What Does It Mean to Resonate?

By Nancy Duarte

Language and power are inextricably linked. The spoken word pushes ideas out of someone’s head and into the open so humankind can contend with adopting or rejecting its validity. Moving an idea from its inception to adoption is hard but it’s a battle that can be won simply by wielding a great presentation.

Presenting those ideas can either evoke puzzled stares or frenzied enthusiasm. The outcome is determined by how well the message is delivered and how well it resonates with the audience. After a successful presentation, you might hear people say, “Wow, what she said really resonated with me.”

But what does it mean to truly resonate with someone? While doing research for Resonate, I learned about lovely  phenomenon in physics. If you know an object’s natural rate of vibration, you can make it vibrate without touching it. Resonance occurs when an object’s natural vibration frequency responds to an external stimulus of the same frequency.

Below is a beautiful visualization of resonance. My son poured salt onto a metal plate, then hooked up to an amplifier so that the sound waves traveled through the plate. As the frequency was raised, the sound waves tightened and the grains of salt jiggled, popped, and then moved to a new place, organizing themselves into beautiful patterns as though they knew where they “belonged.”

How many times have you wished that students, employees, investors, or customers would snap, crackle, and pop to exactly where they need to be to create a new future? It would be great if audiences were as compliant and unified in thought and purpose as these grains of salt.

And they can be. If you adjust to the frequency of your audience so that the message resonates deeply, they, too, will display self-organizing behavior. Your listeners will see the place where they are to move to create something collectively beautiful. A groundswell.

The audience does not need to tune themselves to you—you need to tune your message to them. Skilled presenting requires you to understand their hearts and minds and create a message to resonate with what’s already there. Your audience will be significantly moved if you send a message that is tuned to their needs and desires. They might even quiver with enthusiasm and act in concert to create beautiful results.

End Note: Visualizing sound is called cymatics. Evan Grant did a lovely TED talk implying at the end that maybe even the earth was formed from a sound.

Topics Covered

Business, Influencing, Strategy

Written by

Nancy Duarte