Is Your Vision Caged on Paper?

Most pastors will invest more time on preaching preparation for the next month than they will on vision communication for the next five years. How about you?

That quick experiment is a great way to introduce a special two-part SUMS Remix devoted to the visionary planning problems you must solve.

Will Mancini, founder of Auxano and author of God Dreams, has never had a pastor disagree with him about the simple time analysis above. Most quickly nod with agreement, and understand that something is not quite right about it.

Of the many reasons (let’s be honest… excuses) given, one of the most important is that no one has shown the pastor how to spend time on vision planning. That’s what God Dreams is designed to do. Central to the book’s process is the Horizon Storyline, a tool leaders can use to connect short-term action steps with the long-range dream, while leveraging the power of storytelling to make the plan stick.

Vision Planning Problem #1: You craft a vision statement, but it’s not meaningful enough to talk about after it’s been written.


THE QUICK SUMMARY – Illuminate, by Nancy Duarte


With these words, Apple Inc., and its leader, Steve Jobs, catalyzed a movement. Whenever Jobs took the stage to talk about new Apple products, the whole world seemed to stop and listen. That’s because Jobs was offering a vision of the future. He wanted you to feel what the world might someday be like, and trust him to take you there.

As a leader, you have the same potential to not only anticipate the future and invent creative initiatives, but to also inspire those around you to support and execute your vision.

In Illuminate, acclaimed author Nancy Duarte and communications expert Patti Sanchez equip you with the same communication tools that great leaders like Jobs, Howard Schultz, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to move people. Duarte and Sanchez lay out a plan to help you lead people through the five stages of transformation using speeches, stories, ceremonies, and symbols.

This visual and accessible communication guidebook will show you how Apple, Starbucks, IBM, charity:water, and others have mobilized people to embrace bold changes. To envision the future is one thing, getting others to go there with you is another. By harnessing the power of persuasive communication you, too, can turn your idea into a movement. 

Solution #1: The Horizon Storyline will teach everybody to use vision everyday.


As crazy as it seems, the problem listed above <<repeat problem>> is a common experience. The words become “caged” on paper after the vision retreat or committee meeting. The problem is that vision transfers through people, not paper.

The visionary leader must also be a cultural architect. Transforming the future is made possible because the cultural perspective is held in conscious view. While it’s possible to communicate your vision in many ways, the spoken word has the ability to grip hearts in a way no other medium can.

Only when you pull people together in a room are you able to create a unique opportunity for human connection. Speeches, stories, ceremonies, and symbols become your unique torchbearer kit to help communicate your dream in a compelling and desirable way, helping your travelers long for and help achieve it.

Deliver Speeches

When you deliver a speech, you have the opportunity to explain your ideas and directly address resistance to change. By contrasting the current situation (what is) with the improved reality travelers will enjoy if they embrace your dream (what could be), you’ll be able to make the future more alluring than the present.

Tell Stories

Whereas speeches structurally move back and forth between the present and the future, a story follows a single protagonist’s transformation. We remember stories because they connect our hearts and minds to an idea.

Hold Ceremonies

Ceremonies fulfill a need to express emotion collectively resulting in communal catharsis. Ceremonial acts help travelers envision new behavior or purge old mindsets so they can move forward unencumbered. Use ceremonies to mark important transitions to provide your troops the opportunity for community and commitment.

Use Symbols

Symbols are ordinary artifacts that take on meaning because they were part of a speech, story, or ceremony. They express ideas and emotions in concentrated form. Because of their resonance, symbols become the visual language of a social group. They express people’s thoughts, feelings, and values in a shorthand and sometimes highly charged way.

Nancy Duarte, Illuminate


At your next leadership team meeting, break the team into four groups. Each group will write a compelling story describing what you would like the church to become in the next three to five years. Start the story with “Once upon a time,” and be sure to reveal heroes, villains, battles and victories.

Instruct the teams to utilize all four of the methods listed above. Be sure to give as much detail as possible.

When completed, do these three steps for each:

  1. Have each group read their story for the rest of the team.
  2. Ask the other teams to specifically name what possible outcome or reality described that they like best or get most excited about from each story.
  3. Start a list of short-term actions that are do-able first steps to see that dream become a reality.

Now prioritize the first four action initiatives, assigning a key leader and completion date to each. For more on developing short-term action initiatives refer to Chapter 17 in God Dreams.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 47-1, published July 2016.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

Do You Communicate a Lot, But Don’t Consider Yourself a Great Storyteller?

Have your eyes ever glazed over as a speaker drones on and one, spouting statistics and facts? Do you even remember anything an hour later? What about the next day?

Now it’s your turn to be in front of your team. How are you going to reach and connect with them?

Do you communicate a lot, but don’t consider yourself a great storyteller?

It’s time to reach back in human history, and turn to the power of the story.

Storytelling has existed as the primary means of communicating among people even long before writing was developed. Success was measured by how much the audience remembered and a high value was placed on techniques that helped people remember things.

In spite of all the technological marvels available to leaders today, the simple but powerful use of a story often translates your ideas into realities in the listener’s minds. Stories are effective when they lodge in the heart of the listener, and are then acted on.

Solution #3 Make the listener, not you, the hero of your story

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Resonate, by Nancy Duarte

sums-remix-3Resonate leverages techniques normally reserved for cinema and literature, revealing how to transform any story into an engaging journey. Using the techniques in Resonate, you’ll be able to:

  • Leverage the hidden story structures inherent in great communication
  • Connect with your audience empathetically
  • Create captivating content
  • Craft ideas that get repeated
  • Inspire enthusiasm and support for your vision

Stories are the most powerful delivery tool for information, more powerful and enduring than any other art form.

A Simple Solution

Wouldn’t you like to have your audience leaning forward in their seats, anticipating the next few words you will be saying? A great story has that effect on listeners, and it begins with making the listener the hero of your story.

When trying to connect with someone while telling a story, you have to remember that it’s not all about you.

You are not the hero who will save the audience; the audience is your hero.

You need to defer to your audience because if they don’t engage and believe in your message, you are the one who loses. Without their help, your idea will fail.

Leaders need to take this to heart, place the people in the audience at the center of the action, and make them feel that the presentation is addressing them personally.

So what’s your role, then? You are the mentor. The audience is the one who’ll do all the heavy lifting to help you reach your objectives. You’re simply one voice helping them get unstuck in their journey.

When you change your stance from thinking you’re the hero to acknowledging your role as a mentor, you will find your viewpoint altered. A mentor has a selfless nature and is willing to make a personal sacrifice so that the hero can reach the reward. Audience insights and resonance can only occur when a presenter takes a stance of humility.

Nancy Duarte, Resonate


Changing your stance from that of the hero to one of the storyteller will connect the listeners to your idea and make them the hero. When listeners become the hero and connect to your idea, they will change.

Good church leaders are telling stories all the time. As you prepare for your next leadership speaking opportunity it’s easy to become the center of the story. Remember to make the listener the hero instead of you.

By offering a clear choice of what is (their present situation) with what could be (a better future), the people you lead become the hero. As you preach, are you making members of the congregation the hero? When you lead your church in a capital campaign, they are the heroes. As a team leader, your team should be the hero. In a small group, the group members are the hero.

Of course, every story related to the Gospel makes Jesus the hero.

Ultimately, you need to make your story about Jesus.

How will you know if you are becoming more effective with your stories? It’s simple: you will be accomplishing whatever you had hoped to accomplish by telling the story in the first place.

It’s time for you to step out and lead through your stories!

Part of a new series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, as biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here. Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

Every Element in Your Presentation Has a Single Purpose…

…to make a change happen.

A presentation is a precious opportunity. It’s a powerful arrangement…one speaker, an attentive audience, all in their seats, all paying attention (at least at first).   – Seth Godin

Don’t waste it.

courtesy of Justin S. Campbell

courtesy of Justin S. Campbell

The purpose of a presentation is to change minds.

  • If all you’re hoping to do is survive the ordeal because of lack of preparation, you’re wasting people’s time.
  • If all you’re hoping to do is amuse and delight the crowd, you’re simply an entertainer.
  • If all you’re hoping to do is pass along information, put it in a document and email it to your audience.

But if you really want to make a change, to move from informing someone to influencing them, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Who will be changed by this presentation?
  • What is the change I seek?

The answers can range from simple to subtle to dramatic.

Once you have the answers, though, dive into it with all you’ve got.

Every element of your presentation – the room, the attendees, the length, the tone, any visual elements, the technology – exists for just one reason: to make it more likely that you will achieve the change you seek. If an element doesn’t do that, replace it with something that does, or throw it out.

If you fail to make a change, you’ve failed. If you do make change, you’ve opened the possibility you’ll be responsible for a bad decision or part of a project that doesn’t work. No wonder it’s frightening and far easier to just do a lousy presentation.   – Seth Godin

A presentation isn’t an obligation – it’s a privilege.

inspired by Seth Godin, Bert Decker, Garr Reynolds, Nancy Duarte, and Andy Stanley

Impact – Measure and Increase Your Presentation’s Impact on Your Audience

We are competing for relevance.    – Brian Solis

Award-winning author and presentation expert Nancy Duarte has a new book out: HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations. This is the final part of a series outlining of each of the book’s sections as well as zeroing in on a specific topic.

Section 7: Impact

  • Build relationships through social media – engage with users so they’ll engage fully and fairly with your ideas
  • Spread your ideas with social media – facilitate the online conversation
  • Gauge whether you’ve connected with people – gather feedback in real-time and after your talk
  • Follow up after your talk – make it easier for people to put your ideas into action

As a visual learner, I have images and objects around my office that help me keep things top of mind. One very prominent image is a diagram from Bert Decker’s book You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard. It shows a presenter’s journey from information (focusing on education) to influence (focusing on motivation). If you are not urging your audience to do something, to take action, you should have just sent a memo.

The final section of Duarte’s book challenges you to do just that. All the ideas above are great, but here’s a little more about one that many presenters would run from:

Spread Your Ideas with Social Media

Use social media content the way you use stories, visuals, and sound bites: to reinforce and spread your message.

Social media activity usually spikes during a presentation, with moderate chatter beforehand and afterward. Facilitate the conversation at its peak by:

  • Streaming your presentation – post a live video stream of your talk so people can attend remotely
  • Time-releasing message and slides – use technology to automatically push key messages out at key moments during the presentation
  • Select a moderator – enlist a colleague to keep the social media thread constructive
  • Repeating audience sentiment – use the moderator to repeat and validate what live audience members are saying
  • Post photos of your talk – enlist someone to photograph your presentation and post online
  • Encourage blogging – invite bloggers, journalists, and social media specialists to attend and cover your presentation

If it’s worth speaking about the first time, it’s worth doing all you can to keep people talking about it.

This is the final part of a series looking at Nancy Duarte’s new book HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations, highly recommended for all leaders.

When audiences see that you’ve prepared – that you care about their needs and value your time – they’ll want to connect with you and support you. You’ll get people to adopt your ideas, and you’ll win the resources to carry them out.

Leaders speak.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Delivery – Deliver Your Presentation Authentically


Never deliver a presentation you wouldn’t want to sit through.    – Duarte, Inc. Golden Rule

Award-winning author and presentation expert Nancy Duarte has a new book out: HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations. This is a continuation of a series outlining of each of the book’s sections as well as zeroing in on a specific topic.

Section 6: Delivery

  • Rehearse your material well – roll with the unexpected and fully engage with the audience
  • Know the venue and schedule – control them when you can
  • Anticipate technology glitches – odds of malfunction are high
  • Manage your stage fright – exercises to calm your nerves
  • Set the right tone for your talk – you never get a second chance to make a first impression
  • Be yourself – authenticity connects you to others
  • Communicate with your body – physical expression is a powerful tool
  • Communicate with your voice – create contrast and emphasis
  • Make your stories come to life – re-experience them in the telling
  • Get the most out of your Q&A – plan, plan, and plan some more
  • Build trust with a remote audience – get past technology’s barriers
  • Keep remote listeners interested – you’re fighting for the attention of multitaskers
  • Keep your remote presentation running smoothly – use a checklist to minimize annoyances

These are all great ideas, and I honestly couldn’t pull out a favorite – they’re all that good! Suffice it to say that delivery is critical to the success of your presentation. You may have the best content and message in the world, but if you fail at delivery, what good is it?

Next: Impact

This is Part 7 of a series looking at Nancy Duarte’s new book HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations, highly recommended for all leaders.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4 

Part 5

Part 6


Slides – Conceptualize and Simplify the Display of Information

At our studio we don’t write our stories, we draw them.    – Walt Disney

Award-winning author and presentation expert Nancy Duarte has a new book out: HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations. This is a continuation of a series outlining of each of the book’s sections as well as zeroing in on a specific topic.

Section 5: Slides

  • Think like a designer – visuals should convey meaning
  • Create slides people can “get” in 3 seconds – do they pass the glance test
  • Chose the right type of slide – bullets aren’t the only tool
  • Storyboard one idea per slide – plan before you create
  • Avoid visual clichés – make your slides stand out
  • Arrange slide elements with care – make your visuals easier to process
  • Clarify the data – emphasize what’s important, remove the rest
  • Turn words into diagrams – use shapes to show relationships
  • Use the right number of slides – size up your situation before building your deck
  • Know when to animate – and when it’s overkill

Create Slides People Can “Get” in Three Seconds

Audiences can only process one stream of information at a time. They’ll either listen to you speak or read your slides – they won’t do both simultaneously.

Make sure they can quickly comprehend your visuals and then turn their attention back to what you’re saying.

Think of your slides as billboards on the highway: when people are driving by, they only briefly take their eyes off the main focus – the road – to process billboard information. Similarly, your audience should focus on what you’re saying, looking only briefly at your slides when you display them.

To create slides that pass the glance test:

  • Start with a clean surface – start with a blank slide
  • Limit your text – keep it short, easy to skim, and large enough to be visible from the back of the room
  • Coordinate visual elements – Use one typeface for the entire deck, use a consistent color palette, and use photos of a similar style
  • Arrange elements with care – align graphics and text blocks, and size all objects appropriately

Streamlined text and simple visual elements help your audience process the information much more quickly.

Next: Delivery

This is Part 6 of a series looking at Nancy Duarte’s new book HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations, highly recommended for all leaders.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5



Media – Identify the Best Modes for Presenting Your Message

People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint   – Steve Jobs

Award-winning author and presentation expert Nancy Duarte has a new book out: HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations. Over the next few days, I will be posting an outline of each of the book’s sections as well as zeroing in on a specific topic.

Section 4: Media

  • Chose the right vehicle for your messageslide decks aren’t always the answer
  • Make the most of slide software – it’s not just for slides
  • Determine the right length for your presentation – keep your audience engaged by budgeting your time
  • Persuade beyond the stage – communicate before, during, and after your presentation
  • Share the stage – mixing in experts and media holds interest

Determining the Right Length for Your Presentation

What do all great presentations have in common?

They’re short.

It’s no secret that people value their time. People in your audience won’t scold you for ending early, but they will for ending late. Out of consideration for them and the day’s agenda, stick to the assigned time slot and treat it as sacred.

Doing that, however, is not so easy. It will cost you time to save the audience time. It’s relatively easy to ramble on for an hour or so; it’s really difficult to craft a tight, succinct 20-minute presentation.

Here are five ways to tighten your talk and keep your audience engaged:

  1. Plan content for 60% of your time slot – that will leave time for Q&A or some other form of discussion
  2. Trim your slide deck – put all the trimmed slides at the end of your presentation where they are available is needed on the fly
  3. Practice with a clock counting up – if you go over, you need to know how much you’re over
  4. Practice with a timer counting down – having set time marks at different places in your presentation gives you a running gauge throughout your talk
  5. Have two natural ending points – if you’re running long, you can drop the second ending and still get your message across

Next: Slides

This is Part 5 of a series looking at Nancy Duarte’s new book HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations, highly recommended for all leaders.