The Night 8 people stole 50 hearts

Duarte Circle D logo

Written by

Paula Tesch

Sometimes you can feel an experience being etched on your heart. From the moment it begins, the tiny metalworker inside your chest flips down his welding mask, sparks fly, and a short while later, the experience is part of you.

I was lucky enough to experience this phenomenon alongside 50 dear friends–who happen to be my co-workers–during Duarte’s first-ever SpeakUp! event last month.

The format was simple. 8 speakers, 8 stories, 8 minutes each. The stories were all tied together under a theme: Almost.

Collage of photos from SpeakUp event at Duarte

At Duarte, we eat, sleep, and breathe stories, but this event served to take our breath away, as well as teach and re-teach us a few things:

Practice, practice, practice makes perfect.
In the final weeks of preparation, each speaker performed their story a lot. Revision rounds with their peers, once-overs with their content mentors, dry runs with the designers creating their visuals, and a dress rehearsal with the entire production team. Each time a speaker told his or her story, it got better. Dramatically better. Both the delivery and the story itself improved with each performance. We practiced what we preach, and it only made us want to preach louder.

Stories bring us together.
An e-mail from Nancy sums it up quite elegantly:

As a person who travels and speaks about story, I tell people that your heart races, eyes dilate, you get the chills, you laugh, you cry. I had all that happen to me. BUT, my big revelation from last night is just how much it knits your heart to one another and binds you together. The vulnerability and authenticity last night was astounding. My heart has become completely intertwined with the presenters, and as an audience, we share a common bond having experienced it together.

Story > Slides
Duarte’s designers build some of the best visual stories in the world. So what happened when it came time to build their own? They focused on stories, not slides. There were visual aids – bands of colored light, subtly teasing video clips, a baseball bat, and even a surprise appearance by a biker dude with a bottle of whiskey – but traditional slides were few and far between. Stepping outside of the presentation application may allow you to find a more creative solution for your visual story.

The evening’s presentations inspired us personally, and also pushed us to keep wondering about what else is possible for our clients. We’re more energized than ever about the future, and how it will be affected by the power of storytelling.

Thank you to our incredibly brave speakers, our enthusiastic production team, and the ever-generous Mark and Nancy Duarte for creating this community of storytellers, and providing a forum for us to share our stories with each other.