Nancy Duarte talks about how to get unstuck in her book Resonate.

When I get creatively stuck, I bounce back and forth between writing and visualizing. This process sparks new ideas, metaphors, or visual explanations.

Once I needed a story for a presentation to convey remaining calm under pressure. I wanted to pull from an actual childhood memory. Instead of making a chronological timeline of my youth, I sketched the floor plan of the house where I lived as a little girl to trigger visual memories. As I traveled mentally from room to room, I recalled dormant memories of a lost turtle, stage productions in the basement, and other vivid images.

photo of little girl and floorplan of house

But most importantly, I found my story. While drawing the floor plan of the upstairs, a memory of my four-year-old little sister, Norma, came flooding in as I sketched a closet door. She’d accidentally locked herself in the closet. The lock was made in the early 1900s and was on the inside of the closet. It had a difficult two-step process that involved turning a dial and moving a lever sequentially to open it. I felt helpless and clawed at the door from the outside while she screamed on the inside. My grandfather ran off mumbling something about finding the ax. Images of a bloody mess shot through my mind; I had to do something. I quieted Norma down enough to explain the choice of having Grandpa hack the door down or calming down and listening to my instructions. On her tippy toes, she carefully turned the knob, pressed the switch and was freed just as Grandpa ran back into the room. I knew she could do it but only with calm, persistent determination. The story worked perfectly!

Turn Information into Stories

Stories strengthen presentations by adding meaning. Used well, stories, analogies, and metaphors help create significance and stimulate the senses. Stories can be one sentence long or weave through an entire presentation as a theme.

Stories are easy to remember and repeat. When you present information in an anecdotal form you add an emotional charge. Stories are also a more digestible format for information. The template on the following page is a condensed version of The Hero’s Journey. You can embellish this template and add as many details as you like, but the fundamental structure remains sound. Think about what types of information help illustrate your point best and then try to come up with ways to present some of that.

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