October 21, 2010
By Nancy Duarte
Nancy Duarte is the speaker of Resonate-Visual Storytelling on October 27 at Symantec in Mountainview. She is the Founder and CEO of Duarte Design, one of the largest woman-owned businesses in Silicon Valley. She is the author of Resonate (2010) and slide:ology (2008).
What were the obstacles balancing your role as a CEO and also finding time to write books?
The role of a CEO is to be an ambassador, inventor, thought leader, investor, student and mentor. It’s my job to see the future and position my company in the right place in the future. Writing Resonate and slide:ology forced me to focus on higher-level tasks of a CEO and not get caught in the day-to-day activities. I learned to delegate everything possible to my President and leadership team.
How can writing a book reinforce your company’s reputation?
I’ve been through 3 major economic downturns in my career. As a result, I could see this last one coming a mile away. While everyone else was riding the wave of prosperity, I hunkered down for a year beforehand with a fire in my belly knowing “the end was near.” I realized that if I wrote a book and released it at just the right time, we could go unscathed. When the storm hit, business from our client base softened and the gap was filled by new global organizations that read the book.
I also wrote the book to position my firm as the authority on best practices in visual communications because of a call I received from one of my long-term key clients. He asked me to direct him toward a top expert in presentations- Ouch! We hadn’t communicated that WE were the experts. As a result of the book, an unexpected business opportunity opened for us. When Resonate came out, the phone began to ring for companies who wanted to create presentations themselves. We opened a training department to accommodate the demand for becoming literate in the presentation communication medium.
You describe the book as a research project. What process did you follow when writing the book?
If I wanted to position myself as an expert, I had to really become one! Because the book covers fundamental principles of literature, I needed to study several topics deeply to make sure it was accurate and to ensure that it wouldn’t be challenged by specialists. I had to dig deep to cover all my bases; it felt like undertaking a doctoral project.
Doctoral students, professors and authors in general have a lot of freedom when tackling large-scale publications like this. While they all adhere to deadlines, they can choose their own schedules and their own process. I had the unique challenge of balancing the structured routine of a CEO and the scattered, creative-driven process that comes with writing a book.
My ‘creative process’ was extremely chaotic—I am a tactile person, so my workspace was covered in paper with scribbles, highlights and notes. My walls were plastered with outlines and ideas. Although the process of writing gave the impression that my life was hectic, I woke up early every day to exercise, work on the book until noon, and focus on my duties as CEO in the afternoon. Every night I was in bed by nine! If I hadn’t committed to such a rigorous schedule, neither book could have been written.