dreamstime_xs_13307741Have you ever felt disappointed from the reaction you got from presenting your ideas to your customers, colleagues, employees or your manager? Have you presented something and no new action took place within 30 days of your presentation date?

Victor Garcia (the current CTO of Bell Canada) told me that one of the challenges facing managers responsible for innovation is how to link their projects to their company’s objectives – capturing the attention and getting commitment from their target audiences.

So I decided to interview some of the members of One Million Acts of Innovation around the world to find out about their best practices.

After dozens of interviews, researching various books and TED talks, here are 3 techniquesthat I discovered that every manager should know about and consider practicing.

Technique #1: Get engagement by highlighting a noble cause instead of your points of view, facts and figures and use authenticity and story telling to talk about why, what and how.

Most managers when presenting or discussing an idea, start with a particular point of view and provide supporting documents/facts/figures and stories that justify their point of view.

What we’ve discovered about successful Chief Innovation Officers is that they start their presentations with an inquiry. They create possibilities and discuss a noble cause. Something that has their core values expressed and uses language that inspires action.

This kind of a starting point causes immediate engagement and co-creation. The challenge is to ensure the nature of the questions is based on an authentic inquiry vs. something that is based on a specific agenda.

For example, a presentation that is about how a shoe retailer can increase its online sales by 25% and compare it to how others are doing it could change into an inquiry such as “What would it look like if we were to engage everyone into wearing shoes so that no one in the world has to walk with bare feet? And, what if a number like 25% increase in our online sales was a measurement in how well we are playing our game?” What new actions/possibilities will we have to inquire about?

This kind of an inquiry gets everyone engaged. It’s based on an inquiry that includes a noble cause: “everyone wearing shoes so that no one walks with bare feet.” It is not about a personal agenda of someone who is trying to force something into everyone’s day-to-day behaviour.

So if engagement is important, then we need to inquire about tools that cause engagement and nothing in our research comes into play other than being authentic. Replacing “I need to look good and present well” with being genuine and authentic will capture the attention of your audience. And, it will make it memorable.

A few weeks ago, I was in a meeting with the Vice President & General Manager at HP (Charlie Atkinson) when he started to share a personal story in how he’s supporting a blind teenager in his career. The story was inspiring. It gave me a different view of Charlie. This was not a talk about HP; but rather about Charlie talking about his core values and the courage he has in supporting things he personally cares most about.

The next tool in causing engagement is taking the time to research your audience. Think through how to articulate a story that drives up their emotional experiences about the topic of discussion. Most people for instance, don’t light up for increasing online sales. They do light up for the possibility of putting shoes on everyone’s feet. So how can you link your job with a noble cause that everyone in your eco-system actually cares about? How can you link your objectives to the emotional experiences people are looking for?

Eben Pagan, founder of Accelerator talks about conducting face-to-face interviews and reading online forums as some of the many tools available to listen for the emotional experiences your ecosystem has about the topic that you are thinking about.

Another tool to inspire engagement is storytelling. The ability to articulate a well-told story is fundamental to success.

What do you do if you don’t have a personal story? What if you can’t express your ideas clearly?

John King (Chairman of One Million Acts of Innovation) taught me this: If you are having a challenge being vulnerable or failing at finding a story that you are passionate about, partner with someone who is vulnerable and/or can articulate your story and core values better than you can. That person’s experiences/story can add an enormous amount of credibility and value to your story. If anything, it will help make it memorable.

In our case, as an example, we often ask Ted Maulucci CIO of Tridel and Co-Founder of One Million Acts of Innovation to talk to audiences about the importance of innovation. We always search for key words that resonate with our audiences and cause them to take action. One of my favorites quotes is from Con George, Co-Founder of One Million Acts of Innovation Australia who, with his Australian accent, says “innovation is our human right”. He says it with conviction and urgency. As a listener, it becomes personal, referring to something that is my human right and that I should do something about it.

A key criteria for telling your story effectively is doing it in about three to five minutes. We use tools such as Twitter to see if we can fit our message in 140 characters or less. Another fantastic tool is the law of the few. What words/phrases are communicating 80 percent of the message? Let’s keep those phrases/words and eliminate the rest.

Technique #2) Put yourself in places that stimulate and inspire your creative thinking.

When most managers think about their presentations, they often start by opening up their Powerpoint. They then go online to research statistics and case studies to back up their opinions, or look online to determine how others are accomplishing their goals (such as increasing online shoe sales).

One of the key findings of One Million Acts of innovation is that innovation is counterintuitive.

One of the key habits of successful Chief Innovation Officers is that they put themselves in places that inspire their best and most creative ideas. Studies show most people come up with their best ideas while they are in the shower or doing something different – like jogging. The best storytellers find there ‘aha’ moments first before they start to tell their story. For me, my best ideas often come to me while I’m at my dojo and often in the sparring classes while a few of my classmates are attacking me. The Dojo allows me to get out of my day-to-day thinking and be in place where I need to concentrate and not think about my work or family. It is funny that some of my best ideas are neither in my office nor in a team meeting; but rather, come to mind while I’m at my dojo.

So try changing your starting point. Instead of starting your next presentation on Powerpoint from your office, start it from a place that stimulates your best thinking.

Technique #3) Don’t worry about how it looks. Think through how it sounds and how to engage other human senses.

What successful Chief Innovation Officers do differently is spend time ensuring their message is simple and their keywords resonate with their audiences from an auditory perspective. They know and understand visuals are NOT memorable; words are. They spend time understanding what words and phrases will capture your attention and have it stick. In our case as an example, I believe the name One Million Acts of Innovation is a fantastic and memorable name. It is something that drives people’s curiosity and inspires engagement.

The auditory sense is just one of the many human senses. One of the key habits of successful Chief Innovation Officers is that they use presentations as a tool to stimulate other human senses such as feelings, taste, sight and smell.

Another tool that inspires engagement is humor. One of my clients, Sandy Marshall – Vice President of Second City Communications, has a brilliant way of communicating his message – He combines authenticity, humor and visuals to talk about Second City and their work. Take a look at his brief presentation. I think it will make you smile: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faFzQozVCl4.

Regardless of which of the above techniques you want to copy, the “How to Present Like Steve Jobs” video combines passion, storytelling, researching audiences, talking about core values and using multiple human senses to cause action. We believe you and your colleagues will benefit from watching it and taking notes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-ntLGOyHw4.


From the One Million Acts of Innovation team, here is a checklist we would like to offer our readers and members to better prepare you for the next time you want to present your ideas to an audience.

  1. Does your presentation:
    1. Start with an inquiry or a bold possibility? Is your noble cause clear?
    2. Include everyone and authentically ask for their input?
    3. Demonstrate vulnerability or is it about you looking good?
    4. Inquire about and include your core values? What you care most about?
    5. Contain emotional stories that resonate with your audience?

Focus on you looking good or does it shows your vulnerabilities? Include visuals, sounds, key emotional words that communicate your message and leverage other human senses?

  1. Have you put yourself in places where you come up with your best ideas and let your mind be free?
  2. Take a look at how to use the law of the few to reduce your points, facts, etc. and get to the point.

Remember, headlines sell – not the inside content. So don’t worry about the content (as much). Worry about the headline of your presentation.

  1. Have you thought about who you can partner with? Someone may have an emotional story to tell, who would that person be? If you could use a video to describe your story, which video would you pick and why? Is there anyone within your network (or members of One Million Acts of Innovation) who can be ‘packaged’ as part of your presentation?


If you are interested in getting access to some of our research and findings, please sign up at the One Million Acts of Innovation website : OneMillionActsOfInnovation.org and follow us on Twitter @1MillionActs.

Relevant Resources:

How ideas spread by Seth Godin: http://www.ted.com/talks/seth_godin_on_sliced_bread

Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability

How great leaders inspire action by Simon Sinek: http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action

Core Values by John King: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzUIypq7r7U

We need to talk about injustice by Bryan Stevenson: http://www.ted.com/talks/bryan_stevenson_we_need_to_talk_about_an_injustice#t-144563

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