It’s no secret that today, we live and work in an innovation-driven world. The trail-blazing companies and individuals we all admire, are the ones that continuously reinvent themselves and the things they produce.
Of course, all that innovating requires ideas—fresh, bold, game-changing ideas. It doesn’t matter whether you manufacture smartphones, run the latest Internet startup, or design compelling business presentations…customers, clients and even employers today expect every one of us to show up at the table with new, better, more innovative ways of doing our jobs and delivering greater value.
They want ideas.
In fact, all great work starts with an idea, and presentations are no exception. And the more innovative the idea, the more exceptional the end product will be. So when it’s time to sit down and tackle your next presentation, why not approach it the way an innovative thinking genius would? Sure, honing your craft and mastering your tools is important. But before you start applying the newest techniques, tricks and hacks, take a few minutes to go through these six idea-inspiring steps. You’re certain to have greater success.
- Know Your Audience—How can you possibly design a unique and effective presentation if you don’t have a thorough understanding of the people being presented to? Who are they? Why will they be attending your presentation? What are their needs, wants, challenges? When it comes to your message, what’s in it for them? Try thinking of yourself not just as a designer, but as an “experience architect.” As Nancy Duarte suggests, take your audience on a journey from “what is” to “what can be.”
- Clarify your Vision—According to author Stephen Covey, one of The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People is to “Begin with the end in mind.” Armed with a clear understanding of your audience and their needs, you can now determine what you are actually trying to accomplish with your presentation—your objective. What is the key takeaway you want your audience to have? What action do you want them to take? Envision what a successful presentation would have to accomplish. Be as specific as possible. Your objective serves your roadmap, leading you from where you are now, to your desired destination: a killer presentation. Every decision you make regarding content, design, and technology should be measured against achieving your goals. Ask yourself, “Is this choice going to move me closer to my objective?” If not, forget it. It’s superfluous.
- Play “What If?”—Lack of knowledge, skill and experience can all be underlying causes of poorly designed and executed presentations. But perhaps even more damaging to presentation success is a lack of imagination. True innovators don’t conduct “business as usual.” They proactively search for new, better ways of doing things. They depart from the status quo. What can you do differently in this presentation to make it stand out and be more effective? What do you assume you “must” do? What do you believe you “can’t” do? What if you could do anything you wanted to do—what would you try? Innovators tinker, experiment, play. And so can you.
- Be Audacious (With at Least One Element)—We sometimes get intimidated or overwhelmed by the notion of “innovation,” believing that we have to come up with something revolutionary, something that’s never been seen or done before. But in fact, the most common type of innovation is simply taking something that exists, and making it incrementally better (e.g., the iPhone 6 was an innovative improvement on the iPhone 5). What one element of your presentation can you make better and more interesting than it was in the past? Can you do something unexpected in the way you structure and present the content? Can you incorporate images, video or audio in a way you never have before? Could you employ color in some manner that will make the audience sit up and take notice? What if you went “template-less,” and made each slide just a little different from all the others? Go wild! Try at least one audacious thing. Remember, you never know how far you can go until you go too far!
- Be Willing to Experiment and Fail (Temporarily)—All great innovators understand that temporary failure is an important step to success. Thomas Edison “failed” over 1,000 times when working to find a suitable filament material for his light bulb. But when a reporter asked him what it felt like to fail so many times, Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The lightbulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” Innovative thinking geniuses, by definition, try new and different things. But when something doesn’t work, they don’t give up and return to the status quo. They course-correct, make adjustments, tweak, and try again—until their ideas work and they change the game. (Here’s a tip: make a “safe” version of your presentation, then create a “save as” version that pushes the envelope. Then kick it up another notch and “save as” one more time!)
- Measure Your Success – Finally, great innovators determine a benchmark for success. In other words, they determine, ahead of time, what a successful outcome looks like – and they evaluate their work against it.
That way, the next time they’re up at bat, they can make the necessary adjustments to become even more successful. Remember earlier, when we were talking about your vision, we said, “Begin with the end in mind?” That Vision serves as your inspiration, your North Star – but it also serves as your benchmark. Did your presentation do what you wanted it to do? Did it get the response you intended? Did the audience take the action you wanted them to take? And what can you do differently next time to produce even more positive results?
Don’t you think the world has seen enough “me too” presentations? Haven’t too many people been lulled to sleep by status quo design?
You owe it to your work and your audiences to make your presentations the best and most innovative they can be.
What will you do, the next time you’re diving into a new presentation, that will blow your audience’s minds? How will you make them say, “I’ve never seen anything like that,” and most important of all, take the action you want them to take?
It all starts with an idea.
SmartStorming Partners Keith Harmeyer and Mitchell Rigie are authors, speakers, consultants, and trainers on the topics of innovative thinking, idea generation, and persuasive presentation skills. Co-authors of the book, SmartStorming: The Game-Changing Process for Generating Bigger, Better Ideas (http://SmartStorming.com/book), they have a combined 50+ years of experience working in the fields of advertising and strategic marketing communications and personal development. To learn more about their programs and keynotes, visit http://SmartStorming.com.