It used to take three highly-trained professionals to make a presentation

Nancy Duarte

Written by

Nancy Duarte

The opening line in my new MOST favorite book is, “The response to a visual presentation will determine its value.” No, this is not a newfangled book on presentations written this year, it’s the book “Practical Charting Techniques” written in 1969 by Mary Eleanor Spear, the statistician of governments and Presidents. My good friend Glenn Hughes at Hues Works turned me on to this book and it’s a gem.

Apparently in the “olden days” when I was 7 years old, presentations were made with careful planning and close collaboration between the communicator, the graphic analyst a, and the draftsman because that would yield the best results. These three roles would collaborate to ensure that the presentation has only ONE interpretation.

Graphic of how presentations were crafted: The communicator, the graphic analyst, and the draftsman

I love the above graphic because it depicts exactly why presentations are broken today. There used to be three significant roles played in the development of a presentation and each role was done by a highly trained specialist. Today, anyone who builds presentation has all three of these roles folded into one eliminating collaboration all together, yet we’re not officially trained in any of these skills.

By collaborating around the chart, it ensures that each chart makes:

  1. A statistical fact more graphically explicit
  2. A point of view more significantly emphasized
  3. An economic situation more clearly visualized.

The viewer’s first impression upon seeing a chart is vital. Attract him, and you can hold him if your message is clear and concise. Do not clutter up the chart. Trying to tell too much will only confuse the story.

Next time you have an important presentation that uses charts or data of any kind, at least meet with someone else to get another perspective on whether you’re using the data in the most effective way.