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Reflections — Renovate Communication Design, LLC

How to Be More Creative: The 5 Phonetic R’s of Creativity

204027819_74140dfd3a“I can’t give a good presentation; I’m not creative enough.”

“I could never paint/draw/pitch/speak/photograph/write/design/build/code like she does; I’m not creative enough.”

“I just don’t know where to get good ideas; I’m not creative enough.”


Want to do interesting things? Here’s how.

The 5 Phonetic R’s of Creativity

Read — Creative people notice the world around them. Be a sponge: pay attention and absorb everything. Books, blogs, magazines, audio, and video. Your daily commute, the little things your friends and spouse and children say and do. Everything is fair game. Specifically for presentations, see what others are doing on TED and Slideshare. Make connections between the things that happen in your life and the stuff that feeds your mind.

Write — Keep a swipe file. Write things down in notebooks or journals. Personally, Evernote is my favorite tool. Take pictures with your phone. Make drawings. Write a blog. Don’t wait to write until you think you’ve gotten things figured out. In fact, writing is a great way to figure things out. You’ll see your ideas unfold as you write.

Rest — Your mind needs time and space to process, which means you can’t work 24/7. Sleep. Turn off the computer, take a walk, exercise. Take a bath or a shower (actually, you should do that anyway–not just to be creative). Get out of the house. Pray, reflect, be still. UPDATE: This article on Lifehacker explains some of the science behind rest and creativity.

Restrict — Creativity needs constraints and boundaries. Try the pomodoro technique (Dan Pink does it when he’s writing a book). When you design slides, impose limits: try one color, one font. See what you can design in just an hour. Try slides with pictures, no text. Try just 20 slides. Limit your talk to 10 minutes or 3 minutes. Experiment and see what you can do by thinking inside the box.

Risk — Try something you’ve never tried – you might fail! But you can learn from that. Or you might succeed. Either way, you won’t know unless you try. And what’s the worst that can happen? They can’t eat you (see rule #4).

Notice something about this list?

Creativity has less to do with innate talent and a lot more to do with habits.

In real life, depth of commitment is more important than talent. It’s more important than beauty or skill, more important even than luck, because its produce is perseverance, endurance, tenacity. – Steven Pressfield

That’s it.

No more excuses.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

Photo credit: ~ wryonedwards ~
Rule # 4 is included with the permission of Bob Parsons and is copyright © 2004-2006 by Bob Parsons. All rights reserved.

Three Ways to Improve Your Presentations in 2013 (and Beyond)

2012 is coming to a close and you’ve probably given a presentation or two this year. How did they go? Were you well prepared? Was your audience captivated? Did you see dramatic change take place?

The new year will be here in just 11 days (assuming the world doesn’t end tomorrow). Want to see your presentations do more this next year?

Here are three simple changes you can make to improve your presentations in 2013.

Don’t give information. Do tell a story. Many (most?) presentations are long on facts, details, and information but short on persuasion. Why should all that data matter to me and what should I do about it? Here’s where stories can be your best friend. Stories are emotional and memorable; they enable us to insert ourselves into the place of the characters and simulate their experiences as our own. If using story in a presentation or meeting seems silly or unprofessional, see Spielberg’s new film Lincoln. In several scenes, the president skillfully uses stories to instruct, remind, and defuse. Find ways to incorporate story.

Don’t use a PowerPoint template. Go minimal. Start with a blank slate. Try a plain white, black or gray background. Use photographs, not clip art. Experiment.

Don’t “wing it.” Do rehearse. If there’s one thing you can do that will improve your presenting and public speaking instantly, this is it–and yet it’s the one thing that most people fail to do. When you practice your presentation, you’ll find ideas that you thought would work but don’t; you’ll also surface good ideas that hadn’t emerged in your planning. Rehearsing is also a great way to build your confidence, control your nerves, and combat stage fright before you present.

Change your presentations for the better this next year. Your audience will be glad you did.

How to Prepare a Talk Like Bill Hybels

Bill Hybels

“Everyone wins when a leader gets better.” –Bill Hybels

The world desperately needs better leaders and better communicators. Your business, your school, your church, your family–all would benefit from better leadership and communication.

So how can you improve your leadership and communication skills at the same time?

One idea: by attending the Global Leadership Summit.

The Summit is hosted annually by the Willow Creek Association, a non-profit that helps develop church leaders. The event is held in South Barrington, Illinois, at Willow Creek Community Church and simulcast at hundreds of churches around the world. World-class speakers share their leadership insights for an audience of ministry professionals, lay leaders, and business people. This year’s faculty, for example, included Condoleezza Rice, Jim Collins, Patrick Lencioni, and William Ury.

And, of course, Bill Hybels. Bill is the founder and senior pastor at Willow Creek, and he is passionate about developing leaders.

Deanne and I decided to attend the Summit this year after a consultant colleague, Jim Connolly, recommended the conference to us. We’re always looking for opportunities to get better and found several at the Summit. Last week we made the short drive to Bloomington/Normal where we caught the simulcast at Eastview Christian Church.

Five things Bill Hybels taught me about preparing a talk

Bill gave the opening talk on Thursday. His talk was really more like three separate talks, though, since he 1) introduced the conference, 2) talked about the need for leaders to develop good work habits, and 3) discussed the need for churches and leaders to prepare for the future (succession planning).

While I appreciated the advice that was shared, I also learned a few things about how Bill presents a message. Here’s what I observed:

  1. It’s OK to use notes – Bill referred to his notes (probably handwritten) on the lectern while he delivered his message. In fact, almost all of the Summit speakers used notes. If you’ve seen any TED Talks, though, you know that those talks are memorized. Either approach is fine as long as it’s done well.
  2. Rehearse – Even though Bill used notes, his delivery style was natural and conversational–he didn’t sound like he was reading from a manuscript. This comes from decades of preaching weekly sermons, no doubt, but also rehearsal. It was evident that Bill was not delivering this talk for the first time; he had practiced so that his delivery–his presence–wouldn’t get in the way of the message.
  3. It’s OK to make fun of yourself – Leadership is serious business, right? After all, there’s a lot at stake: if you screw up, people’s jobs are on the line. Well, yes, but a good sense of humor–especially self-deprecating humor–may often win over the skeptical. As he opened the Summit, Bill shared a story about preparing a Thanksgiving turkey that revealed his “awesome” leadership skills but also reinforced the need for leaders to remain humble and teachable.
  4. You don’t have to use PowerPoint – In many instances, it’s assumed that presentations = PowerPoint. Bill, however, used an easel pad to draw simple diagrams that illustrated a few key points. The visuals were helpful (since you remember more when you see and hear content) even though Bill is no Rembrandt. But that’s fine. I’d rather see a rudimentary drawing than an overused bullet-point-laden PowerPoint slide. And since good leaders and speakers seek ways to connect with their audiences, creating imperfect drawings makes the leader more accessible to common folk like me.
  5. Be passionate about your topic – Bill’s enthusiasm for leadership and his desire to help leaders improve were evident throughout his talk. His content, preparation, and the depth of emotion in his voice all point to one conclusion: this is something about which he cares deeply, and you should too.

If you want to improve your leadership skills, consider attending the Global Leadership Summit next year. And if you pay attention to both what the faculty say as well as how they say it, you’ll pick up some valuable speaking tips as well.

Here’s another way to improve your presentations: get our eBook. It’s free for a limited time and will be available soon.

Why Designers Don’t Talk About Design (And Why You Shouldn’t Either)

What’s the point of a design project?

To make something that looks good? To make something you like?

Not really.

The purpose of any design project is effective communication.

It doesn’t matter what you’re designing: a presentation, a résumé, a poster, an annual report, a web site… you get the idea. If you have something you need to say to an audience, your goal is to get your point across in a way that gets things done.

Mike Monteiro and Katie Gillum from Mule Design talked about this on a recent podcast. Here’s the conversation, slightly edited for readability and highlighted for emphasis.

You can listen to the podcast here. This conversation begins around 14:30.

Katie: This is a question from a person [Kathleen] who’s not a designer by trade and works in a nonprofit that doesn’t have the funds to get a designer. She is wondering if we have some suggestions for someone who’s interested in learning some fundamentals of design without making a career of it. And whether there’s anything you think she can do to help her nonprofit do a better job of not picking clip art. What can she do to make herself more well versed with design without going back to school and leaving her job at the nonprofit.

Mike: Well school’s a horrible place to learn anything.

Katie: So, Kathleen, don’t go back to school.

Mike: Yeah.

Katie: She doesn’t want to leave her job so do you think she should read? Do you think she should look at sites that she likes? Is there a way to be a guardian of design without being a designer?

Mike: Go look at things that are great. Go find them out. Go read about them online. You’ve got incredibly vast resources of this stuff. You’ve got blogs that talk about good design. Go to the museum bookstore and look at design stuff. And practice. Until then do as little as possible.

Katie: What do you mean?

Mike: Keep things as simple as possible is what I mean. The biggest mistake that I see when people don’t have a sense of design is to throw the kitchen sink at everything. They try to mask their inexperience with complexity.

Katie: We’ve gotten questions before about how to talk about design. This person is particularly interested in finding out how to do a better job of talking about design, as a non-designer to non-designers, and how to do a good job of explaining why something might need to change or how something might need to change. She should learn a lot of design language or just talk about things the way they’re already being spoken about? Is it better to set up best practices?

Mike: The problem is the whole “let’s talk about design” thing. It’s never “let’s talk about design.” You’re designing something for a reason so talk about what that reason is. If you’re designing a lost cat poster, you shouldn’t be talking about the design of the lost cat poster. You should be talking about whether this poster is going to help people find the cat. If they find the cat, is there an easy way to contact the person who lost it?

Katie: Right.

Mike: So talk about things in terms of goals, not in terms of design.

Katie: So let’s say that this nonprofit is a cat-finding nonprofit and they have lost the cutest cat of all. They want to make a border of the cat’s face. And she thinks, “That’s actually not a great idea. That doesn’t actually help people find the cat. What it does is make a really bad border.” How would you respond to that?

Mike: That’s not going to help people find the cat. That’s just extra stuff there that’s not helping people find the cat. It’s unnecessary. Get rid of it.

Katie: So she could say something like, “anything that’s not necessary to the ultimate goal.”

Mike: Right. Get rid of everything you can. What you’re left with is right.

Katie: What about classics like, “I like it.” What do you say to that?

Mike: Is it going to help you find the cat?

Katie: So you just repeat that?

Mike: If you like it, take it home–I don’t care. But that’s not the goal of what we’re doing here. The goal here isn’t to do something you like. The goal here is to find the d@mn cat.


Why We Love Mary — A True Business Story

Mary works in your organization and has an important presentation next week.

She’s not like Jim and you couldn’t be happier.

You’ve seen Mary present before. You know she takes time to get it right.

She does her homework: researches the problem, considers her audience, proposes good solutions.

And her slides? They look like no one else’s (and that’s a good thing).

Mary is confident when she’s in front of her audience, whether she’s in a small meeting room or on stage in an auditorium.

Mary knows what many other professionals know: that communication and presentations skills will help her succeed. But, unlike many of her colleagues, she’s taken the next step and invested in improving her skills.

So when Mary gets up to present, she delivers.

If you’re willing, you could be Mary.