Last Thursday, thanks to a heads up tweet from Todd Chandler, Cyndi and I attended our first Pecha Kucha night at Crosstown Station in downtown Kansas City. If you’ve not heard about it, Pecha Kucha is an innovative 20-slide PowerPoint presentation format with each slide on-screen for 20 seconds. Introduced in 2003, Pecha Kucha nights have been held in more than 200 cities globally.

Pecha Kucha emphasizes rapidly-paced, visually-oriented, creative slides. You’d think, by definition, it would be difficult to do a bad Pecha Kucha presentation since so many poor presentations emerge from slow pacing and too many words on a slide. While avoiding these downfalls helps improve presentations, it doesn’t fix everything.

As a result, here are 6 presentation reminders from Pecha Kucha night that apply to other presentations too:

Reminder 1: Boring presentations aren’t only caused by too much text on a slide. Despite agonizing about overly bullet pointed PowerPoint slides, an exclusively visual presentation can be deadly as well. One way to accomplish it? Read your presentation and don’t make eye contact with the audience.

Reminder 2: You can lose the handle on a presentation in less than 6 minutes. Even if you’re only presenting for a few moments, failing to have a solid presentation strategy and a well thought out flow will put you in the ditch quickly.
Reminder 3: Sometimes 20 seconds a slide is still too long. You wouldn’t imagine it, but 20 seconds can push the limits of how long a slide should be on screen if there’s no reason for it to be there or it’s not information rich.
Reminder 4: It’s a good thing corporate presentations don’t usually include beer and poetry. No matter what they are, distractions change a presentation. The beer break in the middle of the evening introduced an attractive distraction. Subsequent presentations became funnier or less tolerable (i.e. the poetry reading) because of it.
Reminder 5: Doing a visually-oriented presentation doesn’t mean you should treat it like a slide show. Really compelling pictures are worth a thousand words. Marginal images are worth about five. And if you’re not prepared to fill in some of the other necessary words to make a point, you’ve got a problem.
Reminder 6: Humor nearly always helps a presentation. Even in a brief presentation, smartly using humor makes a presenter more intellectually & emotionally approachable, bringing the audience into the experience. One of the funniest lines of the night? “These mouse turds were hand rolled by me.” How can you not be rooting for someone who’s willing to honestly share that?
Go to Pecha Kucha if you get a chance (as a teaser, here’s Todd’s fun presentation). I’ll be working on my 20 second presentation chops for evening #7 on October 22! – Mike Brown

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Beyond sharing creativity, innovation, and strategic thinking ideas here on the Brainzooming blog, I’ve had several opportunities recently to be involved with other channels to get ideas out. These are free and available for all of you to download!

“Fascination” – An Interview with Sally Hogshead

I recorded a webcast interview with Radical Careering author Sally Hogshead on Fascination and the triggers that make brands, ideas, and people fascinating. The webcast, in support of Sally’s keynote speaking appearance at the American Marketing Association Market Research Conference (which I’m chairing by the way) debuts Tuesday, July 21. It will be available on-demand for one year afterward.

Having known Sally for several years, it rocked to get the opportunity to talk with her about fascination since it’s the topic of her upcoming book. Her discussion on why Michael Jackson is fascinating is worth the listen alone!

And if you’re involved in market research, you should really attend the Market Research Conference. We have a tremendous lineup of speakers addressing how market researchers and intelligence-based marketers need to prepare for “What’s Next” to drive business success. Beyond traditional conference approaches, we’ll be incorporating social media heavily into the event to extend & deepen the learning experience. For updates, http://www.twitter.com/amamrc.

Hosting Eye on Small Business

Kelly Scanlon hosts the “Eye on Small Business” radio program on 1510 Hot Talk in Kansas City. I’ve been on Kelly’s show previously talking about “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation.” She asked me to substitute host for her on the topic of “What Can You Do When You Can’t Do What You’ve Done Before” with guests Jan Sokoloff Harness and Kate O’Neill Rauber. You can listen to the broadcast and grab the guerrilla marketing tools questions we discuss later in the show.

Some More Brainzooming Stuff

Here are a few more free Brainzooming download sources:

Hope you find these beneficial, and let me know if you have questions on any of them. – Mike Brown

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Extra Credit – My traveling companion remarked about how interesting it was that artist J. Seward Johnson took the two dimensional “American Gothic” by Grant Wood and created the three dimensional “God Bless America.”

How can you add another dimension to well-known work you’ve previously done and create fresh interest in it? - Mike Brown

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The great perspectives from creative and innovative thinkers I’ve met on Twitter continues this week with this post on breaking creative blocks from Robert Alan Black, Ph.D. Known as “wanderingalan” on Twitter, he’s the founder and president of Cre8ng People, Places and Possibilities and author of “Broken Crayons, Break Your Crayons and Draw Outside the Lines.” He can be reached online at alan@cre8ng.com

It’s a real honor to have
Alan share his perspective on a random thinking technique that’s a twist on the “Change Your Character” approach that’s been shared here previously:

Oh no! I’m blocked again. No ideas. I just sit and sit and no ideas come. 

Where is my muse when I need her?

I have to have ideas and a basic proposal in 90 minutes, and I feel stale, blank, dry, like a void in space. No ideas are coming, especially creative ones.

This blocked, frustrated feeling often happens when we are under pressure. One process I find helpful is to Alphabetize Sources.

Simply take a sheet of paper and write down the left side of the page the letters a, b, c, through z. Then think of the name of a famous/infamous person whose name fits, i.e., Abe Lincoln for A, Benjamin Franklin for B, Charles Manson for C. You can use first names or last names or a mix. It is up to you.

Then proceed to randomly pick a series of letters from a to z and write them on separate cards or pieces of paper. Now look up the names that match on your list.

You may have chosen D, X, M, T, U, O, H and the names from your list were:

D – Walt Disney
X – Xavier Cougat
M – Mickey Mantle
T – Teddy Roosevelt
U – U. S. Grant
O – Oscar Wilde
H – Henry Fonda

The next step is to imagine how each of these people might approach your challenge. Walt Disney might focus on amusement or entertainment while Xavier Cougat would orchestrate the problem using a large group of players and Mickey Mantle might swing for the home run, and so forth.

Often the ideas will appear farfetched at first. That is when you need to use your always available logically creative thinking skills. Take the “wild idea” and ask yourself: How might I alter this to make it more workable (using any appropriate criteria or limitation)?

This process helps “break mindset,” “shift paradigms,” and forces me to explore approaches I might never consider otherwise, especially under pressure of a time restraint.

This method can be used in many different ways. Instead of famous people’s names you could use:

  • Cartoon characters
  • Characters from literature
  • Super Heroes (Steve Grossman developed this version)
  • Occupations
  • Animals
  • Objects
  • Randomly chosen nouns from a dictionary

The possibilities are endless. The key is to force your thoughts into new patterns, to “Break Your Crayons,” change your mindset quickly, and effectively find creative directions even when your muse is off on vacation in Barbados. By breaking your crayons you will cause your brain to make leaps when you need it to and not have to wait until it is in a creative mood.

This is just one method to help ourselves be more creative on the spot, on demand, and off-the-wall. What ideas do you use to stimulate your muse? Share your ideas in the comments section for other innovators to learn. - Robert Alan Black, Ph.D., CSP

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Before this fellow passenger on a recent flight started reading his book on Shoeless Joe Jackson, he pulled out a cigar and stuck it in his mouth. It stayed there (unlit) the entire time he was reading. It was quite clear the cigar was his crutch – an aid to more productive reading (and probably productivity in lots of his other activities too).

We all have crutches; some are creativity crutches. Mine include big glasses of Diet Dr. Pepper heaped with crushed ice, plus Sharpie markers and many varieties of paper. All these help me be more creative.

What are your crutches? Importantly, think about ones that work well for you. But also consider crutches that aren’t really providing much help anymore. It’s always good to know what’s working and what isn’t when you need assistance easing into creative periods. Mike Brown

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My wife told me about a home staging TV show where they have $500 to get a home ready to sell. In one episode, the homeowner had already moved their furniture, so the show’s designer created cardboard furniture before the open house.

Since cardboard furniture obviously isn’t functional, why would they do that?

When trying to sell a house, furniture isn’t there for function. Its presence helps prospective buyers visualize the possibilities the house offers, and move them from cursory interest, to motivation, and to purchase.

That’s a great example when trying to sell early-stage ideas.

In communicating a relatively new idea, many people limit their options because they assume without a relatively fully-designed and functional concept they’ll undermine the sales effort. On the contrary, something merely suggestive of your full concept can be the difference in helping decision makers VISUALIZE the idea you’re pitching.

Think how ad agencies pitch ideas. Invariably there’s some type of visual – a storyboard, a relevant video snippet, sounds, role playing, etc. Again, none of them are functional, but they are all great at helping depict and sell-in a concept.

So don’t let a lack of time, creativity, or initiative thwart your success at pitching ideas. Instead, figure out what your best equivalent of cardboard furniture is and improve your odds of creating a motivated buyer for your idea! - Mike Brown  

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Here are five things strategic thinking approaches, any one of which you can work on this week to improve your performance:

  1. Take time to perform long-term actions even when near-term pressures are very distracting.
  2. Don’t overreact in the face of incomplete information. Ask questions & allow others the opportunity to answer.
  3. Ask questions of smart, well-informed people outside the mainstream. You’ll learn a lot.
  4. Be willing to ask, “How could this be different?” particularly if you’re a black & white type thinker.
  5. Work on developing more decisiveness, tenacity & patience. You need them even more these days.

BTW – Based on reader feedback, the summer Brainzenning videos are moving to Fridays starting this week. - Mike Brown

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