The Shape—Yes, The Shape—Of a Great Presentation

Does a presentation have a shape? If it does, what does it look like? And how could you use such a shape to inspire and move your audiences?

Nancy Duarte, the graphic designer who authored the terrific books slide:ology and Resonate, wanted to find out. After years of studying rhetoric, cinema, and other communication forms, she noticed that many of history’s best-known speeches followed the same basic shape.

She discovered that Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address used this shape. So did Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. So did Steve Jobs’ 2007 iPhone launch presentation. 

(Click image to see the full size version of Duarte’s shape)

Nancy Duarte Shape

Here’s Nancy Duarte’s presentation from a 2009 TEDx event in New York City, in which she described the shape’s meaning in detail.

Image credit: Nancy Duarte’s Resonate, Chapter 2, pages 36-37. Used with permission.

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