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Web 2.0 Expo 2009 – Part 1: Sense of self

*Nancy Duarte — This Expression is unique (Tools for Visual Storytelling)* [[Part 0: Web comes to its senses | Web 2.0 Expo 2009:  Web comes to its senses]] | (*Part 1: Sense of self*) | [[Part 2: Sense of presence | Web 2.0 Expo 2009 – Part 2: Sense of presence]] | [[Part 3: Sense of place | Web 2.0 Expo 2009 – Part 3: Sense of place]] | [[Part 4: Sense of governance | Web 2.0 Expo 2009 – Part 4: Sense of governance]] | [[Part 5: Sense of community | Web 2.0 Expo 2009 – Part 5: Sense of community]] “We all used to play and tell stories,” began Nancy Duarte ( in her session Tools for Visual Storytelling (, also one of the very first sessions at the Web 2.0 Expo and the first I attended, kicking off what was to be a quite well-caffeinated week (to say the least) at the conference. Duarte is the author of a book called slide:ology ( that I’ve been meaning to check out ever since I heard of it from the folks at O’Reilly. Since PowerPoint slides are legion at SAP, and since nearly everybody also complains about PowerPoint slides at SAP, I thought I’d be wise to attend her workshop. In her frightful slide examples, I was relieved that SAP’s legendary slides were not featured (though some could well have been). *edwardSomehow along the way we lost the knack of storytelling*, Duarte explained, at least in a corporate environment, or rather gained such an obvious awkwardness around presentation that our business communications suffer. To illustrate the point, one of the very first things Duarte did in the workshop was have us draw a picture of our neighbor. After we showed off our results to our unfortunate subjects, she illustrated one key difference between kids and adults: kids doing this exercise usually say: “cool!” — whereas the first words out of an adult’s mouth are typically “I’m Sorry!” Sure enough, I apologized to Edward for my drawing. It looked nothing at all like him. Nor did his of me. How does that matter? “*There are no visual business communication classes*,” she continued, lest we blame ourselves entirely for making such terrible messes of presentation in general. Furthermore, “Slides” used to be a very specialized concept and you needed to be a trained graphic designer to create them. Now any ya-hoo gets a hold of Microsoft PowerPoint and voila! A (terrible) Slide is Born! Duarte’s approach to the topic, and the workshop, however, was to my pleasant surprise not just all about creating PowerPoint slides but rather more akin to whole ego exploration ala Nietzsche. Sure, there were some great PowerPoint tips specifically, but the focus on “presentation” took a much broader center stage. The key to overcoming presentation doldrums lies in “*becoming a student of corporate story*,” she urged. This {code:html}blog from Paul May{code} covers five points nicely: +Focus on the audience – know what drives them, what keeps them up at night and tailor your message to meet their needs +

  • +Remember that information is not a compelling story. People respond, and understand, stories in a far deeper way than they understand data. Tell stories+
  • +Give of yourself – recognize that people are here to listen to *you*, so be human, open and giving. Tell your own story +
  • +When using graphs, charts and visual expressions of data – be honest, keep it very simple and highlight the key message you need to communicate. +
  • +Don’t assume that the audience will know what your diagram means, or why it’s relevant to them+ isolate common themesDeeper inside Duarte’s presentation is her message of sense of self. From the outset, she effectively determined that we should not sit back passively and watch her session, but draw our own selves into the process (by having us – gasp – interact with our neighbors and by her own interaction with us). She herself {code:html}clearly practices what she presents{code} — *eye contact, reach out, animation*. I was keenly aware of my own personal eye-contact moment with her (when I was able to look up and calm down a bit from my mad Twittering). She also brought in the “Four classical elements of conflict” (Man vs. Self, Man vs. Man, Man vs. Society, Man vs. Nature) to further remind ourselves in the place of the presentation story. And yes, along the way I picked up some pure slide-architectural tips around isolating messages in slides, aligning components to grids, and observing rules for data slides. I might as a result actually be able to create better PPTs, in addition to learning how to present them better. All along she drew us back in to the picture, helping us realize that we have points to make, and making sure we know we need to feel comfortable when testing things out like “wordstorming” or brainstorming, picking people we feel secure with and who won’t laugh or judge us. rules for data slidesWhat does all this have to do with Web 2.0, you ask? The importance of *telling your own story is one big key to Web 2.0*. This was also echoed in other conference sessions — for example in Heather Gold’s keynote Authenticity is the New Authority ( — and it’s been a {code:html}key theme in my own writing{code}. Bringing it home, Nancy Duarte closed her session with the lovely Martha Graham quote: bq. +There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.+ … because last and not least, Duarte’s ultimate point is that your presentation skills may hold the key to the success — or failure — of your business endeavor or company itself. “*Those who tell the best stories visually are the companies that are going to win right now.*” martha graham -- this expression is unique
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  • Thx Moya for sharing your fantastic thoughts on sense of self. Very intersting thoughts indeed.
    Looking forward to see your next blog on ‘sense of presense’.
    best regards
    • thank you Abdu!  this was a very worthwhile workshop — i’d encourage anyone who wants to ‘present’ a better sense of self to check out Duarte’s resources and book.
      i have four more in my web 2.0 2009 series ahead — i look forward to your feedback!
    • Awesome Moya.  I’ll be sure to “digg” as you introduced me to his The Machine is Using Us and I’ve never felt the same about the internet since, bless your heart.  He is someone I would love to learn from/with.