I recently had the opportunity to attend a DesignBetter.Co workshop led by Jake Knapp, the legendary designer who brought design sprints to Google and literally wrote the book (Sprint) on the subject.
In addition to being an all-around nice guy, Jake’s charismatic speaking skills blew me—and everyone else—away and got me thinking: It’s not enough these days to just be a great designer. You’re often also expected to champion your case, at a minimum to your own company and for those dedicated to the future of design, perhaps in front of others as well. So what makes a great designer a great presenter? It has less to do with slide graphics than you might think.
Be a storyteller
“Storytelling is key to any presentation, whether you’re simply giving your own performance review to your manager, presenting a new feature to senior stakeholders, or giving a TED Talk to a roomful of strangers.” Storytelling draws people in and gives them something to relate to. They can imagine what you’re talking about and see how it might apply to their own lives.
Related: Facebook shares how storytelling is key to their ability to scale
Jake started the Design Sprints workshop with a brief history of design sprints: what led him to them, how he introduced them, how others began adopting them, etc. The story was a traditional construction, with a beginning, middle, an end, and a triumph. It set the stage for the rest of the day, which was more of a hands-on breakdown of how to facilitate a design sprint, and it gave him a reference point for examples later in the presentation.
“Storytelling is key to any presentation, whether you’re simply giving your own performance review to your manager, presenting a new feature to senior stakeholders, or giving a TED Talk to a roomful of strangers.”
Don’t rely too much on slides
Too often, presenters try to cram too much information into slides, relying on bulleted lists that many people then have a tendency to simply read, rather than listening to the presenter. Not only is this boring for the audience, but it distracts them from the presenter’s words.
Related: Why you should use design presentation boards
Although Jake did use slides during the workshop, they were to illustrate his point, not to make it. For example, when making the case for setting aside a whole work week for conducting a design sprint, Jake didn’t simply list the reason this was important: he illustrated the point with a slide of an overfull calendar, that I’m sure many of us care to relate to all too well.
We’ve all been on the receiving end of a presentation where the speaker just doesn’t seem to connect with the audience. It’s hard to stay engaged; before you know it, your phone is out and you’re following up on emails or mindlessly scrolling through Instagram.
Jake did a great job engaging the audience. In addition to making plenty of time for questions, he also encouraged a sense of comradery through a pretty simple action: the high five. Jake made himself relatable by confessing that he’s pretty terrible at making hand contact and uses a trick to nail the high five—look at the other person’s elbow rather than their hand. He then demonstrated by giving high fives to several people in the front row of the workshop.
Throughout the day, Jake came back to the high five, encouraging participants, who were seated at tables of five, to high five each other after group work or just to liven up the environment. It was a great way to not only endear the audience to Jake but also to connect them to each other.
Interested in attending a DesignBetter.Co with Jake Knapp or one of our other facilitators? We host them throughout the year and various cities. Check out the schedule and register today.
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Stephanie is a copywriter for InVision. She hails from the humid land of Elvis (that's Memphis, TN, for the uninitiated), where she lords it over her two dogs, three cats, and one bearded husband, all while continuously talking about herself in third person.