Earlier this week my two-year-old daughter was wandering through the house aimlessly, mostly causing trouble because her brothers and sisters were busy and had no time for her. After several minutes of pointless reminders (“Eva, that’s not yours.” “Eva, hands off.” “Eva, don’t touch.”), my wife put her in the Pack ‘n Play (that’s a playpen for the old schoolers) with a few toys.
The point was not to punish her; in fact, just the opposite. By giving Eva a few things to do (instead of virtually unlimited things to do) and some well-defined boundaries, she was able to play happily and–bonus–without mom and dad’s intervention. After just a few minutes, we heard her singing “Happy Birthday” and hosting a party for her dolls. You can see she was having great fun.
In the creative process, we call these seemingly counterintuitive limitations “constraints.” If you’re stuck in a PowerPoint rut, try something different and embrace the power of constraints. Here are a few ideas:
- Use no more than six words on a slide
- Use only one word on your slides
- Don’t use any words–pictures only
- Get rid of your template–try a plain white or black background
- Choose one font (not the default) and use it for a month
- Limit yourself to 20 or 10 slides. Or 50 slides.
- No bullets
- No special text animation or slide transition effects
- Go find a cool presentation and try to copy its style
- No slides (!)
Make a game of finding your limitations–what’s one thing you can do differently on your next presentation? The point is not austerity; the point is creativity.
Speaking of creativity, do you know the 5 phonetic R’s of creativity? You can apply them in your presentations or wherever you’re feeling stuck: work, school, relationships. There’s no limit to thinking creatively.
In many cases, a better approach is right around the corner if you’re willing to stop doing something that you’re used to. If you really want to shake things up with your presenting, try some of these suggestions from John Jantsch over at the Duct Tape Marketing blog: Five Alternatives to PowerPoint Presentations.