A creative presentation is one that ignites the passion of your audience. They walk out enthused, amazed and marvelling at the ideas they have just heard.
What are the creativity principles that guide remarkable presentations?
The late Steve Jobs said creativity was all about connecting things. When you are able to connect your experiences, you synthesise new things.
Here are nine creativity principles to consider when putting together your next presentation.
1. Walk away from your notes and think
For most of us, the job of creating a presentation starts when we go over our subject notes, assemble the research we will be referencing, and start to create a rough outline of how our message can come together.
While that makes great organisational sense, it doesn’t lead to the most creative instinct.
Gather these materials and go over them, and then walk away. Go for a walk around the block and consider how you would respond if a fellow walker casually asked you what your presentation was going to be about.
The simple, straightforward answer that will spring to your head is the creative nucleus of your presentation. When you can summarise it in two sentences or less, take that part back to your desk and resume the process of building your presentation from that foundation.
Instinctively, you will have summed up the most interesting thing you have to say.
2. Consider your one bold new idea and go from there
When you return to your desk armed with the nucleus of your presentation, your first instinct will be to jump right into PowerPoint or your choice of presentation programme and start building.
Resist that urge and instead reach for some sticky notes or recipe cards. Write one bold new idea that stems logically from the nucleus of your presentation on each card.
Review them, shuffle them, and read them in different orders. Think about which ones should be presented in which order.
When you do this, your presentation will be more creative because you are not limited to the linear thinking encouraged by programmes like PowerPoint which move you methodically from one slide to the next.
Nancy Duarte, author of The Harvard Business Review Guide to Persuasive Presentations, is a big proponent of this technique because she finds it helps you to think about the presentation as a whole, not a series of linear points.
In an interview on the Ted Blog, she explains exactly how it works for her.
3. Create your presentation like painting a masterpiece
You are now ready to build your creative presentation. Think like an artist preparing to paint something that has inspired him or her. You have your paints (your boldly-coloured ideas), your canvas (your presentation programme), your vision (the nucleus) or that point where your mind and imagination merge – the way you imagine the finished work will be.
Now unleash your focus and build the first draft of your presentation.
4. Make sure you stand out
To keep your presentation from appearing like everyone else’s, consider some of the things that make you unique. Perhaps you are the CEO of a company, but you also play the harmonica, for example. Can you somehow build that into your talk to catch people off guard and delight them with the unexpected?
Performance coach and performing artist Victoria Labalme, in an interview with Nancy Duarte describes that as the prism effect. She explains that we all have colours within us, and like a prism, when we shine light through we see the full spectrum of a rainbow that delights others.
Determine how you shine and display that as part of your presentation.
5. Tell stories that contain the “I’ve been there” element
The next principle of creativity you need is storytelling. It is the blanket you wrap around your facts to give comfort and care to your audience’s well-being.
It is also the way that you make your message and your key ideas memorable. When your audience can relate to your stories and feel that amusing heart tug that says, “I’ve been there,” they instinctively warm to you and reward you with more intense attention.
The product of facts is information, but as philosopher Walter Benjamin noted, the product of storytelling is wisdom. People will begin to forget facts the minute they stir in their seats to leave, but wisdom will stay with them for the journey home and wait within them to be fired up when it is needed again in a day, a week or a month.
In this video, accomplished speaker Doug Stevenson, famous for his mantra “Don’t just tell a story; tell the right story,” illustrates how to effectively tell a story during a business presentation.
6. Think more about your audience than yourself
The hardest principle of creativity is to imagine yourself as a member of your audience, rather than as the speaker.
The more you can focus on others, the more creatively you will connect with them.
People don’t care if you are nervous or shy about standing in front of them. They care that you can pull it together enough to engage them in your remarks. They deserve that for taking time out of their full lives to come and listen to you.
Respect that they have just delivered to you their most precious and irreplaceable commodity: their time. Don’t waste it or your own minutes on distractions like jitters and nerves. Step out and ignite them with the boldness of your thinking.
7. Know that you have a unique offering because you are unique
Because you have used your creative processes to help you refine your message, be confident that your remarks will be unique because you are unique. No two people can engage in the creative process and come out with precisely the same results.
8. Remember facts are just facts until proven false; ideas live longer
Facts are important in verifying certain points of your presentation, but using too many facts is like ruining a dish with an overdose of pepper.
In an information age, we over-use facts. What your audience will find more creative is an explanation of what those facts really mean in their lives. Relevancy trumps recitation of data every time.
9. Leave enough time to review your work with fresh eyes
Once you finish your presentation, leave it for a couple of days and then go back to give it the final edit and proofing. You need that distance to see what you have created in a clearer light.
Not only will you pick up little grammatical errors or typos, but you will also note when connections fall short or more stories are needed.