Transform Presentation Ideas Into Meaning

Nancy Duarte talks about giving meaning to your ideas in her book Resonate.

For your presentations thus far, you’ve been collecting information and generating ideas. Now it’s time to give meaning to those ideas. To transform static, flat information into something that’s dynamic and alive, you’ll employ the medium of stories. Stories reshape information into meaning.

When the brain processes information it attaches meaning to that information. This process helps us put information into categories, reach decisions, and make determinations about what things are worth. People value relationships—and even material goods —based on the meaning they evoke.

If you try to persuade your audience by reeling off the features and specifications associated with your topic, whether it’s software or philosophy, your presentation won’t have meaning—not until you include a human in the mix. A medical device is a good example. The attribute that brings meaning to it is not its clean design or the strength of the alloy—it’s the fact that it saves lives. Its features only become truly valuable when your audience sees how they impact human lives. Ask yourself if there’s a story that conveys how the device is used to save a life, or perhaps a doctor’s valuable time. That’s where the meaning lies.

Stories help an audience visualize what you do or what you believe; they make others’ hearts more pliable. Sharing experiences in the form of a story creates a shared experience and visceral connection.

Focus on how to make information meaningful and, as a result, make the audience more receptive to the ideas you are communicating.

Stories are the currency of human relationships.— Robert McKee