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Early in 2007 I became a “student” in the art of the presentation design. I had come to the realization, after one of my own presentations, that I was boring myself – never mind the audience!  Since then, I have taken a number of presentation courses, and done a lot of reading and observing, but taking a course from Duarte Design has been on my wish list since I read slide:ology.  I finally had a chance to do so earlier this month.

Duarte Design, and one of the founders Nancy Duarte, shot to fame in 2007 when the world discovered they were the designers behind the presentation featured in Al Gore’s academy award winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth.  Many people consider the folks at Duarte to be the world leaders in presentation design and Nancy Duarte a “guru” in the art of the presentation.

I must admit that I was nervous about taking a course at Duarte Design.  This would be the true test of how well I understood (or didn’t understand) the key concepts that I had been studying and using.  I felt like I was in high school, going into a major exam.  So with some self-doubt and apprehension I walked through their doors.

The people at Duarte Design were very gracious, right from the beginning.  They kept apologizing for their new “digs”; they have recently moved into a much larger building and as often happens, the renovations we not completed.  As I walked in I could see a large group of people busily working on presentations for various clients.  I hadn’t realized how big an organization it was; this confirmed my sense of just how important presentations are to organizations.

The people at the Duarte Academy, which is what their training group is called, were great in all aspects of the learning experience.  The course I took was called Resonate and is based on Nancy Duarte’s book of the same name.  The course walks you through, step by step, the creation of a presentation from the storytelling perspective; this is certainly not the “traditional” style most people use.  They taught us how to use the presentation design tools that were developed at Duarte Design, and we learned a framework for presentations. This requires that an outline of your presentation be laid out via yellow sticky notes. This enables you to put together the presentation as an engaging, impactful, story; it also allows you to see any “holes” you may have in your design.

As for my self-doubt – it quickly disappeared.  I realized that I was very much a kindred spirit with their philosophy and that yes, I was on the right track.  I took many things away from this course, but the technique of using more contrast in presentations stood out.  This means not only having more moments of contrast, but placing them strategically throughout to keep the audience engaged.  This is in keeping with Nancy Duarte’s presentation form, the shape she discovered that graphically represents presentations.

All in all it was a great experience and what I learned will change how I design my presentations from now on. I highly recommend the courses at Duarte Design for presenters of any skill level. They will help you to Refuse to be Boring.

Joe Pops