Design thinking is a framework for innovation. It focuses on the end user and encourages you to empathise and look at problems with fresh eyes. It makes you challenge your assumptions, unleash your creativity and expand your ideas. 

The Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (also known as d.school) categorises design thinking into five phases:

  1. Empathise
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test

These are very similar to the steps I use when helping clients write a presentation. 

Here is how to use the elements of design thinking to make you a better speaker

  • Empathise

The goal here is to truly understand what the problem is and your audience’s perspective. You need to practice radical empathy in order to unpack their experiences and motivation. It is important to set aside your pre-conceived assumptions and consult with experts as well as users. This is part of your information gathering for your presentation which will make your argument more robust. 

  • Define

I believe that every presentation is a pitch of some kind, and every pitch starts with the problem. It is important to define and articulate the problem that you are solving. This is based on your analysis and observations and should be human, user centric and relatable to your audience.

  • Ideate

Now you can generate ideas and think of alternative solutions to the problem. 

Ask yourself 

  • “How might we…?” 
  • “What if….?”
  • “What options are open to us?”

Let your imagination run wild – many of the things we take for granted today were once considered to be magical. Reflect on your personal stories and experience and ‘throw the net wide’ to uncover as many options as possible.  

  • Prototype

Think of your prototype as the structure of your presentation. Write out your key points on a flip chart or prepare a story board so you can see how your presentation flows. 

  • Test

The test component of your presentation is where you practice. As painful as it is, I suggest you video tape yourself. You can then see any body language or gestures that may conflict with your message. Listen to your presentation carefully and critique yourself for clarity, pace, pitch and enunciation. 

I believe that innovation and creativity are within all of us, we just need to be able to dig a little deeper and uncover that which has been buried within. By using these ‘design thinking’ steps, you can approach your topic from a new angle, ensure it is human centric and benefits the end user.

Sharon Ferrier

Sharon Ferrier, through her business ‘Persuasive Presentations’ consults to organisations and individuals who have a need to improve their communication, presentation skills and confidence in public speaking.
Sharon Ferrier

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