Better Storytelling Through Empathy with Nancy Duarte

“There’s so much power in the spoken word.” Nancy Duarte would know. She’s the world’s leading expert on visual communication, ranked #1 on the World’s Top 30 Communication Professionals. She’s also this week’s guest on the On Brand podcast. As you can hear at the very beginning, we had a delightful conversation.

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About Nancy Duarte

Nancy Duarte is a communication expert who has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Wired, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, and on CNN. Her firm, Duarte, Inc., is the global leader behind some of the most influential visual messages in business and culture. As a persuasion expert, she cracked the code for effectively incorporating story patterns into business communications. She’s written five best-selling books and four have won awards.

Duarte, Inc., is the largest design firm in Silicon Valley, as well as one of the top woman-owned businesses in the area. Nancy has won several awards for communications, entrepreneurship, and her success as a female executive. On the list of top 250 Women in Leadership, Duarte ranks #67 and on World’s Top 30 Communication Professionals for 2017, Duarte ranks #1 . She has been a speaker at conferences and a number of Fortune 500 companies, and counts many more among her firm’s clientele. Her TEDx talk has had over a million views. She speaks at business schools and has lectured at Stanford University several times.

Episode Highlights

“Slides don’t facilitate creative thinking.” Though the outputs of her work are very visual, Nancy is quite to point out that too often we jump too soon into digital tools like slides. We need to focus on story first.

Transcribing Steve Jobs. For her latest book, Nancy spent three years transcribing all of Steve Jobs’s speeches. She learned many things, including that he often spent less time describing the current state (“what is”) and more time on the future state (“what could be”).

The journey continues … Nancy’s latest work Illuminate poses a simple question: “If businesses are protagonists in stories, do they follow a plot or arc?” The answer? Of course they do — with the support of tools like stories and ceremonies.

What’s Nancy’s #1 piece of advice for someone who wants to be a better speaker and presenter? “Understand empathy. We immediately want to make it all about us.”

To learn more, go to

As We Wrap …

Before we go, I want to flip the microphone around to our community …
Recently, Mike Gerholdt gave us a shout on Twitter for our episode featuring Alan Alda. Thanks for listening!

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