Last Updated on 14 November 2019

A worker ventures forth from their common cube, into the conference room and your wonderful presentation. They are in wonder as you share how they can defeat the challenges the company faces. A decisive victory is won. Now a hero, they come back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow value for the customer.*

A proper presentation should take your audience – the Hero – on a journey from their ordinary world into your special one. They should depart with new knowledge, powers, and confidence they hadn’t realized before your presentation.

How powerful is that?! It certainly ups the ante from slogging through a few thrown-together PowerPoint slides at your next meeting, huh?

In the must-read book Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte, she (among other things) examines models used in storytelling to help us create better presentations.

A well-written book or screenplay tells a story and brings the audience on the adventure along with the hero of the story. Nancy explains that our presentations should follow the patterns found in great stories. Bring the audience on the adventure.

Nearly every story can be distilled to three acts…

  • Act 1: The story is set-up. We meet likable Hero we can relate to who has a situation.
  • Act 2: A complication emerges that creates a roadblock for the Hero. Act 2 usually has two parts. And,
  • Act 3: The hero finds resolution – a solution to the roadblock that either leads to success or failure. As a result, the hero emerges transformed.

A story model featured in Resonate is The Hero’s Journey. It is a basic pattern found in many narratives from around the world and was first described by mythologist (a studier of myths) Joseph Campbell in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Just the same way a story Hero has to cross over, take a leap of faith to continue their journey… So too does your audience. You ask them to take a leap of faith to adopt your perspective.

The following are diagrams from Resonance that present the Hero Journey. The gray text explains the inner journey of the Hero. The green text explains the outward journey, the character transformation. The example is from the first released Star Wars movie. I’ve split the graphics into their four parts to make them easier to read.

Click on any of the images for a larger view.

The Hero’s Journey

Hero Journey 464

The Audience Journey

Audience Journey

Act 1 – Set-Up

Hero Journey 1Audience Journey 1

Hero’s Journey
Audience Journey
Here in the Ordinary World, the Hero has limited awareness of a problem. Ignorance is bliss, perhaps. A likable audience is unaware they have a problem or opportunity.
The Hero receives a Call to Adventure. There is increased awareness that something more is desired. They are shown a unique idea that brings their world into an imbalance.
The Hero is initially reluctant, and might even Refuse the Call because they’re reluctant to change. They are skeptical, afraid, and resistant to adopt it because it will require change, and change is hard.

One of the things that makes an audience resistant is they can see how tough stages 6 through 11 are going to be. It’s your job to acknowledge that you know how tough the journey will be.

Act 2a – Confrontation

Hero Journey 1Audience Journey 2

Hero’s Journey
Audience Journey
But they are encouraged by a Mentor and begin to overcome their reluctance. (By the way, as the presenter, you are the Mentor.) But a presenter with experience, valuable insights, and magical tools will help on the journey. The audience will stay skeptical and won’t cross the threshold into your special perspective unless you have the wisdom to guide them and a useful idea or tool to give them.
An important change has taken place. The Hero has moved from the Ordinary World into the Special World. They’ve crossed the Threshold and are committing to change. So they decide to jump in and commit to the idea.

Your goal is to get them to commit to crossing the threshold and adopting your perspective. Once the audience commits to jumping in, the real adventure begins.

The Hero encounters Tests, Allies, and Enemies and begins to experiment with the first bit of change. Now the real work begins, but it’s hard. people and things oppose the effort to change.

Act 2b – Confrontation

Hero Journey 1Audience Journey

Hero’s Journey
Audience Journey
The Hero approaches the Inmost Cave and prepares for a big change. They are determined to push the idea forward and begin to work on new skills to be successful.
And endure an Ordeal. They’re attempting big change. They take a major step toward your idea, and it doesn’t quite work out as they’d thought.

Their commitment will be tested, and they’ll need to renew their loyalty to the idea over and over before it’s a reality.

They take possession of their Reward. They feel the consequence of their attempt – the improvements and setbacks. They get discouraged and consider giving up on the idea, but they begin to see some benefit from their effort.

Act 3 – Resolution

Hero JourneyAudience Journey

Hero’s Journey
Audience Journey
They take the Road and cross back over to the Ordinary World. This threshold serves as a rededication to change. They decide to continue on with a renewed excitement, even though resistance around them is chronic.
They experience a Resurrection and are transformed by the experience. Utilizing their new tools, they try one final time to push the idea forward and are victorious.
Now that they’ve mastered the problem, they Return with the Elixir – a boon or treasure to benefit the Ordinary World. The idea is widely adopted and the galaxy is a better place.

Okay, Now What?

Next time you have a presentation to give, follow the path of the blue wheel, The Audience Journey. Show your audience an idea that brings imbalance. An idea that they now feel needs to be a part of their life. Know they’ll be skeptical but show them valuable insights and tools that will help them on the journey…

*My opening is a reinterpretation of the hero’s journey in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

Images are © 2010 Nancy Duarte. All rights reserved.