How Decker made me different

Nancy Duarte

Written by

Nancy Duarte

Spending the day at Decker was delightful. Shortly after arriving, the transformation of my delivery techniques was well underway.

The meeting started at 9:00am in their San Francisco office. Their office is in a first-class building that is inspirational and professional. The path to their front door walks you through a zen-like garden with a large tiled circle. When you stand in the center of concentric tiles and talk, your voice is amplified (no idea how that worked).



Kelly greeted me right on time and we started off reviewing my goals for the day.



Even though I’m an “okay” presenter, it was easy to see right away some areas of development and the power that great delivery has in connecting with the audience and conveying ideas well. I’d never had an objective view of how I communicate and as Kelly recorded my delivery, she had great insights for me.


Great communication is more important than ever right now. It feeds the impression we leave about our transparency and authenticity (or worse, can do the opposite). She had a great quote by Bernard Baruch “The ability to express an idea is well nigh as important as the idea itself.”

Even though I might have been considered “good enough” by many, having someone walk through the weak spots in my delivery was extremely valuable. We worked on three key areas:

  1. Eye contact
  2. Posture
  3. Gestures

In the “before” video. I scan the audience and don’t look anyone in the eye, I’m swaying and leaning on one foot or the other, I keep my hands cupped in front of me and my legs crossed. I thought I came across as comfortable and casual in front of a crowd but in reality, I look uncomfortable and possibly even uncaring.

But, wow, what a transformation. In the “after” video it looks like I’m talking to people instead of at them. My movements are more intentional, my stance is more grounded and my eyes aren’t darting around from side to side.

Kelly felt like I had good facial expression but she had to work on my eye contact for quite a while. She’d put photos of people with various expressions on the chairs and had me hold their eyes for 5 seconds. It was uncomfortable at first but the results are visible in the video clip.


She’d snap her fingers when it was time to move to another set of eyes to gaze into. Last Friday I spoke at the HOW Conference in Austin and received the most positive feedback I have had to date. People felt like I was speaking directly to them (and I was).


Executive Communication colored butto


When Kelly saw enough improvement in my eye contact, we began to focus on posture and gestures. My son feels that I already talk too much with my hands, so for Kelly to instruct me to use even bigger gestures was counter-intuitive.

Below on the left we’re practicing at the Decker offices and the photo on the right has me utilizing big gestures by workin’ the How Conference crowd:


When I was done writing my presentation for HOW, I actually rehearsed the presentation and mapped out some moments that could use gestures in a dramatic way.

Once Kelly had my posture and gestures tidied up, I got to work in the infamous Decker Grid creating new content.


She walked me though brainstorming about the listeners, considering their point of view, the action steps I want them to take, and the benefits to them. I love the idea of using a folder and sticky notes to prepare  presentations in an analog environment before opening up your presentation application. We borrowed this idea and made our own version of a content development system. The difference between theirs and ours if that ours is focused on the creation of presentations, and theirs is a tool to be used for all communications including phone calls and 1:1’s. It works very well!

The coaching Kelly gave for handling a Q&A had a huge impact on me. She played the role of hostile Q&A girl and I had to make sure she didn’t lure me into her Q&A trap.


Man, she was good. She’d have a sweet unassuming face as she asked a question and then trapped me with an accusation. She also questioned my credibility and then cornered me to answer a huge string of questions. To break away from her caustic-ness, she helped me visually block her from my view, break away via body language, look another direction, throw my arm in the air and ask if there are any more questions. It worked WONDERS!

She also identified a pretty significant “filler word” I use that I’d never noticed before. She’d absconded a tape from my speaking engagement at FWE&E and queued it up to the Q&A session. For some reason I use the word “right?” as punctuation. It’s like I’m trying to get them to agree with me. It sounds horrible. In this clip alone I say “right?” six times in one minute. Now I can hear myself saying it and am working on eliminating it from my delivery.

We can go through our careers feeling “good enough”. But in reality, I kinda sucked. It took the insights and patience of the Decker program to break some of my repetitive patterns. My body can “feel” the movement I’m to make, I can see the audience more sincerely and I can hear verbal patterns that were unidentified before.


Kelly was kind enough to graduate me, probably because I rallied to be the teacher’s pet by taking her to having drinks! It was a lovely day with the lovely Kelly Decker, and I am forever changed because of it.



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