Takeaway Creativity

JengaHave you ever given a talk and had too much information to share?

Last night, I shared how to give a six-minute talk that helps the audience understand a key problem, learn the steps necessary to make changes, and inspire them to take some form of action. I wanted to give the talk in six minutes to demonstrate my point, but I had 30-minutes of information to share.

My prep time reminded me of the Jenga game. Players start with a large tower of wooden pieces and have to carefully remove one piece at a time without the entire structure collapsing. The game is always a challenge because opponents alternate the removal of pieces, which means their move might be to keep the tower stable for a few more rounds or designed to force the destruction of the tower upon your next move—so they can win.

In business projects, takeaway creativity is like a Jenga game. We research and are supplied resources for our assigned project. A brain dump occurs of all the information we have to work with followed by a sifting and sorting process to select only the useful or pertinent information. And then, we decide if we’ll give a presentation with 46 slides or whittle it down to our best seven.

The ace solution is always the simplest. It’s true in filmmaking, writing, and presentations. No one wants to be lulled to sleep by the information that isn’t relevant.

When television first got started, the shows were 58 minutes in length, giving time for sponsors to demonstrate their products in exchange for covering the show’s production costs. Once the power of television became known to advertisers, a deluge of companies started promoting their wares, which forced show lengths to drop down to 43-minutes.

The programs improved as a result because writers were forced to use only the pertinent information that was absolutely necessary to tell the story. Then streamers hit the market and the rules about programming length changed to fit the story. Suddenly the advertising-free shows were released at varying lengths based on what the story dictated for each episode.

The right-sizing of content to close a business deal is important and the information must dictate the length of a presentation. No longer will a cookie cutter template keep the prospect’s attention. This forces businessmen and women to reduce their presentations down to the bare essence of what is necessary for the deal.

A published humorous anecdote that 100 years later was attributed to Michelangelo, alleging that it was a true story at the revealing of his David, reflects the idea of takeaway creativity. The man asked, “how could you achieve such a masterpiece from a crude slab of marble?” The response, “All I did was chip away everything that didn’t look like David.”

Taking away what doesn’t belong in your presentation starts with a Jenga-like tower of information. Knowing what pieces to pull from the presentation will reduce the structure down to its ideal size. But if too much information is taken away, the story is incomplete and the client lacks the necessary information to say, “Yes.”

The art of condensing the information down to its core elements can be learned from the Jenga game. Here are the steps in the search for the key elements that must be removed to condense the presentation:

  • Start with all project related information.
  • Take away the obvious that the client already knows.
  • Take away the fluff information.
  • Take away the repetitive information.
  • Take away the features that don’t benefit the customer.
  • Take away the history of the product.
  • Take away anything that doesn’t perfectly meet your focus.

What you are left with might be…

  • The client’s problem.
  • The recommended solution.
  • The features and case studies that proved the solution successful with other clients.
  • The benefits the client receives from the solution.
  • The structure of the deal and its related offer.
  • Plenty of time for Q&A to fine-tune the client’s solution.

Just like pulling one piece from the Jenga puzzle at a time to focus the presentation down to its bare essence, making sure certain elements stay in place to maintain the health of the offer is also critical.

In preparation for my talk last night, I distilled a 160-page book on how to give a six-minute talk down to five critical sentences. Then I added in relatable information to clarify those sentences and help the audience take ownership of the structure that I shared. The result, several people took notes for their next presentation and one woman changed her planned talk that she’s giving to a national group of investors tomorrow. Oh, and I gave my talk all within the six minutes time frame to prove it works.

One of the greatest forms of creativity that we must practice is the art of condensing information, or what I call Takeaway Creativity. I have practiced it by reediting a feature movie down to a short film, taking a novel and turning it into a short story, and taking a 46-slide corporate presentation deck and turning it into a 7-slide show.

Take time this week to practice your creativity by cutting out the unnecessary and reforming it into a highly impactful solution that will impress your associates.

© 2019 by CJ Powers

 

Creating a Two-Minute Persuasive Story

The vice president of Sales and Marketing approached me a week before the big trade show. He said he’d be joining me for dinner to meet one of my clients on the first night of the conference. He also made sure I understood the severe consequences if I didn’t set up the meet-and-greet.

Just before we sat down for dinner, I introduced my client to the VP. I was surprised to learn that the president of my division was also invited, along with two other executives and their guests. The dinner for three barely fit at the table now set for eight.

Then came another surprise. The president suggested that I start my presentation before the food arrived. Presentation? What happened to the meet-and-greet? The VP instructed me to begin. I wanted to confront him, but didn’t know how, so I dove into an off-the-cuff presentation.

The client, who agreed to a meet-and-greet, not a presentation, quickly interrupted and clarified what I already knew; He couldn’t do anything until he received his next budget in six months.

It was no surprise that I returned to a pink slip back at the office and was promptly escorted out of the building. I never learned if the dinner was a set-up, but I did wonder how things might have been different had I confronted the VP. What would’ve happened if I took two minutes at the table to persuade the executives to understand that the dinner was scheduled as a meet-and-greet, and nothing more?

The most difficult situations I’ve experienced always came down to a defining moment that was either won or lost during a two minute conversation. Being able to present a persuasive viewpoint in two minutes can separate those who are embraced in business from those who are rejected.

Everyone in business can present a persuasive argument by following four simple steps that can be formulated in the moment.

  1. Define a Specific Problem. The more specific the focus, the more plausible it is to correct or improve the stated problem. General comments allow the mind to wander into various avenues of possibilities and it dilutes the prospects of an actual fix. By establishing a focused issue, the train of thought is easily followed and considered – creating a mental or emotional buy-in on the specific problem being discussed.
  1. Share a Similar Experience. By sharing a similar experience that was methodically fixed, associates can easily extrapolate the same information as a probable fix, or at least agree to a certain line of thinking that has the potential of delivering a similar result. This connection positions the associate to consider a new outcome.
  1. Share the Positive Outcome/Benefit. All ideas must be field tested to determine its potential level of success. When positive results occurred consistently using a similar model or approach, associates are more likely to vote for similar trials within the area of problematic concern. Listing the benefits received from a similar experience helps the associates paint a vision for their own testing in order to speed the possible solution and its estimated benefits.
  1. Suggest Similar Action with Specific Problem. Buy-in is typically reached during a two-minute persuasive talk that matches a similar benefit to a known problem, however, without the actual “ask” to take action, the idea will dissolve into a sea of arbitrary comments that preceded the moment. It’s critical to state the needed action and ask for a consensus to move forward on implementation.

The above steps can be shared in two minutes. Defining the problem and getting a quick buy-in will take about 45 seconds. Sharing a similar experience can take 30 – 45 seconds. The benefits achieved will take 15 – 30 seconds and the call to action only takes 15 seconds.

Using these steps during an unexpected meeting with executives will clearly demonstrate great leadership skills, an understanding of the business, and insights worthy of consideration. It may also get you promoted to the task force for follow through – A chance to demonstrate additional leadership skills.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers