Nancy Duarte Dives Into Her New Book, “Data Stories”

Present Beyond Measure Ep. 050

INTERVIEW WITH NANCY DUARTE

Nancy Duarte Dives Into Her New Book, “Data Stories”

Today’s guest has played a pivotal role in my data presentation journey.

One of her books was a game-changer in my presentation journey, and I have cited her in almost every keynote, workshop, and training course I’veever created and having the opportunity to interview her wasa defining show moment.

Nancy Duarte is the founder of Duarte, Inc., a global leader behind some of the most influential visual messages in business and culture. It is the largest design firm in Silicon Valley and also the fifth largest female employer in the area.

Nancy is a communication expert and as a persuasion specialist, and she has she cracked the code for effectively incorporating story into business communications.

She has been a speaker at a number of Fortune 500 companies and counts 8 of the top 10 brands in her firm’s clientele.

She is the author of six books and today, she shares a wealth of information about her brand new book, DataStory: Explain Data and Inspire Action Through Story.

Tune in to this episode where Nancy shares amazing and actionable tips and tricks for storytelling in data, reaching stakeholders and communicating effectively with the executive suite while also sharing about her new book and some of the mind-blowing concepts she introduces.

In This Episode, You’ll Learn…

  • The importance of being able to not only understanding data, but also to communicate the findings effectively with your audience using storytelling.
  • Best practices for getting seen as a leader and inspiration to others in your workplace.
  • The three acts of telling your data story.
  • How stakeholders and people in the executive suite think and how you can best reach them in a positively efficient way.

How to Keep Up with Nancy:

People, Blogs, and Resources Mentioned:

Nancy’s Data Viz Upgrade:

  • If you create an agenda slide, during your presentation you can press 1 and Enter and it will take you back to your first slide. On your first slide, have an interactive panel there so when stakeholders ask a question, you can click on that panel and jump to the exact section that supports what you are saying.

Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining me. Have some feedback you’d like to share, or a question for Nancy? Leave a note in the comments below, and we’ll get back to you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the left of the post.

If you liked what you heard, I would love if you could leave me a rating or review in iTunes. Ratings & reviews are extremely appreciated and very important in the rankings algorithm. The more ratings, the better chance of fellow practitioners getting to hear this helpful information!

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes to get automatic updates and never miss a show.

A very, very special thank you to Nancy for joining me this week. And as always, viz responsibly, my friends.

Do you have a burning question for Nancy about how to turn your data into a story?

EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

Lea Pica: Bonjour. Lea Pica here, today’s guest is one of the pre-eminent worldwide experts on data presentation. A big deal. Stay tuned to find out who’s leaving us speechless on the Present Beyond Measure Show. Episode 50.

Lea Pica: Hey there. Welcome to the 50th episode of the Present Beyond Measure Show the big 5-0, Very exciting! This is the only podcast at the intersection of presentation, data visualization, and digital marketing and analytics. This is the place to be if you’re ready to make maximum impact and create credibility through thoughtfully presented insights and ideas.

Lea Pica: So I’ve got a ton of stuff planned for you on this episode, but the big question I have for you today is I’d like to know what your day looks like tomorrow.

Lea Pica: Because if you happen to be free at either 2 p.m. or 7 p.m. Eastern, then I would love for you to join me for my brand new webinar. The three secrets to presenting compelling data stories in PowerPoint and become the in-demand source for insights in your organization without putting your audience to sleep.

Lea Pica: I know that sounds impossible. Powerpoint. Blech, keeping them awake? yeah right? Well, I get it. And I promise you that with these three secrets, anything is possible when presenting your valuable insights. And these secrets were not taught to any of us in business school or marketer or analyst school. And they took me over 10 years to curate and integrate. But it doesn’t have to take you that long and you don’t have to make the same mistakes I made. So visit the link on the show, notes page for the webinar or visit leapica.com/3secrets. That’s number three. And I scheduled two presentations that day because I know you’re super busy at work and I wanted to give you the best chance of attending. So I look forward to seeing you there.

Lea Pica: Ok, guys. Now for today’s interview. Our guest is someone I have been chomping at the bit to have on my show since I created it.

Lea Pica: Her work has played a pivotal role in my data presentation journey that started over 10 years ago. I’ve cited her in almost every single keynote workshop and training course that I’ve created and having her on was like, whew, defining show moment. All right. Let’s just get to it, shall we?

Lea Pica: Hello Hello! Today’s guest. I’m so excited about beyond anything I could imagine. She is a bestselling author and CEO of Duarte Inc. There’s a little hint for you, which is the global leader behind some of the most influential visual messages in business and culture, which has created more than a quarter of a million presentations. Like really? Think about that for a minute. She is a communications expert who’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Wired, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Time Magazine and CNN. And she’s written five bestselling and award-winning books, two of which are on my must-read curriculum list. And she is the author of a brand new book I am busy devouring at the moment called “DataStory: Explain Data and Inspire Action Through Story”. So the title pretty much says it all, which is why this is so perfect for this show. And I am just beyond humbled and thrilled to welcome Nancy Duarte. Hello.

Nancy Duarte: Hello. It’s so good to be here.

Lea Pica: Oh, thank you so much for taking the time. So just for a little backstory, I’ve been a fan of yours ever since I discovered RESONATE. I had sort of this watershed moment around presentations and I picked up presentations and it and slide-ology and it kind of snowballed from there. And in particular, your single idea per slide philosophy completely turned everything I knew about presenting on its head. It just broke my whole mind open. And even though it was a really challenging philosophy to walk away from bullet points and overstuffed slides and charts, I never looked back. So I would actually love to have you share your origin story of how you became and how your company became such an authoritative voice, you know, in the world on telling stories.

Nancy Duarte: Now, I remember when I saw my first professional 35mm slide years ago and I just thought it was so glistening and pretty and projected and I didn’t know we would go into this business. It was just this fluke that my husband was a technical illustrator. And this is we’re talking the 80s. So we were probably the only people in about a two-mile radius that even had a Macintosh.

Nancy Duarte: So we fell in and we fell hard. And I remember there was this one moment where I realized that we had been making slides improperly and that was when I had this big project for Apple. And the guy was like, now going to make a big point right here, like big. And I said, well, how big is the point? He was in fact, it’s so big. I want you to just put the word big. Really big. Just slide with the word big. And we did it. I remember the audience reaction was just so dramatic. That’s just because there was just one great big word on the slide. But what we did is kind of went back to the future like 35mm slides in olden days. They were highly conceptual. They were visually remarkable. They were like howling. And and and you had to finish your slides like two weeks ahead of time, which that never happens today. No. So it was like we went back to the future.

Nancy Duarte: I actually went to the Stanford Library and got old old scripts of General Electric. The CEO of General Electric in the archives are old speeches and slides. And when you look at them, they’re so simple and so conceptual and so profound in they’re all like hand-drawn, but they’re stunning. And I just feel like we kind of went back to the future and making everything simple and just making one point per slide. The way we used to do in the olden days.

Lea Pica: And that’s that’s amazing to hear because when I think of the olden days, I think back to college where I learned to present and it was all about the overhead slide, the overhead projector, and transparency. And it was about shoving as much on there with an erase pen as we could or a Sharpie. And, you know, just placing it and displaying it. But it was I wasn’t even sure what purpose it was serving.

Lea Pica: So it’s so interesting to hear that there was another way, maybe even before now that now.

Nancy Duarte: 35 millimeter slide carousel.

Lea Pica: Yeah. We’ll have to check that out and see if there’s some writers.

Nancy Duarte: I’m definitely about a decade older than you and I guess just established that.

Lea Pica: Only not in here, Nancy, not in here. So tell us who should read this book. Like who’s going to benefit the most? What kinds of situations are they working with incorporate, not and with data?

Nancy Duarte: It’s a great question. So I think that it appeals to almost the two extremes, people that are in data that are nervous about communicating it and people who communicate all the time that are nervous about communicating data. So it kind of addresses the polar opposite. And every role, almost every role, like 67 percent, was the last statistic of rolls are data enabled.

Nancy Duarte: That means pretty much it’s inevitable that we’re all going to be making decisions from or finding opportunities in the data. So this book doesn’t address exploring data like it starts at the assumption that you’ve already explored the data. You found a problem or you found an opportunity. I mean, that’s the two reasons we collected them to find a problem or to find an opportunity is pretty finite. I would love especially your listenership if they have other ways or reasons, we would explore data. But I just don’t know what they are outside of finding an opportunity or finding a problem. So once you found the starts that I found a problem or an opportunity in the data and now I need to communicate it, that’s where this book starts. So it doesn’t get into exploring it. It touches on the bias. It touches on certain assumptions that touch on those things. But it really is a lot about what do I do now that I found this in the data and how do I communicate it up and how do I communicate it broadly.

Lea Pica: I love that. And I want to touch on and reflect something that you’ve touched on that I think is really important for people to understand. Is the 60 percent of roles being data enabled. So I came across a quote from a forester. State of industry prediction, where 25 percent of the hires and promotions that would happen this year would be in some way driven by data storytelling skills. And I thought that was incredible because I love it. There is so much focus on the hard skills of crunching the numbers, statistical analysis, using the actual platforms and tools. But when it comes to actually stepping in a room full of human beings and understanding the dynamics going on silently and outwardly and giving them a moment where they think about something, they learn something new, they feel propelled to move forward. This is not necessarily the sort of manifesto that we walk into that room with.

Lea Pica: And that’s why this book gets me so excited.

Nancy Duarte: Yeah, I’m going to look for that Forester study there, definitely Jeff Weiner, who’s the CEO of LinkedIn. So they have the data of all the job openings posted and all the candidates to fill them. And it’s vast. The soft skills gap is vast and 1.6 million. And then of the jobs that are simply oral communication, it’s a million of the 1.6 million gaps is verbal communication skills. It’s huge.

Nancy Duarte: And then like another 240,000 or something like that, are written communication skills. So it doesn’t do much good free for us to geek out about the data. No one can communicate the findings. Right. It still is a communication job. Right.

Lea Pica: Exactly. And I think a lot of the practitioners I run into are very comfortable in that number-crunching role. And there’s a lot of the pieces of the presentation process that scare them. I mean, that’s what the supposedly the number one fear right over death. But I I love to encourage anyone to think that they are actually capable of communicating data effectively and that it could be a crucial piece to designing the career that they want.

Nancy Duarte: Yeah, it definitely is.

Lea Pica: I love it. So I’d love to just dive right into this book. So one of the things we talked about showing how important this skill is and of course, you know, we touched on this that some folks think it’s kind of like a bonus skill, or a nice to have. So for me, the heart of your book kind of laid within this quote, “No matter what your role, your career trajectory will get a big lift from knowing how to first understand. Then explain findings in data well. If you learn how to communicate clearly and persuasively, you will stand out from others.” So what’s been your experience in seeing the difference from just trying to communicate? But then what happens when what you’re talking about really happens? What are the pieces that go into that?

Nancy Duarte: Yeah. So it is kind of in the book it’s done a little bit like a career path, right where you go from being an individual contributor who can dig in and create findings in the data. And some people are more comfortable flicking it over and making it so someone else makes those decisions. And that is fine. They’ll stay possibly stay an individual contributor for a long time if they don’t at some point in time decide that, hey, I think I need to explain this. And that’s when you move into a strategic advisor. So one of the reasons that that leap is kind of hard is because it takes a little bit of intuition. It takes sometimes you don’t have all of the data to move forward, but you have the data is basically shaping a potential future or it’s shaping a potential projection. And sometimes it’s hard for people to say, you know what, I’m going to take what I know in my heart and take what I know in my head and combine and create this new future once you do that over and over and over as a strategic adviser, next thing you know, they’ll be asking you to become a leader. So I think you. And then you wind up inspiring others through how you communicate. So definitely takes people on a lot of different paths when they become the commuter skater of the data. And, you know, one of the things that Jeff Wiener said in his talk about skills gaps is that AI It’s one of the few things artificial intelligence cannot replace.

Nancy Duarte: It cannot do it. Yeah.

Nancy Duarte: If you like, some of the tools and some of the tools are starting to incorporate a AI. Now, artificial intelligence can start to make some conclusions and observations about the data. Well, if your whole job is making observations and conclusions about the data that can one day to a certain level be replaced by a computer, which would be sad. So I think investing in communication skills is the one thing that creates this threshold in someone’s career to cross over into becoming a strategic advisor.

Lea Pica: I absolutely agree with you. And of course, you know, in some of my practices, some people have approached and said, you know, that this is all going to be obsolete. You know, their machines will be telling the stories. And for me, I don’t believe we’re there yet when a machine can recreate the empathy and insight that a human being can offer to another human being. And if you’re really thinking about the roles that could get replaced, I think the ones that require the most machine learning elements, analysis, and crunching, those are the ones that I I’d be most nervous about at differentiating yourself with this skill set.

Nancy Duarte: I mean, they’re already starting to serve up observations around the data. That’s I mean, it’s here right at the moment that you have to say, oh, here’s what the data said. What is the action we need to take? I do. I don’t think a computer will be able to pick the right action that takes intuition. Yeah

Lea Pica: We’re talking about like Knight Rider and Starship Enterprise level calculating. I haven’t seen it yet. But, you know, I loved how you phrased it into the path of heads down contributor to Inspiring Change where it’s exploring the data versus explaining. So I thought that that was a fantastic way to think about it, like try to expand on both levels, you know? Yeah. So something that I’ve been teaching about recently is how to approach different stakeholder personae based on their level of technical savvy and business expertise. A lot of times people ask how do you talk to different types of excuse me, different types of stakeholders in a meeting when they all want different things? They all speak different languages. So obviously from you, I learned that understanding the audience is crucial to success. I love the section that you had on understanding the metrics of success that our stakeholders are measured by. We don’t often remember that they’re being measured just like we are. So why is this so important and how do presenters go about understanding that?

Nancy Duarte: Yeah, I love that. A lot of times when we’re digging through the data, we find that problem or opportunity. Like I was saying most of the time, you have to communicate it up and a decision needs to be made and then that decision is made and then it creates a bunch of activities for a bunch of other people. So that’s why I felt like specifically for data, I felt like I needed to have something in there about communicating up what’s on the hearts and minds of exactly that all time. What keeps them up at night. Specifically the executive suite.

Nancy Duarte: And then I just don’t know if it’s the first time or not, but I definitely know that having an executive write about what an executive’s function is is was important. Years ago I went to like a CEO group thing and one of the first speakers that came to the CEO group where we would get together and help each other with our businesses. The very first speaker said, what’s the job description of a CEO? And people are like, Oh, no, nobody’s ever I don’t know. We were CEOs, but none of us knew what a job description when me and over the years, as I’ve tumbled through time and worked in the C-suite of public companies, we could actually collect and figure out what they’re all being measured by, like what’s the same across all of them. And then that’s one of the spreads in the book is if you find something in data and it appeals to these three things, then it’s going to the executive suite. You need to understand how they’re being measured, because if it doesn’t appeal to these three things, maybe it doesn’t need to go to the executive suite for approval.

Lea Pica: Interesting. So deciding, helping filter out what you actually need to share can it can help because I know one of the issues pretty systemic. Issues I see in our field and I used to do this, too, is what I call the kitchen sink presentation, where every single metric I could possibly find I would dump in there and sort of a random collection and just hope that something’s stuck. But using that as a filter for what matters to the audience could be really valuable. So what if how can presenters start to understand, like learn what those metrics are? Because I know a lot of times, especially the sea level, but any sort of executive or client can sometimes feel unapproachable for a presenter. So how can they step forward to try to get to know them better in that way?

Nancy Duarte: I think there’s one of the important things is to understand how they process information. Like I have a client who The board of directors. He’s the head of. He’s the chairman of the whole board. And they’re like, never, ever, ever give him anything that’s not in a table.

Nancy Duarte: And it can be black or red, like, you know, you just got to know who you’re talking to. And that may sound like a ridiculous thing, but they’re a multibillion-dollar company, right? That’s everything’s tables and red or black ink. You really need to know who you’re talking to. And it’s interesting because you were saying something about, you know, you’ve got all these charts and you want to cram em all in because you have them. And in this book, I posit that you can actually cram them all in. But call it an appendix. Right. You’re married to. Right. It could be three to 10 to 15 slides. Make it skimmable. Make it easy to process. Have your conclusions there. Make it clear what the action is. You just make it really clear and tight. You can have freakin three hundred slides in the appendix. Call it an appendix, making it an optional read right. Some people love that stuff. Right. And it also shows that you did a lot of homework. Eventually what would happen is that it can get shorter, shorter.

Nancy Duarte: They just start trusting you. So you don’t have to show as much evidence that. But the more and more and more you become more and more of a strategic advisor, the less evidence they want. I have a gal that I know who actually can text a recommendation from data to the CEO on the corporate jet company and get approvals because this person knows they’ve done their homework. So you don’t have to display your hummocks like we did. We did Barth Right. You can do the math or you can show how you did your math. And so for a while, you have to show the math, right? Like you had to when we were learning math. Show your math to your teacher and then they wind up understanding. You really know it. You get a move on to the next principal. So it’s kind of same with telling a data story where you kind of do have to show your math. It doesn’t hurt, but you don’t have to show it in the front where you’re actually made a recommendation. Yeah. So it’s kind of like you’re too young. We already defined to our age difference.

Nancy Duarte: In the olden days, we used to do these printed annual reports and the annual report would have this front section that was kind of the glossy human interest. This is how we help human flourishing and this is all we did for the world and was this glossy paper. And then the bulk of the what’s the 10-K and stuff like that was matte black and white. And it had all the charts and the dense prose. So if you think of that as a metaphor, you should put kind of the dimmable briefing version in the front. And if they want to really dig deep into the numbers, it’s there in an appendix and they can do that.

Lea Pica: Oh, that is an interesting metaphor. Exactly, because what are people going to want to start with? The way that I like to liken it is if Game of Thrones opened one of their episodes with an executive summary and some charts and telling you everything that was gonna happen about dragons and everyone dying. You probably wouldn’t watch it. Right. But it’s that human story piece, that critical upfront. And I actually teach something similar. There’s the TEDTalk requirement. Every TEDTalk requires a through-line, which is this one single idea that every single idea can hook onto into your talk, which is definitely not what happens a lot in the corporate arena. So when I’m kind of testing to see any idea should be included in the main piece. I imagine it hooking onto a rope that’s this through-line. And if it can’t hook on, guess where it goes. Hmm. Right.

Nancy Duarte: Yeah. We call that a big idea. My girlfriend, Victoria LaBaum. Yeah. She came up through acting. And she’d come up with that line concept to connecting it to acting quite like it. But a decade ago I guess that’s when I met her. So definitely it works for the story. It works for presenting. And you have to use it as a filter to filter out. It’s just as important to filter out. Yes. As it is. Yeah. So once you’ve gone you with your journey through data, you found the opportunity and then you figure out the action to take from that opportunity. Let’s say that would be your big idea or your through-line. But that’s the thing that everything needs to hang from. Or as it shouldn’t be in the talk or it shouldn’t be in the front end of that.

Lea Pica: Yeah, exactly. I love getting different names for things because it helps kind of give different visuals that people can use. So actually this is a really good Segway into two questions. I’ve waited for years to ask you. No, no, no pressure. So there’s kind of two requests types that we get from stakeholders. And when being asked on how to handle these, I’ve kind of given my best shot. But I’ve always been curious how, you know, the ringleaders do it. One of the requests is you actually gave a great example, a stakeholder asks for all the numbers in a table and, you know, in the background that I’ve learned with Stephen Few and other tables are like the kiss of death in a live presentation for visual reasons. So at some point do we just give what our stakeholders are asking for because they’re comfortable with it? Or do we try to inspire push through a new paradigm because they don’t necessarily know what’s best for them?

Nancy Duarte: Hmm. Hmm hmm. That’s a good question. What’s interesting about the example I gave you is the tables are like the way communication goes up and down the organization. They don’t necessarily present them in a public presentation, but it’s like the lingua franca, the visual way that everybody processes report quickly. So what’s interesting is, is I do think internally there are stakeholders. You have your board, you have your partners, you have your investors.

Nancy Duarte: Right. How do you do an earnings call? How do you represent that? There’s just a lot of data that an organization has to represent, not just internally, which can be a little bit more like whatever is the internal shorthand. But the minute you go out to stakeholders, the minute you go broader, then you have to change. You have to make it consumable by more constituents. So I get this question kind of a lot. It’s like if you are a biochemist and you’re solving cancer, right, you can go to a conference and everything can be complex, logarithmic the same way all the other cancer researchers. To them, it is a visual shorthand to them. This is how we process our data. So they’re in a situation with their peers, with their industry. And you can talk visual shorthand by having what you and I might seem to be more complicated charts. But the minute that biochemist shows up to talk to a group of women who are recovering from breast cancer, they sure as better not talk that way.

Nancy Duarte: Like translate all these findings into a way that’s empathetic and understanding and clear. Right. So so I look at some pretty complex things can be visual shorthand, but the minute you go with a broad audience, you gotta turn it into a pie, a bar or a line. It’s just not the pie. It could be a waterfall chart to just parts. But it’s like that’s it. That’s it. It’s a common classic shared understanding of how you read a chart and you have to convert it to that. When you speak to a broad audience.

Lea Pica: That makes sense using as commonly spoken in a language as possible.

Nancy Duarte: Exactly. A shared language.

Lea Pica: I love that. And by the way, Nancy’s book has an amazing section on choosing the right chart. For your particular message. So it’s an amazing resource for that. That’s another big question that a lot of my followers ask. So then here’s the second request. Always been curious. A lot of stakeholders ask to receive the deck prior to the actual meeting. Like as a pre-read, because they want to make sure that they know what happened and they know what to ask. So I have lots of opinions on that request and a process around it. But I want to understand what your perspective is.

Nancy Duarte: That depends on who your stakeholder is. So if my stakeholder is someone who’s called me to do a public talk or talk to their company, a lot of times they want my deck so they can get the technology ready, put it on their machine, make sure the fonts work. The movie’s playback. That’s one form of a stakeholder. Another form might if it’s the executive suite and they want to pre-read, you better give them a pre-read. Just do what they say. So my learning style people here know that if they have an important meeting and they want my feedback, they should send a slide doc as a read ahead. I always read it before the meeting the night before. I make a note. I literally, yeah, I kill a tree. I print it. I write physical notes because I’m at my computer all day. So I enjoy going home with a small stack and I read the paper. It feels like I’m reading a book by getting through it. And then we talk about the different. We spend the whole meeting talking about the gaps. They don’t have to take time reading it. I don’t have, you know. And I understand it. So that’s my way of working. If you are it’s kind of weird. If you’re talking to venture capitalists and you’re sending them something here in the valley, they don’t work under an NDA. I’d be very careful. I would not send anything ahead because some of them steal ideas, open up companies the very next Monday. So you just gotta know. So you got to know who you know and you got to know the right people before I would send anything ahead that has a jaw-dropping new idea. And I wouldn’t let that float around digital. I would have somebody be my sponsor or my representative to the v.c world so that you make sure the ones that don’t rip each other off don’t repeat, just switch. I guess I’m still getting too. It depends on the audience. It depends on your stakeholders and it depends on how they work. So I send read ahead. I don’t have a problem with that. I send agendas ahead of time. I let my stakeholders change the agenda. I let them shape it, you know. So I’ll say this is what I think would be the best use of our time, you know, and then and then. Do you like to read ahead? Do you like this? Do you like to follow up? And I let them choose. Especially if it’s customer, especially if it’s a customer. I let the customer drive how the meetings run.

Lea Pica: That’s great. And, you know, it helps me reflect because I’ve had a slightly different philosophy, but I’m always malleable where a lot of times I. I wondered if the pre-read requests were coming from a trust, a lack of trust issue where they weren’t exactly sure they were going to get what they were hoping to. So they would make sure to read everything in advance so that they could focus on the gaps exactly like what you just said. And then when going into that room, you’re trying to use storytelling techniques like anticipation and suspense and things like that. But they already know the story.

Nancy Duarte: I see it more like a sales cycle or something. And you’re kind of talking about a bit of a sales kind of situation or?

Lea Pica: Not necessarily, just more like walking in and saying, OK, this is our quarterly readout. We found some really interesting insights for you first. This is what we found. This is why we think it’s happening. And this is how, you know, we plan on approaching it. But with slide builds and showing like we found this at first, but then we found this incorporating those ways felt like the presenter was really the narrator and the guide. And that role was a little bit compromised if they learn the whole story in advance. So that’s why I’m curious.

Nancy Duarte: What was interesting as I grappled with that when I was writing the book because there are two different energies around why we need to communicate. One of them is getting decisions made quickly, decisions made quickly. So if it’s in service of making a different decision, then the fourth section of the book, which is making the data stick. So you’re communicating up and down an organization to the board to this to that to get it to a decision. Once the decisions made, that spins out a lot of action, a lot of activities, a lot of things need to happen based on that decision. That’s when you need to inspire with data. That’s when the reveals and the suspense and the up and down the bill. The rise and fall of tension is when you’re trying to get people to take action from the decision that was just made by, you know, through presenting up and down, then decisions are made. So I’ve noticed that in an organization if you’re trying to get to decision making quickly, that’s about what the first three-quarters of this is to get to the decision. A decision is made. Then we use time. We use the reveal we use we can change the emotional energy around data is still data, but revealing it over time adds that suspense and surprise and all those other elements are when you’re talking to a broader audience and trying to do like organizational change or an earnings call. I mean, like those kinds of things are over time just by the nature of it. So you can build some of that is when the default is to use time. But most of the time, much of the data and the analysts and analysis that we’re doing is better off as a red document. Sometimes a lot of times. So that’s why Sly DOCSIS is also a big part of this book.

Lea Pica: Yeah, I had first discovered SlideDoc. I think I read Slide-ology first, so I know it was mentioned in there and it was a really interesting midpoint between the actual presentation and the slide you meant to which Gar had coins of, which is what we’re used to seeing. And I loved the thoughtfulness. So if you’re looking for a really interesting different way of a midpoint between a presentation and just a straight-up handout, it can function as a handout as well. That’s a really interesting format to look at. What I’ve typically done is I’ve given a sneak peek, I’ve teased out some of the areas that we would touch on in a presentation like we’re going to save most of the story for the live event. But yeah, we just want to let you know, like these are the points like you said, the agenda.

Nancy Duarte: That’s smart. I love that. Yeah.

Lea Pica: We were seeing an initial insight like this was happening. We dug a bit deeper, found something really interesting, and then kind of continued that way. So they’d have some sense they weren’t going in blind, but kind of left them hopefully with an appetite for wanting to show up with us.

Nancy Duarte: That’s interesting to me. Who had your stakeholder be like? Who’s the typical stakeholder where you use that process? Because that process makes total sense to me.

Lea Pica: Sure. So in my role as a digital analyst, I was presenting to directors of marketing directors, probably mostly directors up to sea level in any sort of marketing, sometimes even finance. But for me, predominantly in the marketing department.

Nancy Duarte: Yeah, and a lot of times when after you’re done presenting, it’s going to require them to either spend differently or make bets in certain places, so I could see how they could just react to something and not understand the narrative around it. So that makes the town sound so cool.

Lea Pica: All right, whew. So one of the things I love that you talk about in the book are story arcs. And I have to let everyone know there’s this very enthusiastic fly who won’t leave me alone. He’s just loving…

Nancy Duarte: You’re keeping it together really well,.

Lea Pica: He’s Loving every word.

Lea Pica: So you talk about breaking your story into acts, which is something that I think people can relate to. You know, they know anything about theatre or film. So how can prisoners leverage these story arcs in presentations that are especially heavy on numbers and technical jargon?

Nancy Duarte: Yeah, that’s a good question. So in here, there’s a framework for how do you describe what your data story is? And that’s a quick, short little thing. Could even be the title of your slide, doc, if you wanted it to be. But it shouldn’t take more than than 20 30 seconds. And it uses the classic three ACT story structure. So classic three ACT story structures your setup. What’s the current situation? And then the middle has some sort of complication. We call it the messy metal. It’s messy. And then there’s the third act where it’s resolved.

Nancy Duarte: So in a movie, say the first act is only 10 percent and the third act is 10 percent. That middle’s about 80 percent. And that’s where all the action happens. That’s where the big car chases and the boy gets girl, oh, he loses the girl in, he’ll get impaled, has to climb out of a pit.

Lea Pica: What are you watching Nancy?

Nancy Duarte: I know. Well, right now I’m watching The Crown. I have I’m catching up. I just started it. It’s super sweet.

Nancy Duarte: But anyway, the three acts it when you plug the data in the first act of a data story is, look, I found a problem or an opportunity in the data like that’s you state the current situation. The middle is the most important part because that’s the number, the data point that you want to change. You might want that data to go up because it’s an opportunity. You might want it to go down because you found a problem, whatever it is. But that’s the number you want to have changed. That’s your messy medal. And then the third act are the action steps you’re going to take to create a happy ending or create the kind of outcome you want. So if you do the action in the third act, it should change the number of the messy middle. It sounds complicated, but a super simple. So it’s basically situation complication. And what we’re gonna do to make that complication resolved is how it works.

Lea Pica: Right. And the way that I like to look at it is that each of us are playing character roles. I liken it to Star Wars, where the villain or Darth Vader are the challenges and obstacles that you’re finding in that messy middle and that reveal themselves, I guess, in the let’s go-getting them. But we are that guide and narrator and it’s the audience is the hero, right? And yeah, that’s great. And I just finished reading a book called Expert Secrets by Russell Brunson, where he talks about the heroes to journeys and the value of it is having your audience have an epiphany that you had in order to create the influence that you need to have them take that action. It’s not having their own epiphany. It’s helping recreate the one that you had for them. So.

Nancy Duarte: Yeah, I love that. I’m going to go pick that up. I haven’t had it.

Lea Pica: It’s all about webinars, which is why I was reading it. But the whole hero’s journey section was absolutely fascinating. So I think you would like it. That’s awesome. So that’s definitely I mean, the book explains the whole process for that. So I highly recommend it. But I do want to get into actually some of the behavioral elements and dynamics between presenters and executives because I think this is where the real gold is to be found. So you talked about executives cutting in and interrupting. I love that you talked about this. That’s the big gripe in my field. They don’t get it. They’re trying to undermine me and make me look bad. No. So what should presenters do in this situation? Is it actually something that needs to be fixed?

Nancy Duarte: Yeah, I love that. I’m like a master at interrupting people and interrogating him. And I try to explain what’s going on in my mind at the time. So I think a lot of people who lead were obsessing about the future, just obsessing. And you can only see in the future dimly. I mean, that’s what even sacred texts say. You can kind of see it. You see it dimly. And I can see enough to know I’m headed in the right direction. But if there’s a little gap here or there or there where I want clarity, I want like a moment of real clarity, I’ll interrupt and I’ll make sure I get that moment of clarity. And then that’s all I needed from you. I just needed this one bit from you. And if this person’s like painting a picture of the entire mosaic of the entire scene that everybody else already sees, I’ll need that. Yeah. What I need from you and get just that. And so there exists are busy and. And they’re briefed all day. I mean, they’re just getting briefed all day. And the purpose of the briefings for them to make a decision so the person she better leave the room and them say, yes, you got your hundred million dollar budget. No, don’t move forward with that. Yes. Go than come back with this. All-day long. That’s what they’re telling people. So if someone’s rambling, somebody is going a direction that they don’t. Never happens. Never. They’re overproducing. So much content. They’re like, you know, tell me, what is the decision you’ve made? Because they just want.

Nancy Duarte: They want a strategic adviser. They don’t want somebody that’s more like an individual contributor kicking up the dust of a bunch of charts, kicking up the dust, a bunch of data and not having a finely tuned data story where it’s like, here’s the situation, here’s the data. We’re gonna turn around and here’s how we’re gonna turn that data around. It’s that’s all they need to know most of the time. That’s keeping it at a bigger level. What are the things that was interesting that I loved? I looked at all of the bunch of charts, thousands of charts of the highest performing brands, seven brands we have that are the highest performing on the stock market. And we pulled just the data slides and I picked apart, sussed out just the parts of speech. And the most important thing were the verbs. Because if you think about taking an action from data, the verb is one of the more important words you’re going to pick because that’s the action verb. And I found that there was a there are certain verbs that appeal to the executive suite because they’re performance verbs. And then there are other verbs that the verbs you’re using as a process to get things done. And so one of the things if you’re communicating up, if they don’t see it as something that they are personally measured by, and if they don’t see it as something that is going to help their performance, they’re not going to be interested.

Nancy Duarte: They’re going to wonder why you’re in front of them because that’s on their mind. All the all the all the all the time. So if it doesn’t tie to money or markets or exposure, it’s you shouldn’t even probably be in front of them. But if you can tie your idea to one of those and your data solves one of those, then you should have a suite, a seat at the executive suite and then your verb choices.

Nancy Duarte: Are Interesting, because you could say, ah, we need to capture market share or you could say we need to disrupt the whole market. They’re just completely different types of energies that would have different types of supporting activities based on data. And so it is I am asking people to be allowed to pause a bit and actually craft words carefully and you adult kind of grease the skids for the executive suite to when you’re presenting to them. Yeah.

Lea Pica: Your book offered an amazing primer on mindful language, just the different adjectives, and verbs that can be used. I don’t think a lot of thought, our conscious thought is put into this before we go in. We just speak our normal English language. But that was actually something new for even me to think about. So super helpful. And I love what you said. Your executives want a strategic advisor, not someone kicking up dust and not seeing how hard this was, how complex it was, how long it took. Do you say that? Yeah. You know it. Tell your boss like of course, like reflect on all that hard work. But it’s not what they’re asking for.

Nancy Duarte: Well, that’s the power of the slide, doc. Right? As you can present what you have. But man, when you send your deck and it’s got fricking 200 slides and all you’re thinking there, it’s awesome. Like the message shorten to the time. But once they see and like, whoa, this person put a lot of energy into making sure this was the right decision. It actually can kind of help if you keep some of that in there, keep the front tight.

Nancy Duarte: But and they’ll interrupt. And while you’re going through your tight narrative, if you have their answer as an appendix in the slide. So we create this like agenda slide, you can hit a lot of people don’t know. But if you’re in slide show mode, say in PowerPoint, you can hit the number one key and enter in your back to the front of your desk. It goes to slide number one. You can have this interactive panel there where if they ask a question, you could hit a button, it’ll jump to any section and PowerPoint. You can just jump to a whole new section. So they ask a question about a slide and you have your appendix really organized. You can jump to that exact section of those exact charts that support the idea that you’re making. So you can have this like interactive slide one that you know, you skip over it when you’re presenting, but you can keep coming back to that slide and jumping to any section in your deck if they want to jump out and start to talk about things in your appendix.

Lea Pica: That’s a fantastic trick. And I think that just satisfied your upgrade required for this episode of the one neat little trick or tool. That one is really major because a lot of times someone will ask to go back or you want to reference something else and you escape out and you’re kind of fumbling around. And that can be a really slick way to not lose momentum from having them like.

Nancy Duarte: Yeah, it’s cool because it could be like navigable and it be your information architecture. You’ll look even smarter.

Lea Pica: If that’s possible.

Nancy Duarte: That’s always smart.

Lea Pica: And I actually love the mindset that you have around interruption because people feel that it’s actually such a character flaw on the part of the person communicating. But I think that if you can stop at the moment of going, oh, I’m doing something wrong or why are they doing that? Of saying, oh, there must be a gap. And they just need clarity.

Nancy Duarte: Yeah, my husband shares an office with me and he’s this calm, sweet, you know, the introverted guy ran finance I.T. like a total classic. He’ll run a quick report for me. And he’s semi-retired. So he’s doing fine art just two mornings a week now. But we shared the office for years and he’s like the sheer velocity of our workday is exhausting. All he does is, you know, he just has to listen to it.

Nancy Duarte: And it’s true. I mean, the capacity that an exact has to get an enormous amount of work done and we don’t turn it off at night like it’s when we go to bed at night, when we wake up, because I have 120 plus 40 contractors that rely on my business decision today for them to have a job in 18 months. And I don’t take that lightly. It’s on my mind all the time. What do I do? What do I do? What do I do? And I still look out there and be like at the cars in the parking lot, be like, what do I need to do to upgrade all the brands of all the cars in that? And now it’s like I just always want them to have a job here. I don’t want to make a stupid mistake that makes us take a turn.

Nancy Duarte: And and it is oddly, even though sometimes we’re short or abrupt, it’s in service of human flourishing most of the time now there are some real idiots or bad people out there, but most of us are in it for the employees themselves. So it’s almost ironic or irony might not be the right word.

Lea Pica: No, I hear what you’re saying and what I think. I realize that that gives you a very distinct perspective on teaching people how to present information because you are not C-level. You are also the decision-maker where a lot of presentation consultants like myself, you know when a company like you’re right to convince myself. But no, that makes a lot of sense about the tremendous pressure that you’re under and your own measures. So, you know, putting on that hat. You know, I loved hearing about that. It’s important to remember that executives are weighing the risk versus the reward of your recommendation before they approve it. So what makes for a recommendation that gets approved by Nancy?

Nancy Duarte: That’s a really good question. You know, I think that recommendations where they don’t weigh both like I think every time you’re going into a decision, there is a risk or a reward. And so I try to teach people to look at both. But when they’ve been thoughtful like I’ve got one of my exact she comes in, it’s printed, she hands me a printer. I know every time she’s always got I don’t even have turned the page. I know she’s got it backed up. And I know she’s been very thoughtful and thought deeply through it. So the conversation becomes, what’s the decision? Why should I make it? I think one of the things that’s interesting is then they’ve all learned to anticipate my questions.

Nancy Duarte: So because they don’t write it. To your point, you feel like you just got, you know, stripped or I don’t know why people perceive it that way, but sometimes they feel like, oh, she just strip me down. And right now and they. And then I teach them. You have to learn to. So it got to the place with my data analyst where he would say, OK, here’s this chart, whatever. And I say, oh, but what about Bob? He happened to have run that chart for you. Click the mouse. And then I did like, oh, that’s interesting because global level like he did. I thought of that, too, bank. But in about a year and a half. Right. Yeah. Where it’s like oh and new like new. The new question that would come up. And even though I asked for this one thing, he didn’t have to go away, book another one on one comeback with the answer. He knew my line of thought and knew what would come back. So I think that that’s what I value is something that’s a bit thought through, because then what I’ll do is exactly what the book says. I’ll say, well, what about this, this, this, this? And maybe they prepared 24 things and I only ask questions about four. I anticipate that means I anticipated the other 18 highly likely. And we get a lot done here. I mean, the pace that my firm works, maybe it’s cause we’re a deadline-driven, you know, like word counsel. I have a deadline. But people here are smart and we rip through content quickly and make decisions fast. Wow.

Lea Pica: That’s awesome. And it actually plays perfectly into one of my next points was around playing your own skeptic and crafting your own counterarguments to your stuff. I. I’ve been having that for a few years now trying to pay. What is that one person going to argue or ask about when I present this? And it’s so powerful because, you know, to bring up expert secrets again, funny enough is for him the whole. Presentation, the whole persuasiveness of presentation is not necessarily in teaching something new when it’s in breaking the limiting beliefs that they have around accepted your information.

Nancy Duarte: Yeah. So I love that because you have to anticipate all the ways you’ll get resistance. And I touch on it and resonate by saying that there’s a physics phenomenon that happens when you capture the wind resistance. You actually your little sailing vessel will go faster than the wind itself. So you need to highly leverage the resistance and sometimes you might not even be able to anticipate how someone might resist. But it helps to share your ideas. Show the conclusions you’re drawing and have people challenged. And even if it’s a brainstorm to say think of the darkest way that dust data, the most obvious thing that someone might try to throw into this, to try to disrupt it or be a skeptic and explore all of them and go get data sets that say the opposite and then. Either disprove them or acknowledge that this other truth is out there. So I think people approach so much with bias. And I think in data can become a real travesty to approach it that way.

Lea Pica: Yes, for sure. Oh, my gosh. I love it. So before we fully kind of transition to the big question, I would love to know what gets you excited about the future of data, storytelling, and presentation. Because I mean, the examples that I’ve seen Duarte produces are the cutting edge of animation and narrative and everything. So what are you seeing that excites you?

Nancy Duarte: I’m excited. We are. My favorite thing right now is that we’re seeing a lot of leaders adopt the story in a way that’s been unprecedented. So for years, we used to work a lot with the exact calm like executive communications or people internally. And they would just bemoan the fact that there’s this person of all people. They’re arrogant. They’re, you know, they won’t tell stories. They’re just kind of desperate to see their leaders be storytellers. And we’re seeing a real movement there. It’s taken a long time, but we’re seeing really good movement where leaders are really being authentic and transparent and telling stories. So that part is exciting to me because I think it’s just a tipping. We’re seeing a lot more planning and strategic thinking around causes, like a lot around diversity, inclusion. How do we take this and don’t just think we can stand up and do one presentation on Tuesday and solve it. People are starting to realize it’s a sequence. It’s a whole series of communication to change minds and to change a culture. And so they’re looking at not just their next talk, but they’re looking at, oh, my God, I’m starting a movement. And how do I actually transform that movement? So that’s fine.

Nancy Duarte: And and then on that. Even the presentation side, we’re just skinning. I mean, we’re skinning environments with just these immersive, you know, transformative moments, which is fine. A lot of the big staged events are getting really technically beautiful and stunning. And that’s fun. And then on the coaching side, it’s just humbling to stand in the room with some of the people my team stands in that room with, which shall go unnamed. But just I don’t know. I just know I’ve been.

Lea Pica: And To watch that transformation that you.

Nancy Duarte: Oh, yeah? Oh, yeah. So you have fun.

Lea Pica: Do you have any examples of either, you know, the more technically immersive or where even leaders are adopting that story where you’ve been like, wow, we’re making advancements as a species?

Nancy Duarte: Yeah, we did a lot of research. I had a summer where we did eleven labs. I said I’ll buy whatever technology you need, you know, within reason. And we’ll do what where do we think it’s going? How are people going to present in 40 years? And so, of course, there was a lot of buying of a-r VR headsets, just lots of activities that we needed to do. And we did. And I mean, I think there are some use cases where AR could be interesting. VR VR is kind of lonely. If you were like, well, how is this going to. How is it gonna impact the future? I think I think anything that creates meaning is more important than anything that has a technical wizardry shrine. And so it really needs to help kind of to the point we were talking about earlier like you shouldn’t just have things solution build or animator leverage time unless it actually, you know, amplifies the message. And so we are kind of back to the roots of really, really, really it’s about human connection and what is the best way to make a human connection in the room. And if we think the technology like if we think all of the screens should go off and the room should go dark, the screens are coming off in their rooms gone dark like the right moment, right to say. And at this moment, have the house lights all shut down like we would do that because it’s really about the power of how people feel in the moment and not about the wizardry, you know, behind the graphics or the how what got projection-mapped in the room. You know, it’s only if it adds meaning. Do I think it’s significant? I don’t know how many people leave a big event and say, oh, member, when that thing spun on the screen. You know, they would remember something about a story or about something that helped them get unstuck.

Lea Pica: You know, it’s so true, you know, the most. Some of the most memorable TEDTalks I’ve seen were just a person and a black screen and a stool telling something so gripping. And it’s funny, The Lion King, I have Broadway on the brain for some reason today. And The Lion King came to mind where the effects are not the most technologically advanced. There is a rudimentary nature to them, but even without those effects, which can be so dazzling, there would be nothing. If it were only the effects, it could stand alone. If it were just a choir of singers singing the incredible music and telling the story it could to live as that the fly agrees.

Nancy Duarte: I think you’re doing fantastic. I can see the fly.

Lea Pica: I am one with the fly.

Lea Pica: So I’d like to ask the final question. Now, I want you to think hard here and imagine this very plausible scenario. You are hiking through Mission Peak State Park when you suddenly trip and fall into a vortex that pulls you back to the moment you’re about to deliver your first presentation. What are you presenting about, if you remember? And what would today you say to yesterday you?

Nancy Duarte: How funny. Because I do hike Mission Peak. That’s so funny.

Lea Pica: How did I know that?

Nancy Duarte: How did you know that? Wow. I mean, as you were saying, I’m like my. My earliest idea, remember in the fifth grade, dancing to tiny bubbles with my Hawaiian girlfriend. But that was more show it to my child. I can’t remember the first time I stood and delivered earlier than college, oddly. Mm-hmm. Yeah. So I’m trying to think of any earlier and what happened actually in college in my speech communications classes, I did a good job on my visual aids. And this is pre-PowerPoint, right? They didn’t even have the projection. The overhead projector like what you had. And I always had great visual aids because like if I talked about heartworm disease in your dog, I brought a little jar of heartworms into whatever. And what was interesting is as the teacher, I got a good grade at that, but I got a terrible grade at bringing content to the table that was relevant to the class. And that’s where I got a really bad grade. So it was almost like I got an F in empathy. I was thinking about and I really wore it like the scarlet letter. Oh, yeah.

Nancy Duarte: Right. And so I think I would say to my younger self – don’t worry, you’ll figure it out. So all my books are models. I don’t know if you could tell, but they’re all models for empathy. Mostly for myself because I didn’t get a good score in that row in AP. Right. So that’s kind of what I think I’d say is don’t worry. Don’t worry. We’ll figure it out. That teacher gave you a C and you’re fine.

Lea Pica: Say, oh, but that is such a super valuable lesson. And I think that lesson has permeated so much of what you teach with your audience assessment. And who are they? What what is keeping them up at night? What do they desire most? So I’m grateful for that hard lesson. So, Nancy, unfortunately, our time has run out. We covered so many amazing things. But please tell the listeners where they can keep up with you.

Nancy Duarte: Cool. So we are at to our duarte.com. And I’m on Twitter @nancyduarte. We have a Facebook page for Duarte. We’re also @duarte on Twitter. And I do connect to everyone who connects to me on LinkedIn. So. That’s how we roll.

Lea Pica: This is true. And your book is available right now. The links for all of your books that we mentioned, all of the resources will be on the show notes page. And I guarantee that this new book is going to become an invaluable asset to your library. So once again, it is an immense honor, Nancy.

Nancy Duarte: Thank you, thanks for having me, this was so fun!

Lea Pica: Thank You so glad to hear you say that. And I really hope our paths cross again.

Nancy Duarte: That’ll be fun. Thank you.

Lea Pica: These are the moments where I’m so glad I ran into a wall with my presentations 10 years ago and I started empowering myself with information if I knew back then. While reading resonates and Slide-ology that I’d be chatting it up with Nancy right here, I would have been like, don’t stop. Now, girl. Keep going. I know this is so hard. You could do it.

Lea Pica: And that’s the power of learning to present effectively because there’s no question in my mind that creating my credibility and becoming indispensable this way is exactly what led to this moment. And it can lead to a moment like that for you. So to catch all of the links and resources mentioned in this episode, please visit the show notes page at leapica.com/050. I’d love for you to leave me or Nancy a comment or suggestions because I want to hear about the challenges you face when you’re presenting your vital information. And remember to join me for my three secrets. webinar tomorrow at either 2:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Through the link on the show notes page or at leapica.com/3secrets. We’ve already got a ton of registrations, so you do not want to miss out on this one. And I’ll leave you with today’s presentation, Inspiration by, of course, Nancy Duarte. And this is from her amazing book, which, again, you must run out and buy. And it is “Ah communication. It can be hard, but the payoffs are extraordinary. If you put the work into developing communication skills, you’ll see your career and company do things you never thought imaginable.” I could not agree with this more.

Lea Pica: Investing in data, storytelling and communication skills was single-handedly the investment with the highest ROI I’ve made in my career and life, and I feel blessed to accompany you on this journey to indispensability. That’s it for today. Hop on over to leapica.com/3secrets to learn the keys you won’t find anywhere else.

Lea Pica: Stay warm. Namaste and Namago.

Lea is a digital analyst and marketer turned Data Storytelling Evangelist. She trains thousands of digital practitioners and consultants in the art and science of impactful data presentation through her blog and podcast, The Present Beyond Measure Show. Lea is also the creator of The PICA Protocol™, her practical prescription for healthy, actionable data stories that inform decisions, spark ideas, inspire action, and make YOU indispensable.