Students learn the art of storytelling

Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo

Select Southern Miss journalism, communication studies and business majors were invited to attend a Master Class with communication expert and national business leader Nancy Duarte Monday at the Trent Lott Center. The School of Mass Communication and Journalism hosted Duarte for a Master Class, where she talked about “Presenting Visual Stories that Transform Remote Audiences,” and held an open Q & A with guests afterward.

Duarte is one of the top communication experts in the country and is the fifth-leading female employer in Silicon Valley. Her firm, Duarte Inc., specializes in presentation training. The firm has been responsible for coaching CEOs and top leaders in companies like Apple, Google and Twitter.

Duarte explained her method of incorporating storytelling into presentations. She said for any kind of presentation, whether it’s at a meeting for business, school or any form of persuasive communication, creating a more emotionally-engaged audience will always be beneficial.

Duarte spent an extensive amount of time researching the art of storytelling and translating those methods to her clients. Her clients usually seek her expertise to bring emotion and life to “dry” presentations.

She discussed two iconic presentations, Steve Jobs’ 2007 presentation that discussed the launch of the iPhone and Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. While many may struggle to see the relationship between these two speeches, Duarte explained that both speakers effectively used storytelling to engage their audiences.

“Every presentation should have a star moment,” Duarte said. “What do you want your audience to remember afterward? What do you want them to talk about later at the water cooler?”

Duarte stressed the importance of communication for professional success. “Learn to invest in how you communicate,” she said. “It’s the communicators who will change the world.”
Page Ann Stephens, a senior public relations major, said Duarte’s talk inspired her to recognize the power of communication. “You really do have the power to change anything,” she said. “She really reinforced that for me.”

Duarte spoke about Evita Perón, the wife of Argentinian President Juan Perón. She argued Perón was one of the most powerful female communicators in history, but is often overlooked. She came from an impoverished background and after marrying and gaining significant wealth, advocated on behalf of the poor through powerful speeches given to millions of people who adored her.

“It was amazing to learn about where Evita came from. Seeing what a powerful and effective communicator she was is just amazing, especially for somebody that was so impoverished, and a woman at that, was able to change the world and almost start a national movement,” Stephens said.

Stephens said Duarte’s advice inspires her to have confidence in her future and realize the importance of communication in any field. She said Duarte’s main advice was, “Challenge yourself. Don’t put yourself down. Realize that your are an effective communicator and don’t pass up any opportunity that comes your way. You should take those opportunities and run with it.”

Zack Fetcko, a senior accounting major, said Duarte’s talk was helpful to him as an aspiring accountant and future leader in business.

“As an accounting major its kind of neat to think about us giving speeches because we are sometimes thought of as introverts,” Fetcko said. “But the accounting industry, and finance and consulting are all moving towards more presentations and more meeting with clients so I really think this talk will help me with my career in that way.”

Nancy Duarte was featured on, and her talk “The Secret Structure of Great Talks” has nearly one million views. She is the author of “Resonate,” “Slide:ology” and “The Harvard Business Review Guide to Persuasive Presentations.”