November 3, 2020

How can you learn to Resonate with your audience?

By Paul Laughlin

As well as having a clear vision, data leaders need to be able to resonate with audiences across their business. Their presentations or talks need to engage people at a deeper level than your average boring business presentation.

To achieve that standard of public speaking is not easy. Most people and many leaders have an understandable phobia of speaking in public. So, achieving a level where your message really resonates with your audience can feel like a tall order.

However, that is the goal of a book that is well worth reading, from Nancy Duarte. She will be no stranger to those who’ve read books to improve their PowerPoint slides. Her book Slide:ologyis well regarded as a go to text for that challenge. “Resonate” is like a prequel to that book. It helps you first understand your audience & how you will engage them better.

What this book shares with you

Nancy begins her book with a section that makes the case for why you need to resonate with your audience. Making all too clear how boring most presentations are & why we need to use the power of stories. She concludes with the call to make the audience the hero of your story, a key theme in this book.

The rest of this book provides the readers with a number of elements that are very effective. They both make this book a pleasure to read & will help readers retain what they’ve learnt. The clear structure of this book also makes it an ideal reference source to quickly find what you need.

Those helpful consistent elements throughout this book are:

  • Short sections. Most points are made on one page of text opposite a supporting page with a photo or diagram.
  • Explanatory diagrams. Nancy makes extensive use of cleanly illustrated diagrams to explain her points (many available for download).
  • Sparklines. A specific example of an diagram that Nancy uses to deconstruct a number of example talks so we see elements of success.
  • Case studies. The book is peppered with loads of personal examples. People from all walks of life, with examples of their best talks.
  • Chapter summaries. Both a few paragraphs of text & a rule that encapsulates the main principle from many sections.

What do you learn from reading Resonate?

I think the first impression left with readers will be that to succeed is all about considering your audience, carefully planning & practice. But if that all sounds like hard work, this is also a book that will inspire you to want to do so. Running throughout the book is a sub-plot that your voice matters & a challenge to make a difference in this world.

Ultimately it ends up feeling like a very human book. It makes the case that it’s all about people. Different exercises direct you to enough introspection that you get greater clarity on your motive & message. Lots of tips help you focus on understanding others. The case studies bring to life what mastery can look like in the hands of many different personalities.

A great aide memoire to take away from Resonate are the 9 rules shared:

  1. Resonance causes change.
  2. Incorporating story into presentations has an exponential effect on outcomes.
  3. If a presenter knows the audience’s resonant frequency and tunes to that, the audience will move.
  4. Every audience will persist in a state of rest unless compelled to change.
  5. Use the big idea to filter out all frequencies other than the resonant frequency.
  6. Structure is greater than the sum of its parts.
  7. Memorable moments are repeated and retransmitted so they cover longer distances.
  8. Audience interest is directly proportionate to the presenter’s preparation.
  9. Your imagination can create reality.

Who is this book for?

I would recommend this book for anyone who needs to present to others. The principles have much wider application than just those talks supported by Powerpoint slides. They also apply to shorter talks to ‘rally the troops‘ or those informal briefings that can make all the difference when done well.

In previous book reviews I have recommended both Andy Kirk’s “Data Visualisationand Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic’s “Storytelling with Data. Nancy’s “Resonate” is a great complement to both of them. With the help of this book you will go deeper into both understanding your audience & clarifying your message.

Coles’ book will then help you hone the nest level of detail on your slides. Andy’s book will help you methodically produce high quality charts. Then I’d recommend returning to Resonate for how you will communicate in person. It will help you refine the levels of contrast & emotional engagement. This book will also help you improve your telling of your story.

I heartily recommend this book as both a reference & a very practical induction to improved communication. That’s relevant for all data leaders.

The best news for those of you who may be short of discretionary spend right now, is that Nancy has now released a multimedia version of this book for free. You can get it here:

FREE Multimedia Version of Resonate – Duarte

I’m so excited to release a free multimedia version of my book Resonate. As the first author to release a business book on interactive platforms, I’m hoping to change the way readers experience content. I understand the media conundrum authors are facing: visual books are extremely popular, but publishers haven’t figured out how to turn them […]