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How to Create Great Presentations (tips from the CEO of the top presentation design firm)
Last Updated June 4th, 2012

If you think, “Derek, I’ll never have to give a presentation,” consider this:

You may have to land a big client, create a compelling sales video, speak at a huge conference, or go on a job interview…

…It doesn’t matter. Each scenario requires a presentation, and if you want to get what you want, you better know how to nail it.

Question is how?

How to Create Presentations that Resonate

What’s the difference between a great and bad presentation?

You might think it’s all about the content, and while that may “sound” right, it’s false.

I know this because I learned it the hard way. Back when I started speaking, I was a smart guy with a mic on a stage. And while my information was solid, people rated my first ever presentation as “average.”

Average? Me? No…

I knew my content was top notch. I knew that everyone could benefit from what I shared. I knew if people implemented one tip they’d see a surge in sales.

But I didn’t ignore the feedback.

I bought LOADS of books about giving great presentations, watched all of the most popular TED talks, and practiced so much that my neighbors probably thought I was crazy.

Husband: “Why is Derek always talking to himself at 2am?”
Wife: “I don’t know, but lock the doors.”

And while I got MUCH better, I can tell you this: my presentation skills “tipped” from good to great after I stumbled on Nancy Duarte’s work.

I’m going share exactly what I learned in just a minute…

But first, no joke! A few months after I read one of her books, I gave a presentation and someone walked up to me and said “Derek, you were easily the best, most practical presentation at this conference.”

Then, another person said “I saw you speak and loved it. Rock on for that presentation. It’s one that sticks out for me.”

To say I’m thankful Nancy’s work is an understatement. Over the last 18 months I’ve been booked for more than 20 speaking engagements, and more conference directors keep referring me to other conference directors as an in-demand speaker about online marketing.

How cool is that?

But now it’s time I share the wealth… It’s now time that you learn exactly what I learned to create great presentations.

Instead of rehashing someone else’s work, I thought, “Hrm. I wonder if I could convince Nancy Duarte to come join me on Social Triggers Insider?”

Well, she said yes!

Introducing Nancy Duarte, CEO of Duarte Design

In the below discussion, Nancy Duarte spills all of her best tips about giving great presentations. These tips apply to any kind of presentation. Job interviews. Client meetings. Big conferences. And yes, even blog posts. You’re going to love it.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also, leave a comment on this post to let me know you favorite piece of advice from Nancy Duarte. Additionally, if you have any interesting stories to share about your speaking engagements, tell those too.

Did you know Social Triggers Insider is now on iTunes? If you enjoy this series, please take a few seconds and leave an honest review. I’m currently at 74 reviews, and would love to get to 80 before the end of today.

Listen to this audio now, and learn:

  • The different types of presentations—and how Nancy Duarte’s advice applies to all of ’em
  • How to Create Your S.T.A.R moment (When you have to communicate ideas… even when you’re not presenting… this information is gold
  • The 3 types of arguments—and how to use each of them
  • The art of the repeatable soundbite (You’ll love this)
  • And more

Right click this link to save the audio as a MP3 file to your computer

Right click this link to save the transcript as a PDF file to your computer.

Want to know more about Nancy Duarte?

Nancy Duarte is the founder and CEO of Duarte Design, the world’s leading presentation design firm. She also blogs here.

With more than 100 employees, Duarte Design has worked with Apple, Facebook, Ford, GE, Google, Twitter, and many other of the world’s most elite and prestigious companies in the Fortune 1000 and Silicon Valley. Duarte also worked with Al Gore to develop the presentation that became the Academy Award-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”

And it gets better. Nancy is the best-selling author of two of the best books about designing and giving great presentations on the market, “Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences” (aff) and “slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations (aff).”

If You Have An iPad, Watch This Video…

As I mentioned in the audio, below is the video to Nancy Duarte’s book Resonate on the iPad. It’s cinematic, interactive, and media-rich. It’s everything you could have ever want from a book on an iPad.

And Now I Pass It To You…

What was your favorite piece of advice from this discussion with Nancy Duarte?

I’d love for you to share your opinion, while also telling me about your experience with giving presentations.

Spread the love!

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71 comments Leave a comment

I have no done any public speaking in over 15 years, I am moving into a role where I will be giving courses and presentation, do you think these books will help? Or should I just go to Toastmasters and get started there first? I have no clue what the hell I’m doing 🙂

Peter Billingham

Derek and Nancy – great podcast on presentations and speaking – so much information in those few minutes. Really impressed with the quality and quantity you get across in the time, very interesting. For me, key takeaways that I would put into action – S.T.A.R moment and “The art of the repeatable soundbite” – valuable and helpful information. Just a question – do you use a certain plugin to get the tweet connection? Thanks again for you content – excellent!

M Scott (CRM Guy)

I speak fairly often, and have generally felt I have done pretty well and have gotten “good reviews”, however the discussion with Nancy makes me realize that I am “winging” it a bit more than I should be.

Also, interesting comment about not bothering with slides, etc. when working on a short – say 20 minute presentation.


Working on dominating video marketing. Perfect timing.


You suck! Just kidding. This was an awesome post and just in time because I’m putting together a major series of presentation. Well done and thanks for sharing.

Stanley Lee

Wow, Derek. What a dramatic turn of your presentation skills after implementing the tactics suggested by Nancy. Dan Kennedy also mentioned world class sales professionals never “wing” it.


Thank you so much for this! It’s like you read my thoughts. I have my first speaker event scheduled in August and I really want to kick some butt! thank you!

Grateful Al

“Duarte also worked with Al Gore to develop the presentation that became the Academy Award-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.””

Shame on me, but I just lost all interest in what this woman might have to offer. Why?

She was behind the load of crap that Al Gore has so desperately tried to get rich off of by selling carbon credits? How much has she invested in his scheme? Does she sell those too?

This accents an issue I’ve been trying to find a definitive answer for: we’re encouraged to share a part of ourselves in our business. The old standard is to avoid politics and religion because it’s so easy to alienate others.

Here is a classic case; I dismiss her for being proud of perpetuating what I see are clearly economically destructive lies from that Gore horror movie. I mean I see a little kid at a rally telling the camera man she’s sad that she was born and is destroying the world!? This is proving to be a massive scam. I’ll put my faith in man & God, not some hypocritical manic like Gore. Buying beach front property in Malibu are you serious??? He sure can’t be too concerned about having to tread water in his lifetime, is he?

I’ll stick with Sean D’Souza and his Psychotactics – among other – and I have no idea what his political leanings might be, but that man can teach.

Forgive me my rant, but it does raise an issue of just how much of ourselves should we be sharing in our businesses, yes?


    Thank you for taking the time to share your political views on a site that doesn’t talk about politics. And for the record, I like to learn from everything, even if I don’t agree with what’s being said.

      Grateful Al

      Firstly: I greatly appreciate the wide variety of topics you cover and your generosity.

      However, you found it important enough to sing her praises for her huge input on the propaganda film of Gore’s.

      Was that necessary to build her credibility? So, with all due respect, I was not making a political statement. I was reacting to your high regard for her work on a very controversial film with huge societal or even worldwide impact.

      Secondly, I admit I may be missing something that could change my life. However, some marketing tactics affect me personally, or go against my principles, and I would never know if some marketer that had struck me the wrong way was giving away $10 bills for a buck.

      I’ll even add the speech by Reagan was so powerful because of his sincere belief in what he was saying – that comes through loud and clear, even today on video. I learned early in my sales career I better know and belive in my product or the customer will instinctively know that I’m just out for myself.

      I was commenting more on the fact that some believe personal politics and religious views would probably best be left out of business dealings. Exactly what you are attempting to chastise me for commenting on.

        Devesh Khanal

        This takes the cake as my favorite comment exchange on Social Triggers ever.

        When the first comment moved to where Al Gore has bought a house (and ended with multiple question marks) on a blog about psychology and online conversions…I knew I had found a gem.

Dallas Hardcastle

My favorite was probably my first. Apartment communities clubhouse and had invited about 40 people to come and listen to my presentation. One person showed up and I had a 10′ x10′ screen with a slide presentation. The one person sat in the front row watching me give a presentation on the 10 by 10 screen and lights to the left of me began to flicker on. I ignored them and continued. Suddenly some loud banging noises began to come from the room. I quickly looked over to learn that the once dark room directly next to me was a racquet ball court that was now being used. 40 chairs, snacks and drinks for 40 people, 10 by 10 screen with full presentation, racquet ball court bangin’ away and 1 person showed up. Pretty sure my girlfriend and I went out for several drinks after that one…and Krispy Kreme…and aspirin. That was about 12 years ago. My last engagement was in front of 420 people and no racquet ball courts in site.

Cory Lamle

Nice write up Derek!

It’s very exciting to see what the future has in-hold for new media. These strategies are just the tip of the iceberg. Way to be on the cutting edge for finding these creative people…


I really wish you could come throw a party here in SD with Pat Flynn!! I’m a big follower of both of you! Hope to see you soon in San Diego!

    Derek Halpern

    We should do that sometime soon. Shouldn’t we!

Thomas @ Mobile App Tycoon

Hey Derek,

I totally get where you’re coming from with sounding rehearsed. I know that while I don’t present formally often, when I do I usually sound rehearsed. However, for my latest presentation (actually for my grad project lol) I just winged it. It was a topic I knew tons about so it was really easy for me.

I know I should really practice more on rehearsing but NOT sounding rehearsed. Will probably take a bunch more presentations to master it, but at least I won’t have to rely on winging it to not sound rehearsed!


    Derek Halpern

    It does take a lot of presentations. I didn’t start feeling fully comfortable until I did more than 20 presentations.

Nicholas Tart

Hey Derek, I like how Nancy described the S.T.A.R. concept coupled with soundbites. I like the idea of thinking critically about communication and how you can leave an impact on everyone you meet. The S.T.A.R. acronym is something I’ll always remember.

    Derek Halpern

    I actually came up with the idea of including soundbites in my blog posts after first reading Resonate 😀


The Sound-bites work. Do you remember the “The Rock” in WWE? When he first got started nobody liked him. He became cocky, and came out with his catch phrase “If you smell what the Rock is cooking.”

At first people were mocking him by repeating his catch phrase. Over time people began to slowly turn. I believe it’s because of that one catch phrase that made the people turn to liking him.

    Derek Halpern

    It’s possible, and you’er right. WWE was all about sound bites and moves. They were like “Superheroes” if you will.


Wow, look at what we have here.
A great source not only for speaking in public or making video but also for other types of communication. Before giving people the facts, you have to learn how to communicate and attract them to your speech.

Derek + Nancy = Awesome 🙂

Can’t wait to put these tips into practice. I am going to make a presentation for graduation this year, maybe I will wow the justice board with these tips (hope so)

    Derek Halpern

    If you do that, I’m sure both Nancy and I would love to hear about it.


Hi Derek,

awesome content – your mail, the interview with you asking great questions and Nancy answering them to the point, and the link to this wonderful book presentation. Loved it!

When your mail comes in I open immediately, knowing that you have something really interesting for me. Thank you!

    Derek Halpern

    I’m glad you enjoyed this today. I always try to deliver the best content possible 🙂


Interesting the winging it VS ultra rehearsed point. I don’t have an issues at all speaking and it’s super easy for me. But I suppose I’m cheating I’ve been on stage for the last 20 years of my life so for me it’s as natural as falling off a log. What I would suggest is also be open. You never know what can happen in an audience or during your talk and those surprise moments can make a very memorable speech.

Also no matter what your topic if you enjoy yourself onstage the audience will enjoy YOU. If you a nervous, anxious or any of those emotions those will make your audience uncomfortable. Then they will tell you the presentation was bad when in reality you made them FEEL bad. That’s my experience anyway.

    Derek Halpern

    You know I believe that, too. Enjoy yourself, and people will enjoy your talk.

    When I do videos and speeches, I always look like I’m having a great time mainly because I am having a great time.

    And you’re right about the being open, too. Some of my best “soundbites” came about because of an impromptu witty response I had to someone who was in the audience.


      That’s true and to me that’s the mark of a great speaker- nothing can throw you. I’ve had people walk right up to me on stage and try to say the most bizarre things ( this is when singing not speaking 😉 And I would have a quick comeback that made the audience laugh. It was a great moment and I even made the person who approached me laugh as well.

      So glad you have a great time 🙂 I’m listening to some training videos right now one from a guy I love the other guy is totally boring so it’s hard to listen to a boring person even if the information is awesome- You should share your soundbites that would make a great post too 🙂

        Derek Halpern

        Yea, I should compile all of my soundbites in one post. I may do that, actually. Good idea.


Why I’m happy to have this gem of information, I’m totally missing one piece that I myself would consider the most important:

Your voice.

It’s not mentioned at all.

Consider this: You are at a conference, people talk all day but won’t remember that much. Once you know how to use your voice in a way which almost engrains information in people’s brains, they’ll definitely remember you. It’s not so much about the content, but people will remember you as an engaged speaker.

While I do believe that tons of rehearsel is very important, learning voice skills is so crucial, because then you can present any information in an entertaining and memorable way.

I spend this year a couple of hundret bucks for a private teacher who helped me to improve my voice. It didn’t only lower my voice through practice, but also helped me to structure and present information, do podcasts, videos, radio, marketing talk, persuasion skills over the telephone, political debates etc.
And it took me only about 20 hours with her + private practicing to get to a point that is notably different from my previous skills.

Maybe Derek, digging into the human voice and developing a skillset for persuasion might be something you wanna elaborate some more on.

    Devesh Khanal

    I would LOVE to know where you found a voice coach.

      Devesh Khanal

      …that’s not a *singing* voice coach (what you would find by just googling “voice coach”). But one that helps people speak…

    Derek Halpern

    Funny that you say that, actually.

    In my call with Sally Hogshead, which I released about a month ago, we talked about what’s known as Marilyn Monroe’s wet voice.

    If you’re interested in sort of that thing, check it out here:


Nicky Hajal

Great interview, man.

Really loved the insight about not jumping right to the ideal-world-solution and instead building up tension and excitement by going back and forth between what is and what could be.

In a way it reminds me of AIDA – the person on the other end has to be in the right mindset to buy in and part of that is developing interest and desire.

    Derek Halpern

    It’s so weird, but it’s really the best advice about speaking that I’ve ever heard. The contrasting is key.


Derek, this is off topic, but I like to read your articles in my email because they are big enough font. Why not create survey whether people like font size and type of your blog, in my opinion it is so difficutl to read your articles. It is funny that I like your content but not the way you present it 🙂

    Derek Halpern

    You’re saying my font size on my site is small?

Joshua Black

Perfect interview Derek!

I really like her tip about ‘shaping’ the talk to other successful talks of the past, using the same feeling and structure.

I’ve heard many different guides to speaking, but that was a new, powerful takeaway that can really can improve a speech quickly.

-Joshua Black

    Derek Halpern

    Joshua, dude. Go buy her book Resonate. It’s totally worth it.

Ophir Prusak

Hi Derek,

Great content as usual 🙂
I already own slide:ology and resonate which are great books.

I would also HIGHLY recommend the book:
Made to Stick by the Heath brothers:

It’s not about presentations per-se, but it IS about how to create ideas and present them so they “stick” in people’s head.

Looking forward to meeting you face to face in a couple of days 🙂


    Derek Halpern

    Absolutely. Made to Stick is must-read material, as is their newer book Switch.

    Jari (King) Searns

    Yikes Derek, you write the greatest e-mails ever! Before I was done reading your e-mail and watching the presentation, I was busy mentally reviewing all the multiple presentations I have given to select a story you might appreciate. Here it is:
    A number of years ago, I was asked to give presentations of software we had created for the staffing industry to assist a very large hardware vendor in selling more hardware. I was in New York with one of the partners in this business, in the midst of a long-winded, detailed and somewhat DULL presentation on a Friday afternoon. The crowd of business owners was not electrified to say the least. I had just turned the podium over to the guy who was giving the presentation with me. He started to elaborate on a technical issue (BORING!!), looked down and said in a very loud voice…”Oh my God, I’m wearing one black and one brown shoe…”. Indeed he was, having dressed (he told me later) in his closet that morning so he wouldn’t wake his sleeping wife.

    Well the audience cracked up and our presentation was sort of saved; however, we never did actually close a sale that day so I think I need this “master class”!

    Thanks for all your great stuff!!

    Jari Searns

      Derek Halpern

      Thanks for posting this here Jari. When you shared it in email, I knew I wanted this in the content section because it was such a good story.

Craig McBreen


That’s the best iPad ad I’ve ever seen 😉 but I already have enough Apple products … Well, maybe.

Scott Berkun’s “Confessions of a Public Speaker” is a great book too.

Looking forward to this. Something to listen to on the way to NYC.

    Derek Halpern

    I have seen that book, too. It is a great one. Nancy Duarte’s is a much better How to book though.

Gregory Ciotti

I’m interested in seeing how I can apply this to SlideShare, which is a platform I’ve been experimenting with lately.

Definitely going to snag Nancy’s books too.

    Derek Halpern

    OH, it most definitely applies to Slideshare. This is all about how to structure the presentation so that it works and resonates with people.

    And yes, get both of her books. They’re that good.

Chris Johnson

Best book trailer I’ve seen. And I’ve watched 1200 of thhem.

    Derek Halpern

    Dude… right?

    I was thinking it was an awesome trailer, too.

    Was GREAT work. And it makes me want to buy Resonate… and an iPad.

      Chris Johnson

      Yeah, it was a great demo for iBooks Author and what it can do. Makes me want to give 30% to them and such. Ah, well.

        Chris Johnson

        I still hate the compression on Youtube…;-).

Fernando Landim

Great Derek, awesome tips!

Thank you for share your knowledge.

    Derek Halpern

    You’re welcome, Fernando. Do you have any stories about when you gave a presentation?

Chris Arlen

Derek, spot on. People buy on emotion and justify with fact. Presentations are the best way to elicit their emotions before feeding them facts.

Great post and Nancy Duarte’s slide:ology is brilliant. I’m buying her Resonate now.

    Derek Halpern

    If you liked slide:ology, you’ll LOVE resonate. Trust me on that.


I gave a presentation in March. My computer died just before I had put the slides together. I was in quite a panic but it turned out for the best. Using the ipad to make the slides forced me to be brief and to the point with one idea/image per slide. If I had used my laptop, I would have likely resorted to bullet points and too much text.
The other thing that helped was that I knew and loved the topic.

    Derek Halpern

    Awesome story Judi.

    One of the reasons why I give presentations without slides is because there’s so much technology that it’s bound to mess up.

    I rather eliminate the technology and just give a great presentation, ha ha.

Scott Marcaccio

Both of Nancy’s books are awesome, got a lot out of them. Nice work for getting her on here for the insider secrets! Biggest takeaway was how to find that balance between being too structured with a presentation and winging it. Sometimes when I have a topic that I know inside and out, it’s too easy not to prepare at all and wing it, but can come off as a bit too free flowing. Going to need to go get an iPad now…

    Derek Halpern

    Dude, I’m with you there. When I watched this video, I thought the same exact thing.


The craziest presentation I ever gave was totally on the fly. My husband was actually supposed to be giving a presentation about Facebook at a business event and then he got stuck at his previous appointment (I think the car broke down or something). So I called over a neighbor to babysit our older two, and took the infant with me in a baby carrier. Pulled myself together, and created a presentation in my head on the way over. Even came up with a great acronym. Used the whiteboard to do visuals on the spot. It must have gone over well because they have invited me back to speak twice since then. As much of an adrenaline rush as that was though, I really prefer having time to prepare, lol.

    Derek Halpern

    That’s a great story, and thank you very much for sharing it. We’ve all been there before, I’m sure. Where we have to cover for someone else last minute.

    One of the things I’ve found is this: The more you give speeches, the more “go to” content you create. This is the content you can pull out of your hat because you’ve used it before.

    Then, the prep time goes down. Because you already have all the content you need.


      I think you hit the nail on the head Derek. I did not have a presentation prepared, but it was content that I talk about constantly and know like the back of my hand – that makes all the difference. Plus, I have been giving speeches since I was 12, lol.

        Derek Halpern

        Ha ha, nice.

    Scott Marcaccio

    That’s an awesome story Rivka! I always feel my presentations are better when I wing it but I might be confusing it with the adrenaline rush lol.

      Derek Halpern

      we actually address the “winging it” in the call here. You should listen to it.

        James Artre

        Was that a hint, Derek? 😉

Sean Mal

But Derek, if I’m always online interacting with people through my content why do I need to learn how to present? I’m not going to speak anywhere right now…

    Derek Halpern

    If you’re creating videos, that’s a presentation. You’re just doing it on camera. If you’re about to hop on a call with a potential client, guess what. That’s a presentation too :-).

      Sean Mal

      I know 🙂 . I raised a question it could come to people minds. 😉


        That was a great question Sean!

          Sean Mal

          Thanks Emily.

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