Being creative in your presentation isn’t beyond your reach. People wrongly assume that ‘being creative’ takes profound artistic ability, when all you need is a little imagination. OK, so that’s maybe not as easy as it sounds, but Emma Bannister outlines some really good ideas to help you get off the starting block, and lists many useful resources for extra inspiration.
Are you creative?
I recently attended a conference where the speaker asked us this very question. A few hands went up around the room, but not many. The speaker then went on to explain the definition of ‘creativity’ – namely, that it does not translate to how ‘artistic’ you are, as many people wrongly assume.
Creativity – the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.
Being creative is about having an imagination – and each and every one of us, has one of these. Unfortunately, it’s just been drummed out of us at an early age that creativity, curiosity, experimentation and expression of ideas are all things that are not associated with work, a job, a business or a career.
Creativity is actually about problem solving, thinking laterally, about generating and brainstorming new ideas and coming up with different ways of presenting those ideas.
That’s why in the 2016 World Economic Forum report, The Future of Jobs, chief human resources and strategy officers from leading global organisations revealed that the skill of creativity, in particular, will be needed in the workforce of 2020.
It is thought that as we begin to rely more on machines to make decisions, then humans will need to supply what machines cannot: creativity.
The good news is that you do not need to ‘be artistic’ to ‘be creative’ with your presentation.
There are far too many unnatural, text-heavy and overcomplicated messages being communicated today, especially in the PowerPoint dominated world of presentations.
That’s why you need to get creative
You need to brainstorm ideas on how to best communicate your main messages in a compelling story that will have your audience on the very edge of their seat (or screen).
How could you use a mix of words and images, infographics and diagrams, to create emotion, to connect with your audience and sell them your main points in a way that hasn’t been done before?
There’s a really simple four-step process that I use to kick start my own inner creative when I’m coming up with ideas for a new presentation:
1 – Brainstorm
Write down all your thoughts and explore multiple ideas for your presentation. What is you main message? What are the key points you need to make? How best could you present these? This is about quantity not quality – a brain dump. Silence your inner voice and set your mind free.
2 – Think visual
Sketch your ideas onto paper. This is about visualising your key messages, main points, data and info that will make sense to you and to others. Draw diagrams and mind maps to connect the dots and your thinking. Remember, this is not about ‘being artistic’; it is about being open to explore.
3 – Sense make
Turn chaos into calm. Get rid of everything that isn’t essential to your main points. This is your ‘aha’ moment where you start to make sense of everything you have brainstormed or sketched out. Begin to cut out the unnecessary clutter.
4 – Action
Pull out one clear message that sums up your presentation. This might be one sentence that communicates your purpose, or a visual that is easily understood and connects with your audience. This is what you will use at the beginning and end of your presentation and at key points while you present.
The hardest part in the creativity process is extracting information out of your brain and explaining it in a way that others can understand.
Put the heart in art
To see how easy it is to come up with visual images (with minimal artistic talent) just look at Visual Storyteller Christoph Niemann’s work.
The visual below helps us to see when a picture is either too abstract or too real to understand it, or associate with it.
Somewhere in between the two opposing ends is an icon that works perfectly and simply to convey your message.
Using strong visual references (like the above) helps create clarity and a much stronger emotional connection with whomever you’re presenting to. It’s these kinds of emotions and visuals that are what your audience will remember long after you’ve presented to them.
So just remember that creativity comes in many forms and is actually a really enjoyable experience!
You need to cultivate positive emotions about the experience to reduce fear and anxiety that will chew up all your creativity (this is what authors call ‘writer’s block).
Remember, you don’t need to be a winner of the Archibald Prize to be a creative genius.
Look around for ideas from other (good) presentations and visuals. And don’t just stop there – inspiration comes from everyday stuff and situations like books, magazines, and when you’re walking the dog.
Just try it and see!
Top 5 creativity kick-starts
- Search for inspiration in books, magazines or websites
- Gather ideas and take photos from everyday events
- Take regular breaks from sitting at your desk
- Work in blocks of time to give your brain a break
- Get outside – fresh air and walking is best
Creative resources to help
- Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?
- Adam Grant: The surprising habits of original thinkers
- Abstract: The art of design