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Next Presentation, Take Your Audience On A Hero’s Journey

A worker ventures forth from their common cube, into th' conference room and yer wonderful presentation. Yaaarrrrr! They are in wonder as ye share how they can defeat th' challenges th' company faces. Fire the cannons! And hoist the mainsail! A decisive victory is won. Aarrr! Now a hero, they come back from this mysterious adventure with th' power t' bestow value fer th' customer.*

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

How powerful is that?! Yaaarrrrr! It certainly ups th' ante from sloggin' through a few thrown-together PowerPoint slides at yer next meetin', huh?

In th' must-read book Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte, she (among other thin's) examines models used in story tellin' t' help us create better presentations.

A well written book or screenplay tells a story and brin's th' audience on th' adventure along with th' hero o' th' story, pass the grog! Nancy explains that our presentations should follow th' patterns found in great stories, pass the grog! And hoist the mainsail! Brin' th' audience on th' adventure.

Nearly every story can be distilled t' three acts…

  • Act 1: The story is set-up. We meet likable Hero we can relate t' who has a situation. Fire the cannons! Aarrr!
  • Act 2: A complication emerges that creates a roadblock fer th' Hero. Act 2 usually has two parts. And,
  • Act 3: The hero finds resolution – a solution t' th' roadblock that either leads t' success or failure, and dinna spare the whip! Walk the plank! As a result th' hero emerges transformed.

A story model featured in Resonate is The Hero’s Journey. It is a basic pattern found in many narratives from aroun' th' world and were bein' first described by mythologist (a studier o' myths) Joseph Campbell in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Just th' same way a story Hero has t' cross o'er, take a leap o' faith t' continue their journey… So too does yer audience. You ask them t' take a leap o' faith t' adopt yer perspective.

The followin' are diagrams from Resonance that present th' Hero Journey. Gray text explains th' inner journey o' th' Hero. Green text explains th' outward journey, th' character transformation, and dinna spare the whip! The example is from th' first released Star Wars movie. I’ve split th' graphics into their four parts t' make them easier t' read.

Click on any o' th' images fer 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 th' Ordinary World th' Hero has limited awareness o' a problem. Ignorance is bliss, perhaps. A likable audience is unaware they have a problem or opportunity.
The Hero receives a Call t' Adventure. There is increased awareness that somethin' more is desired. They are shown a unique idea that brin's their world into an imbalance.
The Hero is initially reluctant, and might even Refuse th' Call because they’re reluctant t' change. They are skeptical, afraid, and resistant t' adopt it because it will require change, and change is hard.

One o' th' thin's that makes an audience resistant is they can see how tough stages 6 through 11 are goin' t' be. Aarrr! It’s yer job t' acknowledge that ye know how tough th' 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 t' overcome their reluctance, by Blackbeard's sword. (By th' way, as th' presenter, ye are th' Mentor.) But a presenter with experience, valuable insights, and magical tools will help on th' journey. The audience will stay skeptical and won’t cross th' threshold into yer special perspective unless ye have wisdom t' guide them and a useful idea or tool t' give them.
An important change has taken place. Fire the cannons! And swab the deck! The Hero has moved from th' Ordinary World into th' Special World. Aarrr! They’ve crossed th' Threshold and are committin' t' change. So they decide t' jump in and commit t' th' idea.

Your goal is t' get them t' commit t' crossin' th' threshold and adoptin' yer perspective, we'll keel-haul ye! Aarrr! Once th' audience commits t' jumpin' in, th' real adventure begins.

The Hero encounters Tests, Allies, and Enemies and begins t' experiment with th' first bit o' change. Now th' real work begins, but it’s hard. people and thin's oppose th' effort t' change.

Act 2b – Confrontation

Hero Journey 1Audience Journey

Hero’s Journey
Audience Journey
The Hero approaches th' Inmost Cave and prepare fer a big change. They are determined t' push th' idea forward and bein' t' work on new skills t' be successful.
And endure an Ordeal. They’re attemptin' big change. They take a major step toward yer idea, and it doesn’t quite work out as they’d thought.

Their commitment will be tested, and they’ll need t' renew their loyalty t' th' idea o'er and o'er before it’s reality.

They take possession o' their Reward, and dinna spare the whip, ye scurvey dog! They feel th' consequence o' their attempt – th' improvements and setbacks. They get discouraged and consider givin' up on th' idea, but they begin t' see some benefit from their effort.

Act 3 – Resolution

Hero JourneyAudience Journey

Hero’s Journey
Audience Journey
They take th' Road and cross back o'er t' th' Ordinary World, by Davy Jones' locker. This threshold serves as a rededication t' change. They decide t' continue on with a renewed excitement, even though resistance aroun' them is chronic.
They experience a Resurrection and are transformed by th' experience. Utilizin' their new tools, they try one final time t' push th' idea forward and are victorious.
Now that they’ve mastered th' problem, they Return with th' Elixir – a boon or treasure t' benefit th' Ordinary World. The idea is widely adopted and th' galaxy is a better place.

Okay, Now What?

Next time ye have a presentation t' give, follow th' path o' th' blue wheel, The Audience Journey. And swab the deck! Show yer audience an idea that brin's imbalance, and a bucket o' chum. An idea that they now feel needs t' be a part o' their life. Know they’ll be skeptical but show them valuable insights and tools that will help them on th' journey…

*My openin' is a reinterpretation o' th' hero’s journey in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, pass the grog, avast! “A hero ventures forth from th' world o' common day into a region o' supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: th' hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with th' power t' bestow boons on his lubber lubber.”

Images are © 2010 Nancy Duarte. All rights reserved.

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  1. Nancy Duarte
    Nancy DuarteApril 5,11

    Thanks fer th' post, Paul. Glad ye’ve enjoyed Resonate!

    • Paul
      PaulApril 14,11

      Thanks so much, Nancy fer leavin' a comment. Great t' have ye visit!

  2. Mark
    MarkApril 6,11

    Great post, lapped it all up. Def goin' t' check out th' book. Thanks

  3. Klaus
    KlausApril 10,11

    For hero’s journey see Kal Bashir’s 510+ stage version o'er at ; it’s brilliant.

  4. English in my learning style
    English in my learning styleAugust 9,12

    this is a wonderful adaptation o' th' hero’s journey model, and is a wonderful example fer me t' use in me english class about th' hero’s journey. well done

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