Illustrate This!

By Darren LaCroix | Stage Time Articles

Have a message that matters? I hope so! Do you care deeply about the audience’s walking away with your message and an image etched in their mind? Does the clarity of your point dramatically impact your income? Then illustrate it!

When presenters create a new presentation, we usually get clear on what we want to say, but we often fall short of making the audience see our point with crystal clarity. Somehow, between our mouths and their ears, something is lost. Part of the challenge is that we present from our own life experience and perspective. Each audience member sees our presentation from their own life experience and their own perspective. This is the gap we need to fill. We need to create the illustration that will make the connection.

I do my core presentations over and over and have incrementally improved them over the years. I believe in them and think they are pretty good. Each year, in order to keep pushing myself, I create a new presentation for our big event, Lady & the Champs. I get excited about the challenge of creating a new message because many people in our audience return year after year.

After you get clear on your message, you need to ask yourself, “How can I illustrate this?” I want to thank my friend, Curtis Prunty, for helping me see that I needed illustrations. A few years ago my mind was locked on a new message. I was excited to teach presenters that if they truly want to reach a higher level of skills, they first have to dive in deeper. How could I get the point across? You have to go lower to get higher, in order to gain a higher perspective. That was my challenge. I asked myself the magic question, but the answer did not come right away. I had to focus and start playing with ideas and analogies. I thought of Donkey Kong and other two-dimensional 80’s video games. I was excited by the idea, but I can’t legally use Donkey Kong! I either needed to secure the rights to use the images or find another way. On my desk sat a custom cartoon sent to me by my talented friend, Brian Cavanaugh. As I looked at it, bingo! I realized that I could create my own.

I started experimenting with creating Keynote (Apple’s version of PowerPoint) slides to get my thoughts out. It was a fun challenge. After I got my idea into a tangible form, I hired a professional to make it better. I asked Brian to draw up a character for me. I even had sound effects embedded within my slide show. Yep, it probably sounds like a great deal of work. Being memorable often is. To me, it’s worth it. I’m not exactly sure where the idea came from, but I do know that it started with the question.

That presentation became “Your Hero’s Journey.”  My message again was about going deeper to reach a higher level. This is one of the slides that demonstrated my message. It is part of my illustration.

I had another real challenge in creating a visual to convey the message that your ego is a barrier to true transformation. One of the sayings I’m known for is,

“One of the biggest problems we have as adult learners is ego.”

OK, how do I illustrate that? In “Sponge,” my keynote speech, I use a clear bowl of clean water to represent pure wisdom, dirty water to represent negative thinking, and a bag to represent ego.

I tell the audience that we say that we are eager to learn, and yet we sometimes go to seminars and take classes with the intent of getting validation that we already know what is being presented. We don’t want to think that we have more to learn and more work to do. Next I put the sponge in the ego bag and slam it into the clear water, showing that although the intention is to learn, the bag won’t allow any wisdom to be absorbed.

Another example of an illustration was my trying to communicate the difference between being in a story and using dialogue and being outside of the story and narrating as the speaker. How could I make it easy to understand this seemingly simple yet complex idea. In the past I had used the concept of a hologram. When you are delivering a dialogue in character, you are inside the hologram. When you step out, you are the speaker. In “Your Stage, Your Story,” I used a combination of slides and a hula hoop.

These are illustrations of my illustrations.

Effectively done illustrations can be memorable and can help sustain your message. Some of my examples may seem straightforward and obvious in this article, but they were not when I was creating them. It took time and energy to get them right. I also had to kill some ideas that just didn’t work. Being creative helps. If you are not creative, ask friends to help you brainstorm. If you are an NSA or Toastmaster Member, ask fellow members to stick around after a meeting and help you come up with ideas. The group dynamics usually yield better ideas faster.

Got a message that matters? Illustrate it. This year the theme of Lady & the Champs is “Create UNFORGETTABLE Stories.” What will our illustration be? I can’t tell you yet, but I can tell you this. It started with the question, “How can I illustrate this?” Will you ask that powerful question?

© 2017, Darren LaCroix. All rights reserved.