Article Category: Book Reviews, Speechwriting

Book Review:
Resonate by Nancy Duarte

ResonateResonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences is the second book from presentation superhero Nancy Duarte.

It is also the second book of hers which I strongly recommend you read — immediately.

This article is the latest of a series of public speaking book reviews here on Six Minutes.

What’s Inside?

Duarte’s first book, slide:ology, addressed the challenge of designing visuals to support your message. Her second book, Resonate, addresses the more fundamental issue of deciding what your message will be. As such, Resonate will appeal universally to all speakers.

Resonate has nine chapters, covering 272 pages of deliciously beautiful writing and visuals:

ChapterPrimary takeaway
1Why Resonate?Presentations will motivate your audience to move if you match your message perfectly to their frequency.
2Lessons from Myths and MoviesThe plot structure from literature and filmmaking relates to the structure of great presentations in intriguing ways.
3Get to Know the HeroAudience analysis is critical, because they are the hero of your presentation, not you.
4Define the JourneyBecause audience members will resist, you need to use persuasive techniques to have them adopt your message.
5Create Meaningful ContentPresentation content must be more than facts; it must include meaningful ideas, stories, contrast, and emotion.
6Structure Reveals InsightsThe way you organize a sequence of ideas matters.
7Deliver Something They’ll Always RememberIncorporating a S.T.A.R. moment into your presentation makes it memorable.
8There’s Always Room to ImproveIntense preparation and rehearsal are needed for a truly remarkable presentation.
9Change Your WorldThrough presentations, we can influence the world around us, no matter who we are.

The main text is supported with copious illustrations, diagrams, and photographs. As well, detailed case studies are sprinkled throughout. It covers both theory and practical tips for crafting your message.

The Price

At the time of writing this review, you can get this book for only $15.88 from This is 47% off the list price. That is ridiculously good value.

3 Things I Love about Resonate

I read Resonate twice, once for pleasure (on the beach, as shown in the picture), and once before writing this review.

I could easily list 33 things I loved about Resonate, but for the sake of brevity, here are three things I liked most:

1. Numerous case studies

There are seventeen case studies woven into Resonate, stretching from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address to contemporary TED talks. The analysis presented is insightful and captivating.

2. It’s beautiful… in an important way

When discussing the creative team led by Alfred Hitchcock, Duarte writes:

The presenter is the public persona of a single individual, but in reality, the best presentations result from the collaborative efforts of an empowered team behind the scenes.

This is true for Resonate as well. Nancy Duarte deserves credit as the author, but the collaborative efforts of the Duarte firm make the book beautiful. By “beautiful”, I don’t mean simply that “the photos were nice” or “the typesetting was elegant”; rather, the numerous visuals add tremendous value to the book.

3. The best treatment of contrast

Great presentations employ contrast in numerous ways. No book handles this topic in a more compelling manner than Resonate. Indeed, contrast is at the very heart of Duarte’s presentation form, which contrasts “what is” with “what could be”.

How could it be better?

Finding deficiencies in Resonate is a bit like using laser imaging to find imperfections in the Mona Lisa. Nonetheless, all books can be better, so here are a few ideas I would suggest if I were the editor:

1. Follow a Single Example Presentation from Concept to Completion

In my review of slide:ology, I wrote:

I’d like to see one example to which the entire slide:ology methodology would be applied. Start by setting the context, and then show the steps to the final presentation.

I feel the same thing is needed for Resonate — take a single presentation, start with idea formation and audience analysis, and carry through all the way to a thorough outline of material (where then the concepts of slide:ology help to develop support visuals).

There is a phenomenal diagram spread between pages 142 and 143 which depicts the entire process from idea generation to visuals. (This diagram alone is worth the price of the book.) I would have liked to see “Chapter 10: A Complete Case Study” open with this diagram, and then proceed to walk through the process in detail for a single presentation.

Note: In the slide:ology review, I also asked for a more comprehensive table of contents. Resonate’s table of contents is perfect!

I strongly recommend you read Resonate — immediately.

2. More explicit use of audience analysis in latter chapters.

The early chapters of Resonate focus heavily on audience analysis. Indeed, this is the focus of Chapter 3, and much of Chapter 4.

Later chapters, however, don’t include many explicit references to audience analysis. For example, in Chapter 5, when discussing how to select and organize material, I think there’s an opportunity here to emphasize that the audience’s needs should dictate the selection and organization. Failing to draw upon audience analysis during this phase is an issue which troubles students in my presentation classes, and I wish Resonate would have made the connection stronger.

3. Better sorting of some topics.

I felt that the early chapters held together quite well, but some later chapters seemed a little less focussed. For example, Chapter 8 focuses on preparation and practice, but starts with twelve pages that deal with topics which are more about content creation/organization, avoiding jargon, and delivery issues. Those twelve pages have useful information, but I’m just not sure they are placed properly within the overall book.

On this theme, the chapter introductions and summaries could have been improved to emphasize unity in the chapter material.

What Other Presentation Experts Wrote about Resonate

Kathy Reiffenstein:

Resonate is being called groundbreaking and magnificent. I don’t think that’s hyperbole. […] Rush out and buy resonate. It belongs on your bookshelf, to be consulted frequently.

Nick MorganPublic Words:

Duarte is one who gets the idea that speeches need the same techniques and structural devices that make movies interesting.  Situation, complication, resolution.  Tension and release.  The audience’s journey.  Good speechwriters need to know and use these concepts – and Nancy makes them clear and usable for you.

Alex RisterCreating Communication:

Resonate […] is one of my presentation bibles.

Ian Griffin, Professionally Speaking:

My one complaint with resonate is that the subtitle is too limiting. It’s far more than a book on how to “present visual stories”; rather, it’s an extensive listing of the secrets and essential truths of the best storytellers and public speakers, whether they use visuals or not.

Brent Dykes, PowerPoint Ninja:

Resonate is a great “strategic” design book and a worthy addition to any presenter’s library. Nancy Duarte made me think and re-evaluate my own presentation design style, which I think is a compliment to her new book.

Rohit Bhargava, Influential Marketing Blog:

Even if all your presenting is done with PowerPoint, focusing on the story instead of the slides is the real secret to being a compelling presenter and communicator. Resonate is a brilliant guidebook to help you get there.

Dave Paradi:

Is this book valuable if you are an everyday presenter? Absolutely. Look past some of the examples that may not be from the world you live in, and focus on the key ideas that are applicable to all presentations.

Olivia MitchellSpeaking about Presenting:

If you’re a presentation geek, you’ll want this book on your bookshelf.

Nancy’s TEDx Talk

Nancy Duarte spoke at TEDx East and gave a capsule presentation of the key ideas in Resonate:

YouTube Preview Image


Exactly four years ago, I reviewed Nancy Duarte’s first book, slide:ology. In that review, I wrote:

I highly recommend slide:ology. It is destined to become a classic reference text for presentation skills.

Resonate deserves the same high praise. You should get a copy today. (I wish I could send copies to every Six Minutes reader.)

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review.

Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte Andrew Dlugan 5 August 27, 2012 Deliciously beautiful writing and visuals. Superb treatment of audience analysis, message formation, and storytelling.

This article is one of a series of public speaking book reviews featured on Six Minutes.
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Comments icon3 Comments

  1. Kristi says:

    Thank you for sharing! I loved her TedX talk. I am all social-media-connected with her now, ordered the book and am contemplating taking a class. I needed this inspiration this morning. 6 Minutes made a difference in my life today!
    – Kristi

  2. Just saw that Nancy Duarte tweeted that you can ger “Resonate” for the iPad for 50% off in honor of her birthday. Another way to read this great book!

  3. Wow, thanks for the glowing review, Andrew! I truly appreciate your thoughtful commentary.

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