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A rainy, humid night didn’t stop an enthusiastic crowd from coming to Knowledge Capital, an Osaka-based innovation hub, for a custom engagement with local and global celebrity presenter Garr Reynolds.

Famous for books such as Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery and The Naked Presenter: Delivering Powerful Presentations With or Without Slides, Reynolds could be said to have helped fuel the popularity of TED Talks, their style having become a standard for public speaking.

While the event in Osaka—“Creativity and the Power of Design”—was based on Reynolds’s blog and books, this particular presentation was customized for Knowledge Capital attendees and members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ).

True to what he preaches, Reynolds was audience-focused from the start, presenting in English while his wife provided Japanese interpretation.

The presentation covered 10 easily digestible design principles (including a bonus 11th) tailored to teach “design for non-designers”—a growing segment for entrepreneurs, managers, and employees in an age of split-second marketing where eye-catching imagery is king.

Communications expert Garr Reynolds

Communications expert Garr Reynolds

Reynolds was quick to remind the audience that “vision trumps all other senses,” and visual messaging needs to accomplish four things:

  • Get attention
  • Be understood
  • Be remembered
  • Lead to action

These four points are the foundation on which Reynolds’ design principles are built. Principle 1, “Get off of the computer,” is perhaps the most jarring nugget of advice.

In short, when designing your presentations, start with pencil and paper, rather than your favorite slide software.

Simplicity and the elimination of clutter and noise were key themes woven throughout Reynolds’ presentation.

It’s tempting to cram our presentation slides with as much information as possible, or “death by bullet point,” as Reynolds would say.

However, it’s much more effective to keep things minimal, with plenty of white space. Presenters can always use handouts to provide the audience with more detailed information.

But the most engaging part of the presentation could never be experienced through blogs or books. It was an exercise focusing on adopting a “beginner’s mind” toward design.

To illustrate this, Reynolds had audience members pair up and draw pictures of each other. Upon revealing their pictures, nearly everyone apologized for their “works of art,” regardless of quality.

But, as he pointed out, when children do the same exercise, they almost never apologize.

The point? Most of us have been educated or socialized out of our creativity, and are often ashamed to display it. As adults, we have to make a conscious effort to bring creativity back into our presentations to make them more effective.

Finally, the last design principle ensured that everything about the event sank in: “See the lessons all around you.”

Reynolds encouraged the audience to discover examples of his design principles in the real world while putting them into practice. This drove home the practicality of the event and attached a great sense of value to it, as the audience seemed to agree.

Stephen Zurcher, ACCJ Kansai Business Programs Committee chair, said: “[Reynolds] once again captivated ACCJ members and guests at his annual presentation for us here in Kansai.

Last year, his event was regarded as the best of the year and, no doubt, after we get feedback on this month’s event, it will be similar.”

Matthew Winfield, ACCJ Kansai Business Programs Committee vice chair, summarized the experience of “Creativity and the Power of Design.”

“[Reynolds’s] session was simply practical, completely purposeful, and to the point, no doubt causing many to make a hasty retreat back to their offices to re-write presentations for the morning.”

Reynolds emphasizes simplicity in communication during his presentation.

Reynolds emphasizes simplicity in communication during his presentation.

Anthony Griffin is the marketing and communications manager at the ACCJ
Most of us have been educated or socialized out of our creativity