Desperately Seeking Inspiration

It’s a shame that so many presentations fall short of the mark because they are 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.

Pablo Picasso

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 my coaching sessions, many people tell me, “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.

Jack London on inspiration
Jack London

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:

  1. Turn the computer off.
  1. Note down your ideas with a pen or pencil. Don’t edit.
  1. Try mind mapping.
  1. Try free writing.
  1. Get away from your desk. (It is not likely the most inspirational of places.)
  1. Go for a walk outside in a park or by water or any place where there is more nature than concrete.
  1. Brainstorm with colleagues.
  1. Visit a museum.
  1. Listen to inspirational music.
  1. Be relentlessly observant.
  1. 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.
  1. 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”.

In this blog post from 24 November 2010, Seth provides his take on the question: Where do ideas come from? Some food for though for your inspiration.


Where do ideas come from?

by Seth Godin

  1. Ideas don’t come from watching television.
  1. Ideas sometimes come from listening to a lecture.
  1. Ideas often come while reading a book.
  1. Good ideas come from bad ideas, but only if there are enough of them.
  1. Ideas hate conference rooms, particularly conference rooms where there is a history of criticism, personal attacks or boredom.
  1. Ideas occur when dissimilar universes collide.
  1. Ideas often strive to meet expectations. If people expect them to appear, they do.
  1. Ideas fear experts, but they adore beginner’s mind. A little awareness is a good thing.
  1. Ideas come in spurts, until you get frightened. Willie Nelson wrote three of his biggest hits in one week.
  1. Ideas come from trouble.
  1. Ideas come from our ego, and they do their best when they’re generous and selfless.
  1. Ideas come from nature.
  1. Sometimes ideas come from fear (usually in movies) but often they come from confidence.
  1. Useful ideas come from being awake, alert enough to actually notice.
  1. Though sometimes ideas sneak in when we’re asleep and too numb to be afraid.
  1. Ideas come out of the corner of the eye, or in the shower, when we’re not trying.
  1. Mediocre ideas enjoy copying what happens to be working right this minute.
  1. Bigger ideas leapfrog the mediocre ones.
  1. Ideas don’t need a passport, and often cross borders (of all kinds) with impunity.
  1. 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.

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International