It’s a shame that so many presentations fall short of the mark because they are just so uninspiring. We all know the feeling: The speaker ascends the podium; there is a moment of anticipation, of excitement; the first slide flashes on the screen — full of text; the speaker reads the slide; the next slide flashes — more text, more reading; our interest plummets.
It’s a shame because it doesn’t have to be this way. With a bit of inspiration, with a bit of creativity, most presentations could be much more memorable.
When I discuss the importance of creativity in presentations, many people tell me, “John, I’m just not a creative person.” My response is always the same: “Nonsense!” We are all creative. Pablo Picasso said that all children are born artists; the problem is how to remain an artist as we grow up.
Creativity is like a muscle — the more we use it, the stronger it becomes. Unfortunately, too many of us are conditioned over time to stick to what we know, to “draw within the lines”. And, so, as time passes, our creative instincts atrophy from lack of use.
So how can we be creative? How can we be inspired? American author Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration; you have to go after it with a club.”
Here are some ideas on how to stimulate your creativity:
- Turn the computer off.
- Note down your ideas with a pen or pencil. Don’t edit.
- Try mind mapping.
- Try free writing.
- Get away from your desk. (It is not likely the most inspirational of places.)
- Go for a walk outside in a park or by water or any place where there is more nature than concrete.
- Brainstorm with colleagues.
- Visit a museum.
- Listen to inspirational music.
- Be relentlessly observant.
- Always have a small notebook or an electronic device in which you can record ideas that come to you at odd moments so that you do not forget them.
- Read A Whole New Mind by Dan Pink. It is full of ideas and exercises on why creative thinking is important and how to stimulate it. (In fact, read pretty much anything by Dan Pink.)
Ultimately, you have to find what works for you. An activity that stimulates creativity for one person might not have the same effect for another. The key is to shake things up a bit, to try something different. As the saying goes: If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.
To conclude this post, I will leave you with another perspective on how and where to seek inspiration. It comes from Seth Godin, the author of several books about “marketing, the spread of ideas and managing both customers and employees with respect”. His blog is one of my favourites and I highly recommend it.
In this blog post from 24 November 2010, Seth provides his take on the question: Where do ideas come from?
Where do ideas come from?
by Seth Godin
- Ideas don’t come from watching television.
- Ideas sometimes come from listening to a lecture.
- Ideas often come while reading a book.
- Good ideas come from bad ideas, but only if there are enough of them.
- Ideas hate conference rooms, particularly conference rooms where there is a history of criticism, personal attacks or boredom.
- Ideas occur when dissimilar universes collide.
- Ideas often strive to meet expectations. If people expect them to appear, they do.
- Ideas fear experts, but they adore beginner’s mind. A little awareness is a good thing.
- Ideas come in spurts, until you get frightened. Willie Nelson wrote three of his biggest hits in one week.
- Ideas come from trouble.
- Ideas come from our ego, and they do their best when they’re generous and selfless.
- Ideas come from nature.
- Sometimes ideas come from fear (usually in movies) but often they come from confidence.
- Useful ideas come from being awake, alert enough to actually notice.
- Though sometimes ideas sneak in when we’re asleep and too numb to be afraid.
- Ideas come out of the corner of the eye, or in the shower, when we’re not trying.
- Mediocre ideas enjoy copying what happens to be working right this minute.
- Bigger ideas leapfrog the mediocre ones.
- Ideas don’t need a passport, and often cross borders (of all kinds) with impunity.
- An idea must come from somewhere, because if it merely stays where it is and doesn’t join us here, it’s hidden. And hidden ideas don’t ship, have no influence, no intersection with the market. They die, alone.