Creative Techniques: Does Your Idea S.U.C.K?







Idea generation is *cough* the easy part. The hard part, is making sure your ideas are heard, and acted on. o how do you successfully take your idea to market? One way, is to make sure it S.U.C.Ks

Is it Sharp? Don’t take half an idea to market if you don’t have to. Too many times I’ve seen ideas pitched which are really no more than a headline pretending to be an idea. Put some effort in. Take off the rough edges. Grind out some of the potential problems.

Is it Understandable? If you’re pitching your idea, don’t expect your audience to be able to see its potential as easily as you do. You must put yourselves in their shoes. Imagine you know nothing about your idea. How easily can you explain it? Create an Elevator Pitch for your idea. If you can’t explain it clearly in a paragraph, why not?

How will it Cut through? Be honest with yourself. There are millions of ideas floating around in the ether, and whatever field you work in, chances are thousands of new ideas are pitched each year. Why is yours different? Imagine your audience are cold hearted cynics. What will convince them your idea is the one? How will your idea cut through the clutter?

Is it backed by Knowledge? This is the one factor that is often ignored when pitching new ideas. Your credibility. An idea for a plutonium powered pen is unlikely to gain traction if it’s pitched by a potato farmer. Do you have the background knowledge to give your idea gravitas? Can you answer the hard questions? Why should anyone listen to you?

Creating ideas is only one part of the puzzle. Make sure you have all the parts under control. Ask yourself…. does my idea S.U.C.K?


Creative Techniques: 3 Ways To Add Wow To Your Presentation

I’ve written a few times about pitching your work (see HERE), but I’m going to touch on it again, because how you present is one of the most ignored facets of creativity. Too often great ideas are ignored because they’re not presented properly, and they’re not presented properly because the creator misguidedly believes that everyone else will see their idea in the same shining light that they do. Sadly, that’s rarely the case.

Larger advertising agencies are masters at pitching their work to clients. They go all out with spec spots, artwork, video mockups, props and performance.

The effort and expense of pitching is a constant source of debate in the ad world, but the simple fact is, ‘wow‘ works. So how do you add the wow factor to your presentation (whatever that is) without breaking the bank? Here are 3 of my favourites.

1. Proper PowerPoint Preparation. PowerPoint is the bane of my existence, but it’s a fact of life in many industries, and can be an effective tool if used correctly. Get the basics right first. Minimise the number of slides you use. Always save a version as a PowerPoint Show, not a presentation (there’s nothing worse than watching someone open a PowerPoint and seeing 120 slides lined up down the side).

Don’t constantly lean over the computer to advance slides. Use a clicker. They’re cheap and make you look professional. Never just slap up a bunch of text and read it. We can read it ourselves faster, so it’s pointless. PowerPoint presentations should enhance your physical presentation, not detract from it.Used well, that sliding screen of imagery, audio, video etc can be a major wow factor.

2. Use Visuals. But use them well. leave clip art to your 9 year old. Create a visual theme and stick to it. Use a colour palette. If you’re not good at visuals, there are plenty of tools online to help. Palette generators are fun (here’s one from DeGraeve). There’s no excuse for your presentation not looking good, and frankly, even if you have a good excuse, your audience won’t care. There are gorgeous visuals available online, but don’t just use them for your Powerpoint. Decorate the room. Colour your hair. Wear the right clothes. Do everything add a visual wow factor to your presentation. The cliche ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ is a cliche because it works. Don’t be lazy., Don’t make excuses. Do everything you can to visually wow them.

3. Perform. Every presentation is a performance. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. The story arc must have highs and lows. It has to be sold in with passion. Take some risks. Pick the right environment in which to present. Sell it in with everything you’ve got. Ignore embarrassment. Put yourself on the line and your audience will respect you for it. I’ve talked to audiences of 8 to 1800 and more, and taken some huge risks. If they know you’re taking a chance for them, they’ll appreciate it.

The need for creative thinking doesn’t end the moment you have the idea. this is the real world, and chances are your idea is competing for attention with a thousand others. Whether it’s a new song, an artwork or an advertising campaign. You can’t assume other people will take one look and go ‘wow‘. But you can help them see what you see.






Creative Techniques: The Top 5 Skills You Never Knew You Needed

Creativity isn’t something mystical, it’s a combination on inherent talent and learned skills. Some of those skills are obvious. If you’re a sculptor, you need to learn how to sculpt. But some skills may not be so obvious.

Here are the 5 skills I think many creative people ignore or simply don’t consider.

1    Presentation. I’ve written before about the importance of the pitch. I believe it’s one of the most underrated creative skills. Now, I’m not saying that lack of presentation skill will curb your creativity, but if you can’t pitch your ideas to other people, you’re at a disadvantage.
I recently sat in a meeting with 2 very smart creatives. Their ideas were awesome, but they simply couldn’t sell them. They were the epitome of the creative nerd. Mumbling, shy, distracted. Learn to present.

2    Reading. Might seem simple, but reading and comprehension add input. Good input helps you create good output. Reading is still the best way to absorb information. Why? Because the written word allows greater interpretation than vision or audio. You put your own spin on the things you read. You have to actively (albeit usually subconsciously) contribute.

3    Writing. The flipside of reading. Writing and drawing allow you to get your ideas out. Yes, you can verbalise your ideas, but for most people the creative process utilises notes or sketches early on. Learn how to write succinctly, but expressively. Write down LOTS of notes when you’re in meetings, brainstorming or just tossing ideas around. Paper is cheap, and electronic note taking even cheaper.

4    Drawing. It’s not just for visual artists. Sadly, something I struggle with (but I still work at it). The ability to quickly visualise your ideas helps move them towards reality, and stops them getting lost in the flood. If you’re poor at visualisation, like me, then learn how to use the tools that will enhance your meagre inbuilt talent. Photoshop is fantastic.

5    Negotiation. Yep. Develop some proper, businesslike negotiation skills. Unless you’re such an incredible creative genius that the world will bow to your brilliance (you know, like Van Gogh. Oh, hang on, didn’t he die a pauper and only sell a single painting in his lifetime?), chances are you’re going to have compromise along the way. Good negotiation skills (combined with presenting skills) will help you keep the compromise to an acceptable minimum. There’s rarely any benefit to playing the petulant artist. Stomping around demanding people accept your ideas gets you nowhere, so learn how to negotiate. The higher you get, the less negotiating you’ll actually have to do, but it’s always there in the background.
So there you have it, the top 5 skills creative types never realise they need. It’s a real world, and the real world demands certain things. If you want to get your ideas out of your head and into that world, learn and hone all the skills you’ll need.

Next, I’m going to think about the top 5 attributes a good creative needs.

Creative Techniques: Got An Idea? Get A Plan.

The problem with many inexperienced creative types is that they assume creativity and practicality are mutually exclusive. They want to wing it. Every time.
While that’s fine if you’re operating alone, and have no deadlines or client objectives to meet, in the commercial world it spells disaster. It may sound boring, but a plan or method of some sort will not only help you think more effectively, it can help you understand the creative process better and replicate it at need.
Look carefully at what you need to achieve and plan for it properly. What is your timeline? What resources do you need? Who do you need to work with? How do you need to present effectively? How will your results be measured? The list will be specific to your situation, but the very existence of a plan is vital.
Don’t be tempted to dismiss method and planning as ‘old school’ or ‘non creative’. That’s crap. If you want evidence, speak to sculptors, or visual artists. Look to the plans of Michelangelo or Da Vinci. If those guys moved past the ‘just wing it’ stage, perhaps it’s time you did.

Creative Techniques: 4 Simple Tricks To Win The Pitch

I’ve written before about how to prepare and win your pitch (here, here and here). In an advertising agency, resources, skills, the right technology on hand and a willingness to go hard have produced some outstanding successes. However, what can you do, if it’s just…. you?

1.     Pitch away. Whatever you’re presenting, try as hard as you can to present away from your client or prospect’s home environment. This may seem counter intuitive. You want them to be relaxed and receptive, right? So surely they’ll be more relaxed in their own environment? Yes, they will. More relaxed. More in control, and more likely to maintain the status quo rather than take on your idea.
You’re also more likely to be disturbed in their environment. Phones, other people, day to day issues rear their heads with incredible regularity.  Try to find a neutral environment which you can control. Then ask them to turn their phone off for the presentation. It highlights the importance of what you’re pitching, and focuses their attention on you.

2    Contract before you pitch. Start by highlighting the brief you received, or the problem you’re going to solve, then point out the steps you intend to take in your presentation. Point out how long the presentation is going to take, what points (broadly) you’re going to cover, and what steps will follow.

3.    Close. Make sure your audience has a clear understanding of why they are there. You’re pitching to win, not to simply extend a conversation. Don’t be afraid to let them know that. If you’re there to make a sale, then ask for the buy. If you’re presenting a  new concept, TV show, product…. whatever, clearly reinforce the result you want. Never expect them to make the leap themselves. It’s amazing how many presentations I’ve seen where the person pitching has faded badly at the end simply because they’re scared that if they ask for the business, they might get a no. Take the risk, and if you get a no, remember that’s often simply the next step in your negotiation.

4.    And finally….hold up your left hand. If your Powerpoint presentation has more slides than you have fingers on that hand, slap yourself and revise. Powerpoint is a dangerous tool in the wrong hands. If you are using it, ensure it highlights your presentation. It should not be your presentation.

Keep slides clean, clear and to a minimum. Don’t make people read a screen while you’re trying to talk.