The blinking cursor. The blank PowerPoint slide. The empty piece of paper.
All are very intimidating when you've got a deadline and a presentation waiting to be written. Every time I ask the question “what’s the most difficult part of writing a speech?” the answer is always the same. STARTING.
Crafting a presentation is inherently a creative process. It’s no different than painting a picture, choreographing a ballet, or writing a novel. Every artist (and speakers ARE artists) starts with a blank canvas, page, or PowerPoint slide.
To write a remarkable presentation, you've got to get your creative juices flowing. You’re not writing just another speech – a remarkable presentation is an artistic creation.
So let’s get to the work of creating with these five creative principles for remarkable presentations, shall we?
1. Step away from the computer
My private clients often ask me “How do you, Michelle, create your presentations?”
My presentations often take me about 10-minutes to outline. Is that because I’m a super genius when it comes writing a presentation?
No. I don’t craft a speech by sitting in front of my computer at the local coffee shop.
Instead my presentations come into being when I’m out on my daily walk or while I play mousey with my cat or while I’m doing the dishes.
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with the perfect opening for my speech (and many times I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea for one of my clients).
I write these ideas down on post-it notes. Tack them to wall. Rearrange the contents as the idea refines.
For me, writing a speech for me is a dance full of movement and thought. Then when I’m ready to face the blank piece of paper, I come to it with a fully created idea.
If you’re feeling stuck creating your remarkable presentation, step away from the computer. Take a walk. Do nothing and be bored. Color with Crayons.
Creativity is stimulated when you’re not focused on the task at hand.
2. Create the speech you would like to hear
Every presentation should begin with your audience in mind. A presentation is art to be consumed by the people in that room and should be audience centered.
But you've been there (every speaker has), you've been the person in that room, listening to that speaker, wishing for something a little different.
What kind of speech would you like to hear? What does it do for you? How does it make you feel? What is said? What is not said?
When you’re clear on that go create that speech. The speech you've always wanted to hear that will create a remarkable experience for the audience and that you will be over-the-moon to give.
3. “Yes and” ideas
Push yourself to go beyond being a “me too” speaker. This type of speaker simply recycles the ideas of others, diligently cites their sources, but doesn't really add to the conversation.
I see these types of presentations all the time. They’re the types of presentations that anyone could give. Seriously, I could totally wrestle away your clicker, and give the speech myself, if it’s a “me too” speech.
Remarkable presentations go beyond recycling other people's ideas and instead build upon them.
Take a lesson from the rule book of Improv (one of the best ways to get your creative juices flowing), by adding “yes and” to the ideas of great thinker that came before you.
After all those great thinkers were “yes anding…” the ideas of other people or combining ideas to make something new.
There are no new ideas, but there are always new combinations, new twists, and a new way to “yes and” your speech into a noteworthy talk.
The next time you’re citing a quote of a famous thinker ask yourself – “How can I add to this? What twist can I put on it that extends this idea?”
Now you’re creating a speech that is new and exciting for your audience.
4. Use obscurity to play with presentations
This is a creative tip for my speaking peeps who are starting out and on the journey to getting knows. Although your eye is on the prize of getting more speaking gigs, being paid for your expertise, and being a sought-after speaker, relish this time of obscurity.
When no one knows your name and no one is paying you the big bucks yet, it’s the best time to experiment and play with your speaking.
Test out different stories. Try different ways to get the audience involved, Experiment with your material, the organization, and the structure. Break the rules of speaking to see what works for your style and plays to your strengths.
Have fun creating your remarkable presentation.
If you’re already that well-known speaker, you too can experiment and play. Make one small switch to your presentation every time you speak to see how the audience reacts. If they love it, keep it in and if it didn't work as well revert back to your already finely-crafted speech.
5. Know the constraints
I adore this quote from Mark Twain:
“If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I am ready today. If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare.”
Most people take this quotation to mean the shorter the speech the more time it takes to prepare which is oh-so true. I see this quotation as appealing to a principle that make you instantly more creative: constraints.
Less time means being more inventive about how you want to communicate your message. Challenge yourself to use 3 metaphors in your speech. Discover how you can use a cliffhanger story in your presentation. Make yourself adhere to the rule of only 5 words on every PowerPoint slide.
See how creative you can get. Dr. Seuss’s publisher challenged him to only use 50 words in one of his books and that’s how “Green Eggs and Ham” was born.
What constraints can you put on your presentation that will spur your creativity? Have fun!
Don’t let the blank page or blinking cursor taunt you into creating a mediocre presentation. Remarkable presentations blossom under the wellspring of your creativity. Treat your speech like art. Get your creative juices flowing by choosing one of these principles to do something that has never been seen before.