Photo courtesy of Flickr user Eelke

Have you ever heard a speaker that left you breathless with inspiration, but you didn’t know what to do with all that inspiration? Or a speaker who gave you impressive practical content, but you felt oddly uninspired and unmotivated at the end of the presentation? I’m guessing you’ve encountered both.

The reason for our discontent is simple — the presentation lacked balance. Too much of one thing, not enough of the other. It doesn’t really matter how the scales are tipped. As human beings, we need both. We need to be informed and inspired.

I used to err on the side of inspiration. Oh yes, I’d supply the specific call to action at the end, but most of my speeches were filled with stories, quotations and lots of humor, and not as much with data or practical application. An artist at heart, I enjoy soaring with my creativity. I love to ponder abstract ideas and dwell in the artistry of the moment. I learned fairly quickly to augment that with plenty of practical application

I’ll never forget conducting a storytelling workshop many, many years ago. Everything was going along well, until about halfway through. One of the participants challenged me. “This is all fluff! I don’t know why we’re doing this!” I felt totally blindsided. I had provided the workshop content to them prior to the workshop. They knew what to expect. Still, for whatever reason, this individual felt the need to disrupt the training and express his frustration and disdain. I had not included any data or research on the importance of storytelling and he was letting me know he was not satisfied! I was not meeting his needs. Suffice it to say, that never happened again. Sometimes we get those lessons the hard way

I started to integrate more “left-brained” material into my speeches and trainings. I began using templates so my audiences and clients could “ground” their creativity into something useable. These templates also helped create structure when needed. While I didn’t enjoy that “clarifying” workshop experience, it paved the way for a much more powerful takeaway for my audiences — a balance of the inspirational and the practical. That’s the key. It doesn’t help to have amazing ideas if we don’t put them into a form our audiences can use or experience. Matisse and Michelangelo were geniuses in their art and the only way we get to experience it is through their paintings and sculptures. Mozart and Beethoven were celebrated composers, and we only know that because they created music we can listen to and enjoy.

Such is creativity and life. If we get out of balance between soaring and practicality, we experience discontent. Here are my thoughts on how to balance these two aspects and enjoy the process. Using your presentation as an example, when you are getting ready to create:

1. First, take a walk. Think about what you want to communicate. Allow whatever ideas come up.

2. Sit down at your computer and let your creativity emerge unfettered. Face the blank screen (or page) and allow your ideas to take over. Release your stream of consciousness.

3. Once you’ve transferred your ideas to the page, take a look at them. Do you notice a theme? Do you notice an order? What are the takeaways? What’s missing? What would really serve your audience?

4. Add the information you’ve realized you need, and begin the process of “grounding” your information. What practical applications will support your audience?

5. Edit your presentation for voice, grammar, and the chosen format. Then do it again and again as more creativity and practicality emerge.

Once you get the hang of this, it goes pretty easily. You start to get comfortable with the “creative tension” that is a natural and essential part of this process. You also see how this process works in all areas of your life, and we all can benefit from your brilliance!

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