna expect us to win, we need to rally and conquer this… We’re behind.” When Elon Musk was trying to get the auto dealers, well they were lobbying against him hard. And he just thought that was wrong and that he should be able to break the model of having to go through dealers at all. And he wanted to take the sales direct. He was selling it to consumers to create demand, to be able to buy directly from him. So he gave a speech where he was putting pressure on the Federal Government by posting petitions on the White House website. He got 130,000 signatures. And so, it’s really his speech that he gave to rally consumers to fight against the system, because he’s an underdog in this tightly knit, unfair system of the government telling them how we should be buying cars, instead of us being able to pick how we wanna buy cars ourselves.

22:49 Michael Port: Do you think…

22:50 Nancy Duarte: Does that make sense?

22:51 Michael Port: Of course it does. Do you find that when your clients work on speeches, they will often discover what kind of leader they are, and what kind of leader they want to be?

23:05 Nancy Duarte: I think speech making is like a window to the soul. I think the really excellent leaders can galvanize their team, and help them keep going. So I do think how you communicate makes or breaks the progress you make, and it makes or breaks whether people wanna stay in the game with you. People don’t quit companies, they quit managers, or they quit leaders.

[chuckle]

23:33 Michael Port: That’s right.

23:34 Nancy Duarte: And you’re there to be a meaning maker, a sense maker, an orienteer, to orient people to their future. And our speeches, stories, ceremonies and symbols do that.

23:47 Michael Port: I think when you’re performing you can’t really hide. It sounds counterintuitive because when people hear the word perform, they often think that you’re putting something on. That you’re wrapping yourself up in some sort of costume of some kind, literally or figuratively. But the great performers are the most honest performers. They’re the ones as you said, who will allow you to see into their souls, and as a result, they’re looking right into yours. And it’s very hard to hide. And I think it’s one of the reasons that it makes people very uncomfortable, because people see you. And the process of writing speeches, creating the content, and then getting up, and rehearsing, and working, and getting out in front of an audience can be incredibly confronting even for people that don’t think they have stage fright, because you’re asking a lot of yourself.

24:48 Nancy Duarte: Yeah. To be a good storyteller, good speech maker, you have to tap into your own emotions, too. Which is a whole another layer that some speech makers just don’t do. The effective ones do, so that even compounds it to me, like, “Oh my God. If I tell that story, the people will see how I feel.” And I think people that feel are lovely. And I think between getting over the fright, and getting afraid of being transparent, and being transparent through speeches and stories is the best way to connect and motivate others.

25:23 Michael Port: The reason I… Gosh, one of the reasons I love this kind of work so much is because there isn’t one way to do it. It’s an art. It’s an art. And if we learn what the conventions are, then we can look for ways to break the rules. Not just to break the rules, but to create something that didn’t exist before, to create some extreme contrast, something that gets people thinking in a way that they hadn’t thought before. And because it is an artistic expression, this idea of opening yourself up is, I think critical.

26:07 Michael Port: So for example, when I was in graduate school as an actor, the same thing is true for Amy when she was in grad school as an actor. People used to ask both of us, “What’s your style? What’s the style that you learn?” And we would say, “Well, there is no style. We’re not taught a style.” They said, “What? You’re not taught Shilovsky or method or something like that.” I said, “No. We train six days a week for three years in those kind of master’s programs, so that we have no style. And what we’re focusing on is being more available.” So… And I think it…

26:46 Nancy Duarte: That’s interesting, yeah. And I agree with that. What happens is even presenters, it is a discipline. It is a skill. And what’ll happen is sometimes they rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. And then they just sound rehearsed. But then there’s others that take it past that. They push through that, so you can get about 90% of the way there. That extra 10%, to feel human, and natural, and like you’re really embodying the content. That last 10%, is almost as much work as it takes to the 90% part ’cause it’s something… Yu cross a threshold.

27:16 Michael Port: That’s right.

27:17 Nancy Duarte: And own it. And I don’t know what that’s called in acting. You’re the one who knows all that stuff. [laughter]

27:23 Michael Port: I wonder if you find the same thing. We sometimes get resistance at the beginning of the process from people around rehearsal. They say,”No, no, no. I’ve tried rehearsal. It doesn’t really work because I feel stiff, and I’m really… “

27:35 Nancy Duarte: We had a client say, “I don’t rehearse. I do better when I don’t rehearse.”

27:38 Michael Port: Of course. And I get it because what’s happened is, they’ve tried to rehearse, but they just tried a little bit of rehearsal. And when they do a little bit of rehearsal, what happens is when they are performing, they’re thinking about what they did in rehearsal, trying to recall it. And as a result, they’re not in the moment when they’re performing.

27:58 Nancy Duarte: Exactly, exactly.

28:00 Michael Port: And of course, they are then disconnected from an audience. But you are right. It’s that you do so much work, that you know it so well, that you can throw it all away as if you’ve done no work whatsoever. As soon as you walk out in front of that audience, everything you’ve done comes back to you. And you are so in the moment that you take that preparation, and you take improvisation. And when those things meet, then you get the kind of spontaneity that an audience loves to see. In the climb stage, you introduce a progress speech and a crossroad speech.

28:34 Michael Port: And you mentioned… You spoke to this a little bit before. But one of the examples is Hamlet’s, “To be, or not to be,” speech. And it’s a great example for many, many reasons. But one of them is because there’s no one way to deliver that speech. Just like there’s no one way to give a crossroad speech. And if you’re a performer, you have to use actually Shakespeare’s words. And I couldn’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to, because he was one of the most brilliant writers of all time. But you won’t see two actors doing it the same way. Just like you won’t see two speakers applying these frameworks in the same way.

29:13 Nancy Duarte: Right, right. That’s a really good point. Yeah, so it is interesting because you’re picking up on the fact that all this is nuanced. So, even though I could put things into different classes, and we found speeches fall into almost all of these different types, that it’s not a formula. You have to… Part of your speech might address the crossroad, and then you might also rally. Because even though it goes fight, climb, and it looks really linear or sequential there, it’s not. It’s fight climb, fight, climb, fight, climb, fight, climb, fight, climb.

29:48 Michael Port: Well, that’s what raises the stakes, right?

29:49 Nancy Duarte: Yeah, right.

29:49 Michael Port: So you fight, and that produces some action, so you climb, but then you get to another obstacle. You have to fight some more, and then climb. And that’s what’s exciting.

29:58 Nancy Duarte: Yeah. So sometimes, you may be giving like a crossroad speech, but you may have to put a story from the fight story section. It’s not so…

30:07 Michael Port: Yes. It’s not so linear, it’s an artistic process.

30:10 Nancy Duarte: Exactly, exactly.

30:12 Michael Port: Yeah, and the challenging thing is that most people need to give some kind of speech at some point that’s very important, but they may not have the same kind of love for the work that goes into a speech that we do. And I wonder, if you found that and what you have found has helped people start to fall in love with that process and engage more fully in the process, so that the result is better because they enjoy it more. They do more work.

30:46 Nancy Duarte: Yeah, I think in your work too you must hear the same… We’ve had people that have been so transformed, their careers, I had a guy at a huge, biotech company, and he was a manager, he got to director MVP in six months based on how he changed, how he communicated. He just was there, communicated the right way, filled a void, moved up. So we’ve had press that people have made 750 million more dollars changing the way they communicate from our methods. So that’s pretty motivating.

[laughter]

31:21 Nancy Duarte: When you start to raise more money for your non-profit, and you start to see really tangible, dramatic results, that’s motivating. Life is a journey, and if you can scoot through one leg of a journey, and pop into the next one, you accomplish more and get more fruit from life, than if you just stay still.

31:40 Michael Port: And so it sounds like, beginning maybe, you just gotta put your nose to the grindstone, and even if you don’t love it, if you understand what is involved, you do the work. And then when you start to see the rewards of doing the work, you may start to fall in love with this kind of work, and really leverage it even more.

32:04 Nancy Duarte: Right and the payoff, you know because you work with presenters a lot. The payoff is so big. ‘Cause we put a lot of energy into advertising and marketing, and what we’re trying to do, and yeah they get eyeballs and clicks, but a lot of the time, especially in business to business, you’re trying to get two people in a room together around a presentation, a lot of times. And what happens is, we don’t own the information well enough or think enough about it empathetically, to be fully present in the room and create an emotional connection person-to-person. We’re more comfortable putting a slide between you and me, instead of really me thinking empathetically about how I can connect and meet your need. So it’s the moment, it’s the moment of decision which is such a big thing, especially business to business. So anyway, it just fascinates me.

32:54 Michael Port: Let’s talk about arrival, arriving at the summit so to speak, the victory speech and the surrender speech. You gave this great example of Coca-Cola.

33:06 Nancy Duarte: Yeah, I don’t know how old your listeners are, but maybe they’ll remember. [chuckle]

33:11 Michael Port: Oh, they’ll remember 1985, that’s for sure.

[laughter]

33:15 Nancy Duarte: So arrival is funny because the kind of moment you need to create at arrival is a moment of reflection. Yeah, maybe there’s a victory speech, but you also need to do things like honor the heroes. So, you have to reflect, you need to pull out the great stories of endurance, the great stories where they rallied and fought, and you honor the heroes. And then those stories, you can start to re-knit into your culture for your next venture. ‘Cause once you arrive, most likely the organization’s already asking you to go on a new venture scape. So this moment of arrival needs to become codified with stories, and us recalling what happened in the past. So yeah, that’s what an arrival speech would do with a victory speech, or a surrender speech, you don’t always win when you arrive. And people need to hear you humbly apologized or honor them for their effort, even when you lose. So the stories in that are “Savor the win” stories, but then if you lost, there’s a “Learn the lesson” story. And you need to capture all of those.

34:29 Michael Port: And often for many audiences, especially if you are presenting to them as someone senior, or of a higher status, or has done something that they wanna do, often the surrender speech, has even more significance to them than the victory speech.

34:46 Nancy Duarte: Right. Sometimes in every victory there is also some concessions also, which is interesting. But go ahead what were you going to say?

34:53 Michael Port: No, no, no. I was just gonna say, because when we see somebody as different than us, as distinct from us, because they’ve done this great thing, after this great thing, they fought, and they climbed, and they won, and they fought, and they climbed, and they won, we go, “I’ve been fighting, and I’m climbing, and I’m not winning, you’re somehow different.” But if they can hear more about the times when you had to surrender, and then maybe you got up again and kept climbing and fighting, but then you had to surrender again, and then you climbed… And then eventually you’ll get there. But I think, often when we see presenters come and ask for help, they use their origin story a lot. And often the origin story makes them look really good, and it’s not always the most effective way, especially initially to connect with an audience.

35:51 Nancy Duarte: Right yeah, what’s interesting about your question there is, you can see I don’t have origin stories on this map, that’s because a origin story is what we call a universal story, and we’re gonna be writing about that again next. Origin stories and stuff like that are what create your purpose. And it creates why, why you do what you do, what you do, what you do. So I don’t think you whip out the origin story all time. Obviously that’s strategic, and you use it in a time when it needs to be used the right way. But that’s an interesting point, you don’t just go to your go to favorite thing if the person in the room doesn’t care or know it, or if they’ve done their homework, and it’s already on your website they don’t need to hear your origin story. [chuckle]

36:41 Michael Port: Exactly.

36:42 Nancy Duarte: There’s a right and wrong time to whip that one out.

36:44 Michael Port: Yeah. So what about in on-going communication with someone? Oftentimes we’re addressing speeches which have a beginning and an end, and you get to speak during that whole time, and then people sit there and listen, and then it’s done. But, most communication is not like that. Most communication is on going and it’s over time. So how do you suggest trying to bring this particular… And just for a lack of a better word right now, framework, this epic journey structure into on-going communications, so that you can move people through this dream, leap, fight, climb, arrive stages over time, because it’s not just once you give a speech, “Great! Whoo! We’re done. Nice. Let’s ship it.” It doesn’t work that way.

37:42 Nancy Duarte: I would love if life was that easy.

37:45 Michael Port: That’d be would be great.

37:46 Nancy Duarte: Yeah. You know I close the book with a, it’s called “Confessions of a Torch Bearer,” which the concept of “Illuminate,” is the leader carries a torch. So we’re all torch bearers and we have our travellers, who are trying to go on this journey with us, and it takes planning Michael, what happens is we’re reactive a lot of times as communicators. It’s like, “Oh my! I got to go get this speech on Tuesday. “Oh my gosh! I got to go give this thing on Wednesday.” And instead of thinking about with much intention how to move people forward as a system, and that’s what this book is trying to do is, if I have a… You could use it even in transformation of a direct report. And if I’m working with a direct report, I need to really empathetically understand where they’re at. When I say, “Look you really need to develop like this.” They’re gonna either fight me right away or they’re gonna jump in to a personal transformation that’s gonna be so painful, it’s gonna look like a fight and a climb to them. So it’s an empathy model if you could look at it. It’s not only a way to drive toward a movement, but it’s also a way for you to envision what your travelers are feeling along the way. And many leaders don’t really understand how they feel along the way, you know?

39:03 Michael Port: Yeah, I do know. Your company is known for visuals, for slide decks and animations. Really, really well known for this. And obviously as I mentioned in your introduction, you’ve worked with the biggest companies in the world, and created decks for probably 100’s of different people inside those organizations. I have this reputation which is unfounded, but I have this reputation for being anti-slides.

[chuckle]

39:34 Michael Port: Because for many, many years I’ve given speeches without slides. And there are some that I do that have visuals, and then there are some that have absolutely no visuals. And often, speakers who come to us will leave a lot of their slides on the cutting room floor, because we ask people to work on their material without any slides, without any visuals whatsoever, and then if they use visuals, they bring them in over time. Not create a slide deck, and then try to build a presentation around a slide deck. So it’s not the slide deck first, and then you try to figure out what you’re gonna say. But you actually create your material, and then you figure out, “What can we do to make this exceptional, what can we do to add impact here.” And then we get very creative, we use audio and visual and all that kind of stuff, but I got an e-mail into our help desk the other day and this woman said, “I would like to partner with Michael on going out on a crusade for getting rid of slides.” And my communications director wrote back and said, “Michael has no crusade in him. He doesn’t have anything against slides whatsoever.” But many, many people just rely… Use them as a crutch. And often they’re ineffective as a result.

40:51 Michael Port: So, I think that if you can hold an audience’s attention for 60 minutes or 90 minutes, without one single visual, then you know you own that room. Then if you can find ways to add to that speech, that presentation with different technology, audio technology, video technology, et cetera, well then, I think you’ve got something great. So, that’s my perspective. I just wanna give you that. Then tell us, because this is what you do, you’re the best in the world at creating visuals. So, what do you think? Does my theory here make sense to you? Are you with it?

41:31 Nancy Duarte: Oh, yeah.

41:32 Michael Port: You’re not with it?

41:33 Nancy Duarte: No, I think visuals… I have visuals with my slides ’cause my models are so visual. But I think the trap that you’re trying to stop is that people start with their slides. They’re going into a linear tool either Keynote or PowerPoint, and they’re not thinking about the whole. They’re not really speaking from the heart. They wind up putting slides up there, and they use them more as a teleprompter than from speaking from the heart. Some people can actually use them really really well, and some can’t. So we’ve done talks for people where there’s no slides, where we just craft the story, and have them sit on a chair on a stage and tell the story, instead of having slides. So it all just depends. Some of the stuff we’ll do it’ll be 200 foot wide screen and things swoop in and envelop you, and engross you which transports you, right?

42:27 Michael Port: Yeah.

42:28 Nancy Duarte: So visuals can transport you. So it all just depends on the presenter. I’m telling you, sometimes when a projector breaks, sometimes people give the talk of their life.

42:38 Michael Port: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

42:40 Nancy Duarte: So you just gotta know yourself.

42:41 Michael Port: Yeah.

42:41 Nancy Duarte: You just gotta know yourself, and…

42:44 Michael Port: And it will break.

42:45 Nancy Duarte: Realize it you’re using it as a crutch. Yeah. And one day it’ll break.

42:47 Michael Port: Yeah. No doubt. And no doubt. Yeah. So, the other thing I think is each one of us wants to identify our strengths as a performer, and then really work into those. So, for example, if you’re not a visual designer, but you’re a great performer, if you’re not gonna use… If you’re not gonna work with people that… The kind of people that are at your firm, say, if you’re gonna try to do this on your own, you’re not necessarily gonna get the kind of results that you would need to get in order to make it worth your time to create that material, and then actually use it. So if you’re a great performer and a subject matter expert, but you’re not a visual artist, then you need to get help if you’re gonna use visual tools.

43:41 Nancy Duarte: Exactly. ‘Cause it’ll backfire on ya. It’ll become a distraction. They won’t be focused. Yeah. Yeah. Having a pro come and just listen to what you wanna say. That’s what we do. That’s a lot of our kick off, is we listen to what you wanna say.

43:55 Michael Port: Yeah.

43:56 Nancy Duarte: And we sketch what we hear while you’re saying it. Which is very different than… And then we take these sketches like story boards and then we go off and create slides that support what you’re gonna say instead of… Things creep in. Sometimes there’s this goofy strategy slide that everybody at a company uses and this other goofy thing. And what happens is, it tumbles through time for a year, year and a half and they say a dialogue to it, that’s not even anything to do with the slide itself. It’s just like a visual trigger for them to say this completely unrelated thing. And so you just need to audit yourself, and murder some of your favorite slides.

44:31 Michael Port: Yeah.

44:31 Nancy Duarte: And go back to the heart of what you’re trying to say.

44:36 Michael Port: When somebody comes to you and they wanna… Let’s say a CEO, comes to you and wants you to put together their visuals for their, say, annual event, the first thing I imagine you do, or actually, let me just ask you, what’s the first thing you do with them?

44:52 Nancy Duarte: It depends on how far they’ve taken the content. So, we have different things we do. We have this one day intensive where the exec himself or herself has to be in the room, and we get through the whole thing including a story board, but it’s intense, and it has to be the speaker in the room. ‘Cause a lotta times we get a call and the exec themselves say doesn’t wanna be involved, so they’ll send their marketing person.

[laughter]

45:17 Nancy Duarte: And you talk to them, and then they believe they know what they want. Then you run it by ’em. They kill everything and then they try again, and the exec kills everything.

45:25 Michael Port: Right.

45:26 Nancy Duarte: So it all depends on who’s showing up, and then what kind of process they, and, or, how involved the exec wants to be. So, that’s why these one day intensives are super successful too. Otherwise, we collect, collect, we will break… Get everything that you say. We’ll break it all apart. We’ll add persuasive story structure to it, and then we send it back not as slides, but we have this other format. It’s kind of a screen writing format where we say, “The visual might be this,” and we make them focus on the words.

45:58 Michael Port: Yeah. Sure.

46:00 Nancy Duarte: ‘Cause we don’t want them to start saying, “Oh, but blue isn’t my favorite color.” We really want them to focus on the words.

46:06 Michael Port: Right.

46:06 Nancy Duarte: So we’ll have loose sketches of what might be on the slide, and we’re trying to get them to really focus on the structure and the words, and then we produce the slides.

46:12 Michael Port: What percentage of people when they come to you are ready for the visuals? What percentages in…

46:21 Nancy Duarte: Oh, a lot.

46:22 Michael Port: Yeah.

46:22 Nancy Duarte: A lot. So that’s I guess where the pricing model happens. We could start from nothing, or you’re a bright guy. You got your stuff. You’ve rehearsed it. You love it, and you just need a designer to clean it up. So I would say that’s about 60% of our work too, is you just send it over, and if you have an established brand, or if you don’t have an established brand, we just work with it, and then we’ll recreate your brilliant thinking. You might not need our brains. You may. My designers all work, and they’ll re-concept stuff. So we could just say, “Oh, polish it.” Which is different than, “Look at it and tell me if things could be re-expressed visually differently.” Or “Turn these words into pictures.” We could look at the whole thing, and have it be all of visual expression where my designers just really think through everything and re-express it. Or they just buff and polish what you’ve already got there.

47:15 Nancy Duarte: If you have four boxes as quadrants, we’re not gonna rethink it. We could just polish it up, or if you have four boxes as quadrants, we could say, ‘Hey, did you know there is this starfish metaphor that would be way better right there, and that you’re not using the best, blah, blah, blah.

47:29 Michael Port: Yeah.

47:29 Nancy Duarte: There is this analogy here, here, here that would… So it just depends. It just depends on the depth of service that you want.

47:36 Michael Port: Do people often ask you for advice on how to overcome their nerves?

47:41 Nancy Duarte: Yeah. We’re actually working on a piece right now, too. ‘Cause we haven’t spoken a lot about that, but we have some good research about the fear of public speaking and stuff, so I did. I was so smitten. I posted… We’re on the same author, private author page for…

47:58 Michael Port: Yeah.

48:00 Nancy Duarte: Put on by Mitch Joel, who we all love. And, I queried the group, “Do you have any rituals you do to help you get over fear or to embolden you?” So, if you look at the fight phase, that going into a speaking situation, your fight or flight instincts kick in, because you think you may be attacked. You think, “Someone might not like me. Someone may reject me.” And so, our fight or flight instinct kicks in. And so, I queried the group. I have my own ritual that I do. When I go to a big event, and they’re like, “Oh, you can hang out in the green room.” If it’s like a freaking circus in there, I go back stage and find a quiet stool to sit on, ’cause I have to go through my talk in my head very carefully, and then I do deep breathing to calm myself down. Whereas someone like Tony Robbins…

48:45 Michael Port: Yeah.

48:46 Nancy Duarte: He jumps on a trampoline, dips in 57 degree water for one minute. And then, he beats his chest and fist pumps, and then he jumps on the stage. You know?

48:55 Michael Port: Don’t forget the spin, right before he goes on stage.

48:57 Nancy Duarte: Oh yeah, he does a spin, yeah. Yeah. And so, everyone does something different. And even though he would say, “Oh, it’s not ’cause I’m scared.” The whole reason he does those little sequence of events right before, is ’cause he thinks it’s lucky. Or, he thinks it’s making him more confident. And, all of those things are exercises in not being afraid.

49:16 Michael Port: That’s so interesting, because I watched… I’d never seen Tony in speak public. I’ve never been to an event that he’s done. But, I watched the Netflix documentary about him.

49:25 Nancy Duarte: Me, too. I did too.

49:27 Michael Port: And, one of the questions he was asked. I think it was towards the end was, “So, do you ever get nervous before you go out there? And he just took a long pause.

49:36 Nancy Duarte: And he just smiled.

49:37 Michael Port: He looked at the interviewer, smiled, and said, “No.” [laughter]

49:39 Nancy Duarte: But, clearly, he used to. Because he has this very, very complicated pre-stage ritual he does. Of course he was in it. So, he is maybe over it, but why does he have to exactly dip in 57 degree water? Why does he have to jump on a mini tramp? Why does he have to beat his chest, and then twirl, and then… Do you know what I mean?

50:01 Michael Port: Yeah sure. You know…

50:01 Nancy Duarte: It’s interesting.

50:02 Michael Port: If you’re doing research on rejection and fear, you might be interested in talking to the husband of my communications director. He currently is the interim chair of the Behavioral Psych Department at Penn State. And, he came and spoke to some of our graduate students. These are students that work with us over a very long period of time, on a regular basis. It’s set up like our master’s programs were, a conservatory style. So they work on voice, and speech, and movement, and all these skill sets that take a while to master. And, when they were going out in the world afterwards, they’re gonna face a lot of rejection, an enormous amount. And his area of specialty is rejection. That’s what he studies.

50:47 Michael Port: And one of the things he said, One of the students Jon Vroman asked him, and I thought this was a wonderful question. He said, “What’s the most interesting study that you’ve come across in the last year? The thing that surprised you the most?” I thought what a great question. And, he said, “You know there was a study done by a doctor, who was studying rejection. And, the results were fascinating, because when you’re rejected, the part of the brain that fires up, is the same part of the brain that fires up when you feel physical pain.

51:21 Michael Port: So, one of the things they found is that when you’re rejected, you actually feel physical pain before you even decide whether or not you care, about whether you’re rejected. Which is why we get upset when people reject us, who we don’t even know. I mean, it makes no sense. Someone rejects us, we have no idea who they are. They don’t even know us. You know, we call up AT&T, and it feels like the person on the other end of the phone is rejecting us, and we feel terrible about ourselves. It makes no sense whatsoever, but it’s this physiological response we have to it. And so, this doctor did a study, where an hour before folks were to be rejected, he had them take Tylenol. And, the other group didn’t take anything. And, the group that took Tylenol an hour before they were rejected, felt less rejected.

52:15 Nancy Duarte: How interesting.

52:19 Michael Port: That’s fascinating. So, Michael wasn’t saying that.

52:22 Nancy Duarte: Like pain, relieving the nerves, or…

52:24 Michael Port: Yes. But, they tried it with Advil also, and it didn’t work. And, the reason it didn’t work with Advil, is because Advil, I don’t know the science behind it. But Advil, doesn’t work on the brain. It works on the body, the muscles, or the nerve endings themselves in the body. Whereas, the Tylenol effects the brains processing of the information that it gets about pain. So, and I can find out that specific study for you. I can…

52:57 Nancy Duarte: I’d love it.

52:58 Michael Port: Yeah, I’ll ask Michael and get you the research on it, but, now he said, “Listen, I’m not saying that if you take Tylenol everyday, you’re gonna never feel rejected anymore. But, it’s just a demonstration of how, even a little bit of numbness around the pain centers in the brain that feel physical pain, can have an effect on how you respond to it psychologically.”

53:21 Nancy Duarte: That makes total sense to me.

53:24 Michael Port: Yeah. And, that is the big fear we have, when we go out in front of people. That they’re gonna reject us. What if people are listening right now, and they’re like, “I hate these two. They’re terrible. They’re horrible. I want to kill them.” I had a review of one of my books and a woman said she wanted to slap me. I’m like, “What did I do? I’m trying to write a book that’s helpful. Why do you want to slap me?” I feel terrible…

53:46 Nancy Duarte: I don’t read reviews. I can’t read reviews. I just look at the stars. And, as long as it’s above four, I’m happy again. But, people will e-mail me and be like, “You know this guy thinks your book’s cruddy just ’cause you’re a woman.” I’m like, “Oh, you’re kidding.” So, Amazon did take that one down.

54:02 Michael Port: Oh, that’s good.

54:03 Nancy Duarte: [chuckle] I guess females can’t write books.

54:05 Michael Port: Yeah, right. Exactly. Well, actually interestingly enough, the debate was last night and you saw two different types of speeches in general, you saw vision and you saw revolution. You saw one candidate saying like, “Here’s my vision” and that’s the way they approached their material. The other one is like, “Here’s my revolution, here’s what I wanna break”.

54:27 Nancy Duarte: That’s a really interesting insight, ’cause people keep saying, “Will you comment on the debate?” And it’s hard to say anything that’s relatively neutral. [chuckle]

54:34 Michael Port: Yes.

54:35 Nancy Duarte: And that’s very insightful. Thank you, Mike.

54:37 Michael Port: Oh, well, thank you very much. Well, just ’cause I read your book and I just saw it in the material I took from it. So, I just wanna thank you so much for spending this time. Of course, anybody could search you on Google and probably 5,000 things will come up about you but there’s some links that we’re gonna put in the show notes.

54:58 Nancy Duarte: Thank you.

55:00 Michael Port: One of them is to the Torchbearer Toolkit, which you can pick up and of course the link will be there. There are also some free books that you’ve done. One’s called “Slidedocs,” we’ll put the downloadable book in the free templates link up on the show notes also. Then there are some other documents, a diagrammer, the free presentation diagrams and workshops, public or onsite workshops. So, those aren’t documents, those are the different things they can go and do with you. So, free presentation diagrams and also workshops, and we’ll put all of those links up there.

55:34 Nancy Duarte: Thank you. Thank you, you’ve been a great host. I had a good time and learned stuff, too, so that’s fun.

55:39 Michael Port: Oh, well, thank you so much. And there is anything else you wanna share before we wrap up?

55:43 Nancy Duarte: No, just that I really appreciate this, and I hope your audience just has a great day. I don’t have anything to add, you were very thorough.

55:52 Michael Port: Well, I have no doubt everybody’s gonna go buy “Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies and Symbols” by of course Nancy Duarte, and her writing parter on this book, Patty Sanchez.

56:02 Nancy Duarte: Patty Sanchez, yeah. She’s awesome.

56:04 Michael Port: So, keep thinking big about who you are and what you offer the world. Thank you so much for joining us. I never take it for granted, I know Nancy doesn’t take it for granted. You give us the opportunity to be in service, and allow us to do our work. So, thanks so much, and we’ll see you next time. Bye for now.