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Duarte Design is on a mission to change the world, one PowerPoint presentation at a time. Nancy and Mark Duarte, the wife-and-husband team behind Al Gore's famous slideshow about global warming, have built a thriving business out of creating high-impact PowerPoint and Keynote presentations. Their company has become the go-to presentation resource for some of high technology's most visible companies, such as Adobe, Cisco, and HP. But Nancy will be the first to tell you that it's not the technology that matters most, but rather the story. This installment of Creative Inspirations tells the story of how this power duo elevated lowly PowerPoint presentations to arguably the most compelling form of modern media.
(Music playing.) Lynda Weinman: Hello! I'm Lynda Weinman. Welcome to this episode of Creative Inspirations and today I am here with Nancy Duarte and it's such a pleasure. Nancy Duarte: Thank you, it's good to see you. Lynda Weinman: It's really good to see you. I don't feel this way about most people, but I really feel like we have some things in common that I have to comment on it, because you work with your husband and I work with my husband, and you started off as a takent and kind of leveraged that talent into a business and then you wrote a book and now you are starting to do training and it's just so interesting to me that we have those parallel lines. Nancy Duarte: Yes. Lynda Weinman: Exactly! Nancy Duarte: We have been in business about the same time, the length of time. And we have kids.
Lynda Weinman: And we have kids, so those are a lot of things to juggle, and I am curious for you how the evolution happened of transitioning from an individual talent into a business and a company? Nancy Duarte: As an entrepreneur, the cool thing is you get to do everything. You get to do it. You're kind of a generalist and you are good at a lot of things, but you are not really great. You maybe great at one, and it was a lot of work to peel off the things that I could hire someone better than me at and so when I did that, I hired actually my best friend to come in and recruit.
I had him assess kind of where I was, what my strengths were and then he just started to hire roles off of me and I think if I didn't have someone who really cared for me and loved me do that, it would have been more painful than it was. But then I had to mourn the loss of this role. I would actually, like when the person was hired, I would actually go home and cry, get over it, and then I would never really revisit it, because I knew I would meddle or "we will do it my way" or whatever, and I didn't. So because I like I let it go completely, emotionally, and then they could start in this role and express it their own way.
So that I think was moving from an entrepreneurship to like a professionally managed firm has been a big journey and it's been a fun journey, but it's all about letting go. Lynda Weinman: It really is and I even see the process of teaching and sharing as being a process of letting go because it's information that's all in your head and it's you talent that you are marketing and suddenly you are telling other people how to do it. So I am curious when you made the decision to write the book and to start to share some of your techniques and methodologies? Nancy Duarte: Well we have been around for a long time and we have already been through a few economic seasons and I really feel like I could see this season coming.
So I was here just working hard. Books take forever. I don't think people really understand how much time it takes to write a book, and I just hunkered down. People here thought I was crazy, because right in the middle of the upswing and times are good. I am running around like the place is on fire. I mean I wasn't that dramatic about it but I knew that I knew that I knew I was fighting a battle. I knew that if I fought it right and timed it right, we would win in this down economy and that's kind of what happened. So I started to see other people start to get high visibility for their work and presentations and that competitive nature in me was like wait a minute, I've been doing this 20 years. There is really nobody more qualified to kind of put a stake in the ground for best practices other than me.
So I think you have to have a kind of competitive drive. You have to really want it, put it out there really bad and spread it like a virus. So really, I think presentations are the most compelling communication medium around. I really, really do and if they are done well and they are compelling and they are emotional and they are human, it really changes things and so I think getting the word out because it's such a reviled medium and getting it out there-- Lynda Weinman: The medium gets blamed instead of the way it's handled at the time. Nancy Duarte: No, no, no. Yeah so changing the way people think, changing how they construct them was very important to me.
Lynda Weinman: Well, tell everybody a little bit about where you are going with training and what you are doing in that arm of your business? Nancy Duarte: So we took principles of the book and turned them into really interactive tactile exercises. There is no computers in the room at all because if you can get it in their head, it will be expressed through the computer when they get back and we don't want to mess with different revs of operating systems and all of that. So we made all of the exercises, you have to glue and paste and cut, and it's really fun, and use lots of sticky notes, and it's also been a good opportunity to experiment with some of the concepts in the next book.
So by the time that comes out, it will be like a proven methodology, we'll have case studies, so that's been very helpful. Lynda Weinman: What is the next book? Nancy Duarte: It's actually right now it's just a kind of a thesis that I have or that we are going to be researching it this summer. So I have some research students that are coming in, but I am taking and really digging into the different schools of screen writing, because a screenwriter not only writes the words but also describes what's going on in the screen. So there is a lot of different schools around storytelling there, and then we are also studying other forms of storytelling, American Indian, all the cultures that were really good at passing stories on.
So we are looking at that and then we are also looking at great speeches, the greatest speeches in the world, the greatest orators in the world, that didn't have visual aids. How they broke down their sentence structure, what are the patterns that they used, how was their voice done and where those two worlds, great screen writing and great speech making, intersect. I think that's going to be like the heart of a world class presentation. So we already incorporated a lot of screen writing methodologies into our presentation development in the training and it works which is cool. Lynda Weinman: So I noticed in your fabulous space here that you have a training room.
You have actual auditorium where you must give classes. Can you talk a little bit about how people can get involved with your physical classes here? How do people sign up for them? How often are you offering them? What are they? Nancy Duarte: Yeah! So we offer them anywhere from one to three times a month and then they are held here and like you said, it's as we call it the garage and we set it up with tables and training. We restrict the attendance to about 32 people because we really want people to kind of get to know each other and they actually work collaboratively on their presentations, which is fun.
In the downturn, we actually cut back how many times a month we do it. Though they do sell out, and we have waiting lists on all of them which is kind of nice but we're also retrofitting the training to Webinar format and trying to make it really interactive, using chat rooms and people still have to scan and post things, and all of that stuff. Nancy Duarte: So that's kind of fun. Lynda Weinman: That's going to be fantastic. Nancy Duarte: The way people express things is very different. The person next to you is going to express the same assignment very different than you do. Lynda Weinman: Oh! I love that. Nancy Duarte: Yeah, and so the fact that they get to share it and set up a little community space for them to see what other people did, it's kind of fun.
Yeah, it's very fun. The comments we get back are what make it worth it. My favorite comment is when they say, oh, now I am really scared to go open up my deck I just did because I am going to be able to see for the first time everything broken, and that's what we're trying to do is get in their head and have them think like a designer because they are not taught that in business class at all, and yet we communicate visually in business all day long and there is no rules that or constraints they have been taught around it. So it's fun. Lynda Weinman: Well you have an important mission and we are so happy that you allowed us into your world, it's fascinating and very relevant, and really going to help a lot of people. So thank you.
Nancy Duarte: Thank you.
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