While attending the TEDx workshop day last February, I met Scott, from Duarte Design, after he'd facilitated a workshop on “effective presentations.” Standing in line to say “thanks,” I wasn't sure if he would have enough…but I did wind up getting a copy of Nancy Duarte's book, “HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations.

Right away, I loved the subtitle, “Inspire Action. Engage the Audience. Sell Your Ideas.” As a former high school teacher, current seminar facilitator, and future college adjunct professor (a boy has to have goals!), I know how important it is to communicate clearly, completely and “actively.”

I always start reading books by posing a question. I write this question in the front cover of the book, and return to it often. The question – for whatever reason – was, “What's the shortcut to excellence?” Now, I wasn't expecting THE answer, but I did have that query on my mind as I read through Nancy's book.

If you are going to spend ANY time at all in front of people (at work, in your community, at home, etc.) please purchase this book, right away. The “blog style” that she wrote the book in means you can review the Table of Contents and choose the “one” thing to read right away. Each of the 7 sections is filled (ok, with the exception of one…) with ideas that are complete, useful, engaging and sensible. The sections are:

  1. Audience: Know your audience and build empathy.
  2. Message: Develop persuasive content.
  3. Story: Use storytelling principles and structure to engage your audience.
  4. Media:Identify the best modes for communicating your message.
  5. Slides: Conceptualize and simplify the display of information.
  6. Delivery: Deliver your presentation authentically.
  7. Impact: Measure – and increase – your presentation's impact on your audience.

The only section I found lacking was #2. The first part, “Define Your Big Idea,” only gets about 270 words. The two bold sections that I wish I would have gotten more about were: “Your point of view” and “What's at stake?” Using those two prompts, I can see in my mind a series of activies Nancy could have shared with us readers about how to go deeper in to defining the answers to “why” we do what we do.

The “post” I went back to re-read as soon as I was done was, “Generate Content to Support the Big Idea.” I absolutely loved the way that Nancy sets us up to engage in what we already have (gather existing content) and move toward new stuff (brainstorm in a group). The series of thinking events that she recommends is sound in principle and implementable in practice.

So now my own takeaways, the things that showed up in my journal as I was reading, as I've read an implemented some ideas from this book:

  • Focus. Learn. Improve.
  • When is your incubation time?
  • Rest. Recover. Rengage.
  • What IS the shortcut to excellence?

The first three: Focus. Learn. Improve. Those stand out to me as the #1 walkway tip from reading this book. This isn't “just” for professional presenters, either. I mean, I can totally recommend this to parents, friends, even part time counter/service workers in retail businesses! Use each day as an opportunity to practice persuasive presentations; identify what works, and do more of it. (Also, find what doesn't work…and stop doing that!)

I know how easy it is – first-hand knowledge here – to stay busy! Too many emails to reply to, too many magazines to review, too many books to read, too many meetings to attend…you know this as well. Since the two weeks that have passed since reading this book, I've tracked 4 different “incubation” times. These are 30-minute “work” sessions that I've enjoyed where I have dreamed…bigger. I'm happy to share any tools/ideas/formulas I can that may help you do this as well. Just let me know!

Rest. Recover. Rengage. As I write this, I'm coming through a head cold. I don't like admitting it publicly, but…sometimes I am OBE – Overcome By Events. I chalk it up to the last 23 nights I had in 2 different countries, in 8 different cities. I only do this kind of intense travel a couple of times a year; my take-away is that now I know I need to incorporate a “bit” more self-care as I go. (What does this have to do with Persuasive Presentations, you ask? EVERYthing. If I'm off my game, I know I'm not as powerful from the stage…)

So, now that I'm done with this book (and, if you'd like to enter the giveaway just visit my blog at Womack Company dot com, leave a comment about this post, and I'll send it to one lucky reader!) I'm left wondering, “What IS the shortcut to excellence?”

Of course, you know there are no shortcuts, however I do have a reinforced mindset that sounds like this: “Focus on the one thing; ignore things that get in the way of that one thing, and get better at what it is that is better for me to do.”

In all, I can recommend this book. If you DO get it, read it right away. And, of course, let us know what you think!