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Beating the Red Light: Organizing a Last-Minute Presentation

While it isn’t advisable to put things off to the last minute, there are some instances where you have to cram for a presentation. Sometimes you’re given limited time to prepare. Maybe your host suddenly asked you to give a brief speech on a related topic. Or maybe you lost track of your schedule and forgot about an upcoming event.

In such cases, you have to manage your preparation wisely. You shouldn’t let your audience know that you had less time to plan. It’s still possible to pull together a comprehensive, engaging, and meaningful presentation in just a few hours.

Learn How to Improvise

Writing down notes is an effective way to organize your thoughts. But even with notes written down, don’t be afraid to forget about your script. Or rather, don’t stick to it word for word.

A common misconception about presentation drafts is that they can save you when you come in ill-prepared. It’s similar to the idea that your slides will provide a safety net for when your speech gets boring. In truth, neither your script nor your PowerPoint should act as a replacement for you. If you don’t have enough time to rehearse, it’s okay to improvise.

Being too absorbed with a memorized script or worse, blatantly reading from your slides and notes, only makes you seem stiff and uninteresting. This also restrains your use of body language, which is an important tool in connecting with your listeners. Pairing up your speech with eye contact and hand gestures is necessary for creating a lasting impression.

People feel more relaxed in front of a speaker who uses the conversational tone, rather than one who is monotonous.

Avoid Rambling

However, don’t go to the other extreme. Rambling is just as bad as losing yourself in a script. You misplace your core message and confuse your audience in the process. Going off on a tangent for too long can also give away your nervousness. Put yourself at ease to assure your listeners that you know what you’re doing.

No one wants to listen to someone who appears clueless about the content of their presentation. As much as possible, keep your points related to what you originally wanted to say. It’s best to keep the gist of your speech in mind and improvise every now and then.

Last-minute Rituals

When you’re finally on the final countdown to your presentation, it’s good to calm your nerves down. This keeps you from being fixated on your script and rambling too much while speaking. Coming up on stage to present for something you had less time to prepare for can be a major cause for anxiety. But you shouldn’t let it get to you.

According to public speaking coach and Well Said, Inc. president, Darlene Price, there are a few small things you can do to relieve this anxiety 15 minutes before your time. In its feature of Price’s book, Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results, Business Insider gives a run-down of pre-presentation rituals like going to the restroom and focusing on positive thoughts. You can also check out your venue and interact with your audience before you speak.

Getting to know the environment and the people you are presenting to will let you see things in perspective. Situations appear more daunting when you let them mess with your head.


Contrary to what you might think, an audience can’t see through you as you speak. If a presentation is coherent and well-executed, people will appreciate it despite the time constraint. Stay calm and avoid using your notes or your PowerPoint as a crutch if you lack preparation.

At the same time, don’t distract your audience by rambling through your entire presentation. Substance is just as important as delivery. Although you can create a presentation under pressure, it’s always good to allot enough time for proper planning. Even for veteran presenters, procrastination and cramming can lead to disastrous results.

Having trouble organizing a last-minute presentation? Consult with our PowerPoint experts today and get a free quote!



Smith, Jacquelyn. “10 Things You Should Do In The 15 Minutes Before A Big Presentation.” Business Insider. May 2, 2014. Accessed October 8, 2015.

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SOS! Presentation Disasters and Survival [Infographic]

Presentation disasters can happen to anyone.

No matter how much you prepare for your big day, there will always be a few obstacles that’ll appear, ones that you never expected would come up during your speech.

Unfortunately, nobody’s perfect, and even the best professional public speakers run into these occasional hitches.

What makes these people stay ahead of the competition is how they handle problems that suddenly happen without prior notice.

If you’re not careful, your discussions can turn into complete presentation disasters… even more so if you can’t handle unexpected events.

After all, Murphy’s Law became well-known because it’s been proven time and time again.

“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

You can’t anticipate these moments like a psychic, but you can always cope with sufficient preparation and a calm demeanor.

Preparing for Possible Presentation Disasters

What are some good tips on handling presentation disasters?

All you need to do is to implement some simple back-up plans in case something goes wrong.

Before anything else, keep calm.

As soon as you’ve assessed the situation, start planning your response to the emergency.

Make sure you have presence of mind and you’ll have no problem overcoming any possible hitches during your big moment.

Here’s a short infographic on applying disaster preparedness to problem-proof your presentation.

Making S.M.A.R.T. PowerPoint Presentation Goals

Every business needs objectives that get results. For presenters, defining these goals is a crucial matter for engaging the audience. They invest time and money to review your proposals and predict, at least to a certain extent, the ROIs.

Keeping your objectives measurable can make your pitches more credible.

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There are five elements that determine how successful you are in presenting a solid proposal. The SMART acronym has the following criteria for a pitch’s feasibility:

Specific defines ‘Specific’ as setting a precise target. Things like obtaining at least 500 new enrollees by the end of the year for an insurance premium or reducing employee turnover by 30% at the end of the quarter make compelling proposals.

As opposed to proposing objectives like using an advertising campaign to increase customer awareness or implementing an incentive system for employees, specific proposals can raise several feasibility-related questions from the client. It outlines exactly what you want to offer. 


Establish how you’ll track your project’s progress. Instead of giving a vague estimate of your client’s potential earnings, use a graph to measure how many customers or profits they can get.

Don’t make your slides text-heavy by enumerating the step-by-step process. Instead, opt for a flowchart to give a visual map that’s easier to follow.


Your proposal must answer this question: “Can it be done?”

Solidify your first two elements. Then, list the supporting factors, statistics or current problems to give supporting information for your idea. Present these in a comprehensive bullet-point list.

More questions to answer include:

  • What are the problems in the current industry that I want to solve?
  • Based on my information, can my client’s business support my proposed action?
  • What will it cost to have my plan put in motion?

Failing to answer any of these makes your PowerPoint presentation fall apart. Chances are, you could propose things like an ad campaign and expect every customer in that product category to immediately buy your product and reach your target profits within a few days. These types of goals lack the research put into being specific and measurable. They also have impossibly high expectations.


Why does the client need this solution now and how does it tie in with its overall business strategy?

Consider if the solution or idea that you’ll propose is in line with the client’s corporate values. Suggesting a reduction in manpower and laying off experienced employees may not work if the client stands for providing excellent quality in its services. Proposing a more efficient management process might be the better option.


You’ve set the goal. Now, establish how long it will take. Clients want proposals to be measurable. Outline what will take place during that time to flesh out what to expect during your proposal’s implementation.

You can give a proposal for a program to manage a company’s finances, but if you fail to give a proper timeline on how long it would take to make that system compatible with the client’s business, the client will just reject your pitch. This is why it’s advisable to graph out a list of things that will happen from start to finish in order to properly present your plans.

Measurable objectives are an important part of any business. Using these five elements allow for better presentation planning. Ultimately, what you get out of using these criteria is the ability to present your pitch in a language similar to that of your client’s.

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The Art of Graphs and Charts.” SlideGenius, Inc. April 21, 2014. Accessed May 12, 2015.
SMART Objectives.” Learn Marketing. Accessed May 12, 2015.
How to Set SMART Website Goals to Reach Business Objectives.” The Intechnically Savvy Blog. Accessed May 12, 2015.

Presentation Planning in 5 Easy Steps

Preparing for a high-stakes presentation is often stressful.

With so many different factors to consider, presenters might find themselves feeling pressured to create a memorable and efficient pitch. Planning then becomes a process that might involve a lot of frustration.

If you’re stressed out about that big presentation your boss recently assigned, there’s an easy way to keep your presentation planning organized.

By focusing on these five guidelines, you’ll be able to work through the process one detail at a time:

1.) How do you want the audience to react? 

As a presenter, it’s your responsibility to leave the audience with a favorable impression. The points you discuss should stand even after you’ve finished your speech.

As you prepare to draft the points you want to cover, ponder on how you want the audience to react to what you share.

Do you want them to feel inspired? Do you want them to be persuaded to take concrete action?

Whatever you decide, focusing on your desired effect will help you set the overall tone of your presentation.

2.) What do you want the audience to remember? 

Another thing to consider is your presentation’s key takeaway.

Think of it as your presentation’s premise. It’s a simple idea that can accurately describe all the points and arguments you want to discuss.

Again, consider the one idea you want your audience to leave the venue with.

To get an exact statement, think about the topic you’re covering and figure out how much of it will be included in the scope of your discussion.

3.) What will happen as a result of your presentation? 

According to public speaking guru, Stephen Boyd, establishing a sense of direction from the get-go is essential in guiding your listeners over your presentation. This also effectively captures people’s attentions, because it gives your pitch structure and meaning.

For that, always keep your desired outcome in mind.

Should everything go smoothly, what is your ideal scenario? Whether it’s to close in on a deal or impress upper management, use this as a guide on to act on the day itself.

What can you do to help convince the audience of your message’s credibility? What should you say if things fall apart and you have to salvage the situation?

4.) How can you motivate the audience to take action? 

With an intended outcome in mind, you can zero in on how to motivate your audience to take action.

At this stage, you need to consider their perspective. If you can learn what you can about their goals, you can tailor your presentation for them.

In this way, it will be easier to reach out and push them toward the results you want to see.

5.) How will you involve them in your discussion? 

Finally, it will help if you can think of ways to increase audience engagement in your presentation. It’s important to establish rapport with the audience and make them feel involved in your presentation. No one wants to sit through an hour long monologue.

According to leading venture capitalist, Marc Cenedella, knowing your audience is essential in engaging them and avoiding miscommunication during your presentation. To do this, periodically ask your listeners if they have questions or comments.

When they do participate, be open to hear an opinion that’s different from your own.

If you can, refer to the points they bring up as you move your discussion.

Presentation planning can be a lot of work. However, you can get an easy start by asking yourself these key questions. At the end of the day, what truly matters is that you deliver a presentation that results into positive action from your audience.



Audience Participation: 4 Crucial Questions to Answer.” SlideGenius, Inc. August 28, 2014. Accessed February 18, 2015.
Cenedella, Marc. “Know Your Audience.” The Ladders. Accessed February 18, 2015.
Fine-tuning Your Presentation’s Core Message.” SlideGenius, Inc. November 11, 2014. Accessed January 12, 2016.
Producing Powerful Presentations.” SBoyd. Accessed February 18, 2015.


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Presentation Preparation: 5 Tips on What to Wear

black suitGreat presenters know the importance of first impressions. While you should certainly work hard to prepare a well-crafted presentation, you also need to consider how the audience might perceive you. As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, it’s in our nature to form hasty opinions and make quick generalizations. It might not be ideal, but a lot of us will form impressions based on arbitrary factors. Among those factors is what others choose to wear. As Forbes contributor, Nick Morgan points out, “the clothes make the woman and the man.”

To get the audience on your side, you need to show them that you’re a credible and reliable source. In other words, you’ll have to establish rapport by making a positive first impression. We spend a lot of time carefully planning and preparing visuals that will help enhance our presentations. Why can’t the same be true for the way we present ourselves to an audience? If you do it right, the clothes you wear can be a great way to make a statement and inject some personality into your presentation.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re deciding what to wear for a presentation:

Dress for the occasion

As with most things, presentation wear depends on the context of a given situation. Before you can decide which clothes to wear, you need to consider key details about your presentation. Even if they seem unrelated to clothing, the information you have will actually help you set some parameters and decide what type of look you should go for.

What is your presentation about? If you’re set to deliver an executive report, it makes sense to be in business formal attire. On the other hand, if you’re leading a seminar, you might be allowed to go for something a little less formal. What about the venue of your presentation? If you’re presenting within your organization, your choice of clothing will obviously depend on a specific dress code. If you’ll be at a trade show or conference, you can take into account the culture within the industry. Those working in more creative fields can opt to wear something casual. Meanwhile, people working in investment and finance will be restricted to more conservative choices like tailor-fit suits and dress shirts.

Think of what the audience might wear

Another way to figure out an appropriate attire is by thinking of what the audience might wear. If there’s one rule to keep in mind about what to wear for presentations, it’s that you should always dress slightly better than the people you’re addressing. Who are you expecting in your audience? If you’re delivering an executive presentation, come to the venue in your best suit. For less formal crowds, your safest bet is to dress in business casual.

Business casual is your middle ground. It’s the perfect choice for situations when you’re not expecting a highly formal crowd, but you don’t want to risk looking too sloppy either. Scott Schwertly of Ethos3 describes it as “the grey zone of office dressing.” For men, you can opt to dress down your button-down shirts with a pair of khakis and loafers. James Wilson, a contributor for the Business Insider, provides a complete guide to business casual for men. For women, you can choose to wear your trousers with a blouse and cardigan. The blog Corporette offers some pretty useful tips for women struggling to find the balance between formal and casual.

Don’t neglect comfort

Body language plays an important role in presentation delivery. As we’ve noted before, you can’t just stand in one spot throughout an hour-long presentation. Audiences want to see something dynamic and engaging. To do that, you need to be mindful of your non-verbal cues. Wearing clothes that restrict your movement will definitely harm your ability to deliver a great presentation.

Prioritize your comfort by wearing clothes that fit you well. If you wear anything that’s too tight or too loose, you might eventually find yourself fidgeting with your clothes. To avoid distracting the audience, wear clothes that you don’t have to adjust constantly. For women, expect that you’ll be on your feet for most of the time. Heels might add an elegant touch to what you’re wearing, but they might also cause you great discomfort after some amount of time. If you’re someone who isn’t used to wearing high heels, you can opt for wedges or low-heeled dress shoes instead.

Avoid bright colors or distracting prints

As a presenter, it’s your job to make sure that the audience remains attentive and engaged. Considering how short our attention spans have gotten, you should assume that the littlest things can easily prove distracting. Aside from constantly fidgeting with your clothes, you can also distract the audience by wearing pieces with bright colors and over-the-top prints.

While an interesting design can add personality to your outfit, anything that’s too loud can easily attract unwanted attention. To experiment with color, choose a more muted shade and balance it out with something more neutral. For example, you can opt to wear a deep green tie paired with classic colors like white, black, or grey.

For women, you can add a bit of creativity to your outfits by wearing some jewelry. When choosing accessories, make sure you avoid pieces that are too large or noisy like hoop earrings and bangles. Instead, you can go for a simple necklace and a pair of stud earrings.

Pay close attention to details

Once you’ve finally decided on what to wear, you need to make sure that every detail is perfect for your presentation. While the audience might not see that your shirt is missing a button from afar, they might notice it once you’re networking around the room. Check the clothes you want to wear for anything amiss, like a loose thread or a small stain. You should also take the time to polish your shoes. For women, be sure to check your stockings for runs. If you notice wrinkles on your shirt right before you face the audience, you can check our presentation hack for a quick fix.

Aside from that, it’s also important to make sure your hair is well-groomed. Women should keep their hair out of their face with a bun or a ponytail. It’s also important to have a bit of makeup on. Meanwhile, men should always make sure to trim or shave their facial hair.

Remember that first impression are especially crucial when delivering presentations. Control how the audience perceives you by taking extra care with the clothes you choose to wear.


Images: Robert Sheie via Flickr

The Complete Presentation Checklist

Prepare for your presentation with this checklist

Are you ready for your presentation? This presentation checklist will help you cover all the bases.

We often emphasize that the secret to a great presentation is sufficient preparation. As you know, the most compelling speakers won’t face an audience expecting they can “wing it”. What makes their presentations so memorable is the fact that they took the time to craft their message. Just take a look at Steve Jobs, who was known to have spent hours practicing and perfecting his keynotes.

Thought leader Michael Hyatt says it best:

“The reason I do a good job is because I prepare. I don’t believe in ‘winging it’.”

While it may take up much of your time, preparation is the best way to a successful outcome. It’s not enough to string together a bunch of slides. You need to dig  deeper if you want to provide the audience with a complete and informative discussion. Here’s a presentation checklist to help with your preparation:

1. Identify the goal you want to achieve

Before you take on any other task, the first thing you need to do is identify the purpose of your presentation. What is the end goal? What would you consider a successful outcome? What’s the ultimate takeaway that you want your audience to remember? What is your core message? Answering these questions will give you a clear direction for your presentation.

2. Learn more about your audience

The audience is a crucial part of your presentation. This may seem pretty obvious, but some do tend to ignore the importance of their role. That’s why a lot of us have sat through presentations that seemed too long  and tedious. If you want to give your audience an experience that’s totally different from the usual scenario, you need to learn more about where they’re coming from.

The people in your audience have the power to accept or dismiss the message you’re sharing. If you want to connect with them, you need to learn more about their point of view. Where are they coming from? What are their backgrounds? How much do they know about the topic you’re presenting? You can use this guide to make sure you answer all the important question about your audience.

Another thing you should consider is the event or conference you’re participating in. What type of event is it? Is it an industry event where you’re expected to address professionals? Is it a seminar for aspiring leaders looking for inspiration and motivation? By learning the culture of a particular event, you can better understand how to communicate with your audience.

3. Create an outline of your initial ideas

Having established context, you’ll find it easier to form some great ideas. Let your presentation take shape by using different brainstorming methods. Whatever you decide to use, make sure you keep writing down everything that comes to mind. Don’t attempt to edit anything out until you’ve exhausted all your ideas.

After brainstorming, you can take your initial ideas and turn them into a rough outline. Review what you’ve written and decide which points stand out the most. You can also rearrange what you’ve written to give your points a clear and logical flow. From there, you can eventually make a presentation storyboard.

4. Fine-tune your content

Once you have a rough outline for your presentation, it’s time to bolster your message with strong presentation content. You can’t just present your ideas through a series of bullet points. You need to present your message through content that tells a story.

As you write your content, always remember your core message. Make sure the goal you’ve established is clearly highlighted on all the points you make. Keep your content well-structured and make sure you don’t include an overwhelming amount of information. You’ll need to discern which of the information you have is the most important to your overall objective.

5. Design a compelling PowerPoint deck

We’ve always emphasized how important visuals are to presentations. To keep your audience engaged, you’ll need to create a PowerPoint deck that can emphasize your message while following the principles of design.

Generally, it’s important to keep PowerPoint designs simple and concise. Use minimal text and high quality pictures. Everything in your design should cohere to the story you’re trying to tell. If you’re pitching sales prospects, make sure your brand is leveraged by your slides. If you really want the best of your story to stand out, consulting with a PowerPoint expert will be a big help.

6. Plan your presentation wear

As we’ve written in the past, first impressions are crucial in presentations. The audience can quickly decide on your credibility based on how you present yourself. To avoid giving them a bad impression, you need to maintain a polished and professional look.  A sloppy attire will make you lose the credibility you want to achieve.

Appropriate attire will depend on the context of your presentation, so take note of the information you have about the event. The easiest way to gauge what you should wear is by thinking about your audience. As a general rule, Forbes contributor Nick Morgan said that you should be dressed slightly better than your audience.

7. Internalize your entire presentation

With everything else prepared, it’s time to internalize every detail of your presentation. If you want to avoid committing mistakes, you need to rehearse your presentation as much as you can. Practice helps you become more familiar with your material. Review your speech, plan how you’ll incorporate your PowerPoint deck, and think about how you’ll deliver everything on stage. Interruptions won’t phase you if you’re sure of what you need to do.

It’s important to prepare as much as you can for any presentation. If you want to deliver a message with noticeable impact, you can’t risk to miss any step. Use this presentation checklist as a guide to make sure you cover all the bases and accomplishing everything you need.

Featured Image: Chris Lott via Flickr

Illustration: Oliver Tacke via Flickr

Fine-tuning Your Presentation’s Core Message

As a presenter, your main goal is to make sure that the audience remembers the vital parts of your discussion. It’s not a particularly easy task, especially if you’re tackling several different points throughout an hour-long presentation. That’s why crafting a fine-tuned core message is important. You should have a clear and effective way to deliver the “big idea” behind your presentation. You should have something short and straight to the point that the audience can repeat and memorize.

The core message is the anchor that keeps your presentation from floating off. In other words, it keeps your presentation set on a single premise. Everything you present—from the data you share to the slides you show—should contribute in driving home this key idea. When you first sit down to prepare your presentation, it should be the first thing you have in mind. What do you want the audience to take away from your discussion? What’s the outcome you’re aiming for? The answer to these 2 questions is the first step towards an effective core message. After that, you’ll need to fine-tune your message to make sure it’s easy to repeat, recognize, and remember.

Spend some time scribbling down your ideas. Keep revising your core message to meet the following criteria:

1. Is it specific and straight to the point?

As we’ve already mentioned, the core message will be the center of your presentation. If you want to keep the discussion on the right track, your core message needs to focus on the particulars of your message. The topic of your presentation gives the audience an overview of what you might talk about, but the core message is specific and straight to the point. Determine the purpose of your presentation and make sure it’s evident in your message.

2. Is it short and conversational?

If you want the audience to remember your message, you have to make sure that it stands out. Try to write your core message in a more conversational style. As you know, there are distinct differences between the way we write and speak. Craft your presentation as you would a conversation. If you want your message to stick, keep it short and cut back on jargon and industry talk.

3. Is it relevant to your audience?

Maintain the audience’s interest by placing them at the center of your presentation. Make sure your message is relevant to their interest by keeping in mind their point of view. Do this by addressing your message directly to them. Try to answer these four questions to learn more about your audience.


Featured Image: Horia Varlan via Flickr

3 More Ways to Memorize Presentations Easily

In the past, we discussed a classic technique that you could use to memorize presentations. Heavily featured in the BBC show “Sherlock,” the memory palace technique allows you to use a mental image of any space or location to remember key points in your speech. It’s very effective, often used by memory athletes to memorize a random names or cards in under a few seconds.

Of course, the memory palace technique will take longer for newbies who are looking to memorize presentations. If you find it a bit challenging to focus on building your own mind space, there are other methods to help improve your memory and reduce your use of note cards. You’ll never have to worry about mental blocks with these 3 additional ways to memorize presentations.

1. Rehearse your presentation out loud

It’s not enough to just read your presentation again and again. If you really want to memorize presentations, you have to make time for a few rehearsals. According to a study published in 2010, memory can improve by more than 10 percent if information is spoken and repeated out loud.

So give yourself time to rehearse your presentation for more than just a few times. You can also make things easier by recording your sessions. Hearing yourself speak will help in internalizing your presentation. It will also help you pinpoint which parts might need more improvement.

2. Keep your rehearsals within the 20-20-20 rule

While repeated rehearsals are important, experts also recommend to keep sessions within the 20-20-20 rule. According to this rule, it will be easier to memorize presentations by reviewing your material for 20 minutes and then repeating the information twice for 20 minutes each. If you’re dealing with longer presentations, you can break up your speech into manageable parts and work piece by piece.

3. Make a mind map of your presentation

It will also help if you can visualize how your ideas and arguments relate to one another. Through a mind map, you can see the logical progression of your presentation. The shape or image you come up with will make it easier to remember how one point connects to the next, as opposed to simply having a list or outline as reference. To make sure your mind map works effectively,  use different colors for each “branch”. You can also add drawings that illustrate your points.

Other helpful tips:

  • Avoid distractions.  It will be hard to focus when you have to periodically answer emails and text messages. Always rid your practice sessions of any distraction. Step away from your computer and turn off notifications for your phone for a while. Keep your attention on the task at hand.
  • Make time for short breaks. Even as you work hard to deliver a great presentation, don’t forget to reward yourself with short breaks. Give yourself time to relax in between each rehearsal to keep your creativity flowing.
  • Get enough sleep. Sleep is also a crucial ingredient in memory improvement. According to several studies, there’s a strong relationship between sleep and memory. As an article on Psychology Today points out, “There is no longer any doubt. Sleep does improve the gelling or consolidation of memory for recently encoded information.” Make sure you get enough rest on the days leading up to your presentation.

As you know, preparing for a big presentation involves a lot of effort. Aside from perfecting your slides and content, you also need to make sure that you remember everything you have to say. Memorize presentations by setting time to rehearse and visualize your materials. You can breeze through your time on stage and never have to worry about your note cards again.


Featured Image: Brian Hillegas via Flickr

The Creative Process: 4 Steps to Presentation Success

We like to think of creativity as something elusive. It’s either you have it or you don’t. But as we discussed in the past, creativity is not a special trait reserved for artists, musicians, and writers. Creativity is a vital for endeavors that involve communicating and connecting with others. Whether you’re working on a novel or pitching to investors, creativity is crucial for capturing the imagination. The creative process is considered elusive only because we don’t know how to navigate through it.

The science of creativity

The idea that creativity is black and white comes from the notion that the left and right sides of the brain are distinct. Those who use the left side of their brains are more logical, practical, organized, and analytical. On the other hand, “right-brained” thinkers are understood to be more creative, artistic, and emotional.

That means an entrepreneur who carefully plans his next step is left-brained, right? And a pianist practicing a sonata is obviously using the right side of her brain. Recent research prove that this is just a myth:

Creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.

Instead, the entire creative process– from preparation to incubation to illumination to verification– consists of many interacting cognitive processes (both conscious and unconscious) and emotions. Depending on the stage of the creative process, and what you’re actually attempting to create, different brain regions are recruited to handle the task.

Importantly, many of these brain regions work as a team to get the job done, and many recruit structures from both the left and right side of the brain. In recent years, evidence has accumulated suggesting that “cognition results from the dynamic interactions of distributed brain areas operating in large-scale networks.”

In truth, the creative process involves several steps that happen in different regions of the brain. As indicated in the quoted passage, the brain is actually a complicated network that operates as a whole. There is no divide between the creative and logical. While some are more inclined to either one of these traits, both can be true for a lot of people as well. The creative process doesn’t involve magic. It can happen for an artist, as well as an entrepreneur preparing for a presentation.

The creative process in four stages

The social psychologist Graham Wallas described the creative process as a series of steps. According to Wallas, the creative process has four stages that involve both conscious and unconscious thinking. If you feel like your presentations can use a bit more imagination, you don’t need to wait for the muse to come. Just take note of the following steps to help you get started:

Stage One: Preparation

Creative Process 1: Preparation

The first stage involves laying down the ground work of your project. To prepare, you consult prior knowledge and experiences, as well as seek out other resources. In presentations, this is when you define the main purpose of your presentation. Upon figuring out your goals, do some research and seek out inspiration.

Stage Two: Incubation

Creative Process 2: Incubation

After gathering inspiration comes a period of “unconscious processing.” Here, you let your brain piece together what you were able to gather. Wallas describes it as “voluntary abstention” from consciously thinking of the problem at hand. Instead of trying to find a specific solution, you take a step back and consider different possibilities. If you remember our previous discussion on creativity, this is similar to creating “psychological distance” between yourself and your work. At this point, instead of letting yourself be boxed inside a specific line of thinking, try to explore other solutions through brainstorming and mind mapping.

Stage Three: Illumination

Creative Process 3: Illumination

As the name suggests, the third step of the creative process involves the moment when everything finally comes together. According to Wallas, this stage can’t be forced. It happens unconsciously, only after you were able to step back and consider different solutions. He describes illumination as the following:

[The] final “flash,” or “click” … is the culmination of a successful train of association, which may have lasted for an appreciable time, and which has probably been preceded by a series of tentative and unsuccessful trains. The series of unsuccessful trains of association may last for periods varying from a few seconds to several hours.

Stage Four: Verification

Creative Process 4: Verification

The last stage of the creative process involves carrying out your idea into the real thing. To ensure success, consult the goals and parameters you’ve determined in the preparation stage. For presentations, this involves finally building your PowerPoint deck, as well as the act of presenting in front of an audience.

Creativity doesn’t need to be magical and elusive. It can be accessible to those of who aren’t particularly inclined to artistic endeavors. Familiarize yourself with the different stages of the creative process and ensure that your presentations end successfully.



Kaufman, Scott Barry. “The Real Neuroscience of Creativity.” Scientific American. August 19, 2013. Accessed October 15, 2014.
Popova, Maria. “The Art of Thought: A Pioneering 1926 Model of the Four Stages of Creativity.” Brain Pickings. 2013. Accessed October 15, 2014.


Featured Image: Chris Isherwood via Flickr
All other images by Death to the Stock Photo

Improve Your Presentation Skills with Deliberate Practice

deliberate practice for presentations

Public speaking is a skill that needs to be developed. No one is born a great presenter. While some are more inclined to it than others, excellent presentation skills come from exerting constant effort. Just like musicians and athletes, there’s no shortcut to improving your presentation skills. You need to put in hard work. Luckily, Coursera co-founder and Stanford University professor Andrew Ng recently wrote about a method that could help you out. Ng calls the process Deliberate Practice.

Athletes improved their skills in this way. A gymnast, for example, would master an entire routine by focusing on individual parts first. As Ng had put it, “[it’s] hard work—you focus in every attempt, try to figure out what you’re doing wrong, and tweak your performance to make it better.”

Follow these three steps to improve your presentation skills with deliberate practice:

Step One: Select a 60-second portion from your presentation

Review a presentation you made recently and select a 60-second portion. Choose a portion where you might have stuttered or failed to expound your points perfectly.

Step Two: Record yourself

Record yourself echoing the 60-second portion you chose. You don’t have to set up a fancy camera to do it. You can just use a webcam or a phone camera set up in a way that helps you see and hear much of yourself.

Step Three: Watch your recording and take notes

Watch the recording of your 60-second presentation and take note of the parts you’d like to change. Note how you say certain words and move in certain parts. If it looks awkward in camera, think of how you can improve it.

Step Four: Adjust according to your observations

Once you’ve reviewed the notes you made, you can repeat the presentation with your own feedback in mind. Record the whole thing again.

Step Five: Repeat cycle until you’re satisfied

Keep recording and taking note of your 60-second presentation until you’re satisfied with your performance. Try adjusting your presentation for 8 to 10 times. The whole process might go faster if you have someone else with you who can also give you feedback.


Like a concert pianist or an Olympic gymnast, you should use deliberate practice to improve your presentation skills. Public speaking and presentations are crucial in the corporate world. It plays a significant role in sales, marketing, investment, and decision-making. In order to ensure that your presentations meet success, you have to make sure that you’re constantly doing better than the last time.

And while Ng’s method sounds like it would be a bit time consuming, it’s actually pretty convenient for those with 9 to 5 schedules. All it takes is thirty minutes.



Ng, Andrew. “Learn to Speak or Teach Better in 30 Minutes.” LinkedIn. March 20, 2014. Accessed August 18, 2014.


Featured Image: Paula Cristina via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)