HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations: A book review by Bob Morris

HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations
Nancy Duarte
Harvard Business Review Press (2012)

“Golden Rule: Never deliver a presentation you wouldn’t want to sit through.” Motto at Duarte, Inc.

This is one of the first volumes in a new series of anthologies of articles previously published in Harvard Business Review or, in this instance, a series of tutorials provided by Nancy Duarte in which she shares information, insights, and counsel about how to prepare and then deliver persuasive, high-impact presentations.

As is also true of volumes in other such series, notably HBR Essentials, HBR Must Reads, and HBR Management Tips, HBR Guides offer great value in several ways. Here are two: Cutting-edge thinking from 25-30 sources in a single volume at a price (about $12.50 from Amazon in the bound version) for a fraction of what article reprints would cost.

The material was selected and to help those who read this book to improve their abilities to convince members of an audience why the given ideas matter to them, win over tough crowds, balance emotional and analytical appeal of the given “message,” craft memorable phrases and examples, create powerful visuals when needed, strike the right tone, hold an audience’s attention, and measure the impact of the presentation.

Duarte organizes her material within seven sections. All of it is of outstanding quality and value. These are among the dozens of passages of special interest to me, each prefaced by “How to…”:

o Present Clearly and Concisely to Senior Executives (Pages 11-20)
“Help them make big decisions on a tight schedule.”

o Anticipate and Prepare for Resistance (33-36)
“Think through opposing perspectives.”

o Create a Solid Structure (65-66)
“Storytelling principles provide a framework.”

o Determine the Right Length for Your Presentation (99-102)
“Keep your audience engaged by budgeting your time.”

o Create Slides That People Can “Get” in Three Seconds (113-116)
“Do they pass the glance test”?

o Set the Right Tone for Your Talk (169-170)
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

o Make Your Stories Come to Life (181-182)
“Re-experience them in the telling.”

o Get the Most Out of our Q&A (187-190)
“Plan, plan, plan.”

o Build Relationships Through Social Media (205-210)
“Facilitate the online conversation.”

o Follow Up After Your Talk (219-210)
“Make it easier for people to put your ideas into action.”

As suggested earlier, think of each prefaced by “How to….”

If you need assistance in any of these areas, Duarte’s book will be of invaluable assistance now as well as in months and years to come.

Sun Tzu asserts in The Art if War that every battle is won or lost before it is fought. The same is true of persuasive presentations, as Woodrow Wilson suggests: “If I am to speak for ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.”

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