#523  Innovative Leader Volume 10, Number 3          March 2001

Making a Presentation--Creatively
by Peter de Jager

Mr. de Jager, from Brampton, Ontario, consults and speaks on change and creativity.  He can be reached by phone 905-792-8706 or pdejager@technobility.com; website www.technobility.com

Your supervisor has just left your office, but not before making a shambles of your carefully planned day. It seems that the next day, you'll be making a presentation at a management meeting, a presentation you don't have ready, and have never given before. Keeping in mind that every presentation can become a career-limiting exercise, you take a deep breathe and begin.

We'll assume you actually know enough about the subject to give the presentation in the first place. If you don't, then your problem shifts from “How to give a good presentation” to “How to write a good resume.”

If you know anything about your subject, then filling 30, 60 or even 90 minutes will not be a problem. Restraining yourself from presenting too much will be your biggest challenge. Giving a good presentation depends on the fine art of taking 30 minutes to state a single idea, so that the audience can remember that single idea more than 30 minutes after you sit down.

What is the single idea you wish to communicate? This becomes your theme, your guiding light, and if you stray too far from it, your presentation will plunge into the abyss of confusion and irrelevance (also be very careful about using language too flowery and metaphorical for your intended audience).

Use Artwork

Since this is a creativity column, it's time to put this presentation together in a very different way.

Power up your computer and fire up your favorite presentation tool. Any one will do, provided it has an outline (text) mode and can resequence slides in either graphic or text mode.

Take your single idea/theme (A statement of less than 10 words) make it your first slide, print it out and place it in front of you. Each additional slide must add to, clarify, support or explain this single concept. If it doesn't, ask yourself why is it there?

Now choose only 4-5 additional ideas important to your talk. Again, they must add to, clarify, support or explain your central theme. Enter them in what you believe to be an appropriate sequence. These ideas should be at most 3-5 words each.

These slides become your stepping stones towards that one idea. The one you hope your audience will remember 30 minutes after they stop listening, or you stop talking (hopefully, the latter).

The next step is to use the computer as an assist in a brainstorming exercise to flesh out your presentation. To start this process, choose one of the many Clipart CDs that came with your multimedia PC and load the art browser allowing you to quickly view each of the 1000's of art clips. What you're attempting to do is select a piece of artwork for each of your slides. As you view each image, think about how it might add to, clarify, support or explain each slide.

As you browse through your artwork, you'll naturally see images which remind you of other points you should be making in your talk. Drop them into your presentation tool. Don't worry yet about the titles of those slides; if the words come naturally to you, by all means include them.

This is where the creativity is taking place. You’ll see images which will bring to mind important ideas. It will happen naturally; you don’t have to worry about it happening, it just does.

And, you'll think of other points, without appropriate images as yet, that should also be included in your talk. Enter those into your presentation as well.

Once you have about 1 slide for every 2-3 minutes of your talk, you can stop collecting images and ideas and sequence them in a natural flow. You might also notice some holes in the presentation, more ideas which need an image, and fill those in as best you can.

Believe it or not... not only do you have a full-fledged presentation but, because of the way in which you created it, it's relatively easy to remember. And it’s great for a printout the audience can take with them.

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