Telling Your Story, Duarte-style

Telling Your Story, Duarte-style

No matter what, our world is evolving into a storytelling stage.  Not fake news stories but real stories. Stories that resonate, as presentation guru taught me earlier this year.

After spending a day with about 30 always-learning storytellers at different stages of their development, the Duarte Design workshop camp delivered.  The one-day session (her group also hosts 2-day multiple other topics) was based on several of her award-winning books but featured her latest publication RESONATE.

My favorite dozen headlines from the day at the Duarte Design headquarters in the middle of Silicon Valley in early 2018 follow:

  • Presenting visual stories can transform any pitch, report, presentation. No matter what the mode of your product need (inspirational, educational, data-centric, strategy-driven, your audience wants to hear the story.
  • The Story is not about you, your qualifications or what you are selling. The story is how you are going to use the time that the audience members have given you to deliver on what each audience member is there to learn.
  • Empathy is a central star of your presentation story. The hero’s journey has many forms, but always remember you are not the hero of the story.
  • One can learn about great storytellers through the centuries. No matter the culture, age, status of success, politician, or world leader, the classic story architecture is all the same. Use the formula that Nancy and her team teach, and you can become a great storyteller.
  • Becoming a great storyteller is not a sprint or even a marathon. It’s a journey of discovery. The more stories you tell to deliver the overall message to make your point, the more value you will provide.
  • Innovation is a process. Change is a Journey. Act as the mentor on the journey.
  • The Duarte Golden Rule (love this one): “Never deliver a presentation you wouldn’t want to sit through”. Simple, but wise beyond the ten words you just read.
  • Always reflect on your unique point of view on the topic that you are delivering. What’s at stake for you?
  • Sometimes, storytelling development is not a linear straight-line process. Like a “sailor who optimizes the energy of the wind,” stated the facilitator of the session. “The straight line isn’t always the best path.”
  • Authenticity is vital.
  • Information does not equal story. Introduce the element of surprise.


After the session, I opened my Moleskine notebook and had over 50-pages of handwritten notes and hundreds of post-it notes. I confess that I once had an aversion to post-it notes.

Early in my career, I grew up with the influence of Hyrum Smith, Franklin planner method founder, who chastised the use of post-it notes in all planning.  Now as a business consultant helping start-ups and clients to discover their best story, or as an adjunct professor in an MBA program, post it notes have become a staple of my toolkit. Some of the participants in the seminar developed 200-300 point it notes in front of them to help them build their stories. There were post-it note all-stars for sure.

When developing an engaging and well thought out presentation, Duarte tells us that the speaker is not the star. The audience is. No matter what stage you are in on your business, consultancy, educational curriculum, non-profit, or report deadline for your client, if you can communicate your message with a backstory, you will be ahead of most.

With all of the “noise” around us, the value of excellent communication skills could be the new gold of the gig economy. Now back to my post-it notes.


About Alex Vergara:

Alex Vergara is founder/chief storyteller of AV Consulting Group, an Orlando, FL based business development/Innovation shop focused on the areas of sports, innovation, start-ups, and storytelling. He was a founding leader and held several management roles at ESPN Wide World of Sports for 20-years before entering the next chapter of his career journey.  For more information, visit, to learn more.


About Duarte Design workshops:

For more information on Duarte Designs workshops, visit her site at Lots of significant resources are available as well. All of her books (I have read all of them), can be found in most bookstores, and on all online platforms. I’m not commissioned for this blog. Just a big fan of her team’s great work.

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