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There’s really only two choices.

To stay home where it’s nice and comfortable, but perhaps a little too safe? Or venture out to pursue your dream, but take a risk?

Should I stay or should I go?

Every protagonist faces the same choices, says Nancy Duarte, CEO of Silicon Valley-based Duarte Design.  She describes the protagonist’s dilemma in her latest book, Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies and Symbols.

She and her co-author Patti Sanchez offer up a 5-stage narrative scaffold they call the Venture Scape, drawing material comes from mythology, drama, religious ritual, and psychological theory.

  • Dream – the traveler is confronted with the decision
  • Leap – the traveler weighs the costs, commits to the journey
  • Fight – the traveler’s commitment is put to the test
  • Climb– the traveler climbs out of the pit, again and again
  • Arrive – the traveler finally arrives to claim the reward.

Along the way, Duarte and Sanchez weave “speeches, stories and ceremonies” that give the story persuasive power. Their examples come from business world, companies like IBM, Starbucks, and Chick-fil-A.

Duarte Design got its start in 1987, when Nancy and her husband Mark set up a  design shop in Silicon Valley. Mark was the illustrator, working on an Apple Macintosh Plus, while Nancy worked for an electronics distributor and sold design services on the side. Eventually she joined her husband in the business full time.

Among their earliest clients was Apple, the first company to project slides from a computer on a conference-wide scale. As that practice caught on in Silicon Valley, Duarte Design took off.

In 2003, they began working with Al Gore to create the illustrated presentation for his campaign to raise awareness about climate change. “An Inconvenient Truth” was later made into an Academy Award winning documentary.

In the film, we see Gore on his laptop, editing the presentation that was created by Nancy Duarte and her team.

When he got up on stage, for the first time the world saw what a truly great presentation could look like. No more bullet points. No more dense blocks of text. No more incomprehensible columns of numbers.

Instead there were vivid and easy-to-grasp graphs, flow charts, and pictures that made Gore’s points come alive.

Duarte Design’s techniques inspired a whole new approach to visual storytelling.

Nancy Duarte has gone on to give several influential TED Talks and publish books that have grown her business and her reputation – each book in its own way raising the bar and setting new standards for public speaking.

Thanks to her, the world of presentation design has never been the same.


Here are other books by Nancy Duarte:

Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences

slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations

HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations

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