Failure and mistakes, Johansson says, are the most important
parts of innovation.
“Uniqueness and excellence require innovation, yes, but
innovation also implies experimentation and making mistakes,”
he adds. “It doesn’t matter who you are. If you are taking the
chance to do something different, there has to be mistakes.”
Speakers may think making a mistake can be devastating,
and that in this profession, it’s not an option.
“I actually hear that a lot from people in all industries — they
simply can’t innovate because mistakes are so costly,” he says.
Yes, the stakes are high when you’re hired to give a speech
or present a workshop, so how can you take that risk and
ensure your client is happy?
“For starters, your client most likely will never notice your
experiment — not if they are truly engaged in your performance,” Johansson says. “Most mistakes that clients notice
are the ones that speakers highlight themselves on stage.”
Second, start small. Don’t feel like experimentation
requires you to give a whole new presentation every time.
Johansson likens it to a stand-up comedian: He might not
try a whole new routine at his next gig, but he will try a new
joke in the middle of the tested material.
“Keep the experiments real and authentic, but generally
keep them small,” he says. “One segment is maybe 30 to 90
seconds. That’s nothing out of 60 exceptional minutes.”
Johansson can say this because he’s been there. In many
of his presentations, he includes a fast-paced segment that
flashes words on a screen as he asks the audience to yell out
what they think of when they see these words.
“One time, when I was in Brazil, I decided to have some
pumping techno music in the background while this was happening,” he recounts.
Why? He had just seen a segment of CNBC where a
topic was introduced with booming background music.
“Cool, I thought.”
As it turned out, it didn’t work.
“The music was too loud, and it was obvious that you
didn’t really need that extra energy,” he says. But afterward,
many members of the audience, including CEOs of some
of the largest corporations in Brazil, lauded the speech and
nobody mentioned that techno-segment.
Even still, after an experiment that failed, Johansson’s
focus is: What if it had worked?
“It would have been yet one more piece that had made
my presentation stand out from others,” he notes. “If you do
You don’t have to be a creative advertising exec to know
the value of a brainstorm. As Frans Johansson explains,
brainstorming leads to more ideas, and with more ideas
comes an increased chance for an innovative idea to
emerge. Based on his research, Johansson offers the
1 Ask team members to brainstorm individually for 15 to 20 minutes prior to the session.
2 in the group session, don’t let people simply read their lists.
3 Keep the pace fast.
4 At the end, make sure all ideas are on the board and have been discussed.
5 Allow time to evaluate the ideas.
the same thing over and over again, that’s not what’s going
to push you forward. If you want to be a great speaker, there
has to be a chance of making mistakes.”
Take a Bow
By looking to other fields or cultures for ideas, by challenging
the assumptions you have believed true in your own field and
by accepting that innovation requires experimentation and
failure, you can continually adjust your presentations and
grow as a speaker. The most critical step is looking beyond
your immediate circle.
Architect Mike Pearce knew this. His building in
Harare uses 90 percent less energy than any building
around it, Johansson says. “If he had looked at the standard architectural teachings, he never would have solved
Stephanie R. Conner is a professional writer and editor seeking her own intersection as president of Active Voice Communications in Phoenix, Ariz. She can be reached at Stephanie@TheActiveVoice.com.
Learn more about The Medici Effect at www.themedicieffect.com. Or
contact Andria Younger at (703) 942-8094 or firstname.lastname@example.org.