Feb 8, 2010

Guest Post: Introduction to Creative Presentations

This is a guest post by Edmond Mahony. Edmond is an independent digital strategist and brand planner based in London, UK. One of his current projects is The Ideas Forum – Spotlight Ideas.


I worked in a large IT company for many years. My experience of working in that company was that most presentations were left-side-thinking in approach. I imagine most other people in business in general have a similar experience of presentations (?)
This article is about presentations that are about being right-side-thinking in approach.
Difference between “normal” presentations and creative presentations What’s the difference between left-side and right-side thinking? Left-side is about linear, logical thinking. Right-side is about creative, lateral-minded thinking. Left-side in presentations, involves, most typically, imparting information with a certain degree of analysis (what many might consider the typical or “normal” presentation). Right-side in presentations, might involve, for example, facts and figures, insights, and analysis, but, most typically, is about getting others to think laterally.

Creative, lateral thinking is crucial in business. Without it you can’t have a business that in some way offers a better product or service than the competition to customers. Without creative, lateral thinking you can’t start a successful business nor can you develop a business and keep it going in a competitive marketplace. Without creative, lateral thinking you can’t have a successful brand, brand story, social media strategy, customer-service approach, and so on.
Creative, lateral thinking involves being creative in:

1 the imaginative sense (most typically in, for example, in advertising, graphic design, industrial design, architecture)

2 the problem solving sense (most typically in, for example, in environmental projects, engineering projects)

3 the entrepreneurial sense (i.e. in setting up an exciting, vibrant business)

4 the leadership sense (i.e. in developing a business, in creating a positive and pro-active work environment)

Creative, lateral-thinking is crucial in business. But how often do we focus on linear, logical-thinking than creative, lateral-minded thinking (?)

The creative presentation is an effective way of injecting creative, lateral-thinking into your business. The “creative presentation” is a broad term. It’s a broad term for many reasons.

1 Business environments differ and require different creative, lateral-minded approaches.

2 A particular business environment might require different creative, lateral-minded approaches. For example, an advertising agency requires a problem-solving approach when coming up with the marketing idea behind a campaign (i.e. is there a particular audience you could focus on and what type of marketing message would work best for this particular group?). And it requires an imaginative approach when coming up with the creative concept (i.e. you have discovered who best to target in your campaign, and what your particular marketing message is – now you have to come up with an idea that captures the imagination of this particular audience i.e. colourful balls bouncing down streets in San Francisco as in the Sony Bravia ad ).

3 Everyone is different. If you copy someone else’s approach, it’s not going to be original. People will see thought it. You must be original. You must surprise your audience. You must do things that makes them sit up. If you don’t get them to sit up, then there is no way you’re going to get them to think creatively. Your focus in to get people to think creatively.
Your main focus in the creative presentation is to get people to think creatively

We’re all accustomed to thinking in a linear, logical fashion. Our schools and universities are modelled, largely, on linear, logical thinking. The same with the environment we live in. The same with much of our work in work. The same, probably, with most of the presentations we experience at work. Not easy!

Difference between brainstorming and creative presentations

Brainstorming is getting a select group of people to focus on coming up with as many creative ideas as possible within a certain timeframe. The creative presentation is more relaxed. It’s about getting people to think creatively but not within a certain timeframe. You could get people to give you some feedback at the end of the presentation. But your real goal is to get them to go away and think creatively in their own time and space about some issues or a particular issue . Brainstorming is about quantity of ideas (an idea could be expressed in just one word or a few words). The creative presentation is more about getting people to develop and draw out their own particular ideas (so that they could write pages, if required, on a particular idea). Brainstorming is about intense creative-thinking. The creative presentation is more about getting others to think creatively, in an expansive fashion.

Creative Presentation Rules

Don’t follow rules when preparing for, and giving, creative presentations! Rather, follow general guidelines and then inject the rest with your own, personal, unique approach.
Importance of images in creative presentations
There are various techniques you can use in creative thinking. You can use words, music, props, and so on in a particular, creative ways. This article is only an introduction to creative thinking, and doesn’t go into the details of the various techniques. But if there is one technique to focus on, it is images. The image is a powerful tool in the creative presentation.

  • Communication tool. An image is often able to communicate a complicated idea more easily than words can. An image can be used on its own or in combination with words. Scientists often use images to describe complicated ideas in their subjects.
  • Emotional response. An image can be effective in drawing out an emotional response in audiences. This is particularly important in creative-thinking where imagination is important (i.e. in advertising, design, architecture, and so on).
  • Lateral-thinking. Related to the last point, although different, an image is able to get audiences to think laterally in general.
  • Provocative. Related to the last point, again, although a bit stronger in emphasis, images can be provocative in a creative sense. For example, you could use an image in conjunction with a word or phrase where there is some disparity or tension. A sort of tension that leads to productive ideas. Or, for example, instead of word/phrase and an image, use a pair of images where there is, again, some sort of disparity / tension.
The creative presentation is challenging. It’s risky. People might think your presentation is silly or whacky. You might give a good presentations but your audience just happens to be barren of creative ideas for whatever reason.

Social scientists have observed a strong correlation between enjoyment and creativity. So whatever, you do, don’t be boring. If you can’t, initially, engage with people, then you’ll never get to the stage where they will (or want to) think creatively. A good tip here is to adopt an ad lib approach. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for your creative presentation. You should prepare for it like any other type of presentation. But you want a certain amount of spontaneous, human engagement.

And, lastly, if using slides, never allow them to become the main focus of attention. You might get away with this, to a degree, with the “normal” presentation. But not with the creative presentation where the slides are props that you refer to, casually – only.

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