You are NOT creative if…

“Some people are creative. Some people are not creative.”

I disagree. 

You are not creative only under one condition. You are not creative if … you don’t think you are creative. That’s it.

And if you don’t think that you are creative, you’re wrong. And I can prove it.

Consider a problem that you or your company faces. Take out a piece of paper and pencil. Write down the problem. Start a list of ways to solve the problem. When you finish your list think about ways to add to it. That’s where the creativity comes in. Here are some creative ways of finding a solution that you may not have considered.

  • How would Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs, or Albert Einstein go about solving it?
  • How do your competitors approach the problem?
  • How would kindergarteners approach your problem?
  • How would your mother approach the problem?
  • At dinner, ask members of the family how they would look at the problem.

To be creative all you have to do is look at your problem from a different angle.

Everybody is creative…if you know where to look.

Try it. Please.

Sometimes, your best presentation can be your worst…

It was a very hot day.

The room was not air conditioned.

The audience was made up of very important people.

My team consisted of four speakers. Each of us was given about 20 minutes to speak. I deliberately went last. As the other speakers were speaking I was looking at the audience. Some were on the verge of failing off their chairs because they were dozing off. Some were looking at their watches. None were paying much attention to the speakers. And then it was my turn to speak.

A colleague was switching PowerPoint files when I told him to shut the projector off.

I started by telling them that I was going to summarize what I was going to say in two minutes or less and provide a handout with the details. Everyone perked up. I spoke. I stopped. I gave out the handout.

Several people told me that mine was the best presentation of the day.

Sometimes, you have to adjust your presentation to the day. Sometimes, your worst presentation (according to the speaking gods) can turn out to be your best presentation.

Shock ’em in a month…

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 12.31.43 PMWhen you make a presentation and have email addresses of those in your audience shock your audience by sending out an email, in a month, with a summary of what you told them. As Jack Friday would say, “Just the facts.” Avoid the temptation of try to sell anything. Just use the email as a gentle remember of what you said. Use it like a second handout.

They will appreciate it. Really, they will.

The most important part of your next presentation…

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 10.26.30 AMWhen you make a presentation planning is extremely important. So is practice. Many would say that slide creation is also critical. Few ever mention the really important part of any presentation…the handout.

Regardless of how good a speaker you are, the audience is forgetting what you are saying as you are saying it. Most of what you say is lost by the time the audience has left the room.

The best way to help the members of the audience remember what you have said is the handout you provide. If they really want to remember what your important points were they can consult with your handout.

Your handout can be on paper, a booklet, or something that they can get online later. Providing a handout is the best way to be remembered later on. Handouts help them remember you.

Ben Franklin’s Views of the Web and … Today’s Business

Although Ben Franklin lived a few years before the Web started, many of his observations can be applied to the Internet today. Here is an ”interview” with Franklin, using his own words.

Joel: Mr. Franklin, how can we help those who don’t seem to want to work hard and follow common sense when it comes to starting a Web business?
Ben: They that will not be counseled, cannot be helped. If you do not hear reason she will rap you on the knuckles.

Joel: Can one read a book and succeed in business?
Ben: Read much, but not many books.

Joel: Should a person mortgage their house if they think that they have a great business idea and go for it?
Ben: If you can’t pay for a thing, don’t buy it. If you can’t get paid for it, don’t sell it.

Joel: What about the speed that things are changing now, if that bad?
Ben: When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.

Joel: How do you know when you have a good idea in business?
Ben: If passion drives you, let reason hold the rein.

Joel: How much does luck have to play in business success?
Ben: Diligence is the mother of good luck.

Joel: What about those who are deceptive in business?
Ben: Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools, that don’t have
brains enough to be honest.

Joel: Should one go with the latest software, gimmick, or advice?
Ben: Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.

Joel: What about business failure? Many fear it.
Ben: The things which hurt, instruct.

Joel: How important is it to be rich?
Ben: Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.

Much of what Franklin said still applies to us today, on and off the Web.

Alternatives to the Résumé in the Hiring Process

How valuable are resumes in the hiring process? No one is going to say bad things about themselves. Most will describe themselves in the best possible way. Some lie about themselves. So, what can be used as an alternative?

Many years ago, I answered a want ad in the Sunday New York Times. They were looking for an editor for one of their photography oriented newsletters. Instead of asking for a résumé, they asked three factual questions about picture taking. Since this was long before the advent of the Internet it wasn’t as easy to look up the answers. You had to actually know the subject matter. I answered the questions, via snail mail, and waited for an answer. About six weeks later, I got an interview. Although I didn’t get the job, they did offer a book deal. The Amphoto Guide to Wedding Photography was the result.

By asking questions, instead of requesting a resume, they were getting information about my writing ability and knowledge of photography. A résumé would not have been the same.

Could asking questions work for all jobs? Probably!

Instead of asking questions about facts that are now easy to look up, questions would be asked such as, “What would you do if…?” Another question might be, “If a customer complained and it was our fault, how would you answer the complaint?” Finally, I would ask, “How would you improve our company?”

Unfortunately, not all who apply for a job can write a basic sentence or paragraph. Asking questions is also a subtle way of judging the literacy of a potential candidate.

If I were hiring, I’d also call the candidate and speak to him or her, before a potential face-to-face interview. Again, this is a way of checking the verbal abilities of a potential worker.

A resume is helpful, getting a writing sample and hearing what they sound like makes more sense to me as a way to begin the hiring process.

Looking Over the Shoulder of a Genius


I didn’t know Picasso. I didn’t know Einstein. I didn’t know Jim Henson. But, I was recently given the chance to look over the shoulder of Jim Henson!

My wife gave me the first season DVD of Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock…a program that appeared during the 1980s that I used to watch with my then little boy (who isn’t so little anymore). Aside from the video’s this boxed collection is truly unique. It includes a replica of a notebook that Henson used when he was thinking about creating the program. It’s his real notebook, handwritten in various colors. When could one have a chance to almost literally look over the shoulder of a genius as he was thinking about his new venture. Wow!

Marketing, PR, and Advertising all start with a white sheet…

Imagine living in an apartment and you create your own product. You know that everyone should buy it. You call up your Mom and tell her. She’s so proud. The problem is that no one comes to your apartment to buy it. Why? No one knows about it.

So you get a great idea. You paint a big sign, on a white sheet, that announces your product. You hang the sheet outside your windows so it can be seen on the street. Two guys knock on the door asking to see your product. A few more come in the next day.

By the third day, they tell some of their friends. You get more customers.

Before you know it, you’ve got a hit.

Print ads, TV time, social media, mailings and stuff like that work too. The more folks who know about you and your product the better. If only you and your Mom know about it, you will not sell a thing.

It all starts with a white sheet.

Web Site Checklist

In 1998, as part of a column that I wrote called WEBing Your Business, I offered this checklist for evaluating your own website. It still is useful.

1. Address: Is the address (i.e. URL) of my site easy to remember?

2. Audience: Who will want to view my site?

3. Background: Is my background interesting? Does it distract
attention from the images or text?

4. Cookies: Do I ‘need’ to use cookies that may turn folks away from
my site?

5. Copy: Is what I have written clear and concise?

6. Email: If I want folks to write me email, is it clear on how they can write to me?

7. Fonts: Are the fonts that I use legible or just for show?

8. Frames: Will frames enhance my site or detract from it? [Frames are not very common anymore.]

9. Graphics: Are graphics small enough so that they don’t take up too much time during loading?

10. Information: Is there enough information that is useful, original, worthwhile, and free so that folks will want to return to the site?

11. Java: Are there ways of enhancing my site using Java or other

12. Links: Are my links up to date and easy to follow?

13. Meta: Did I add meta information to help folks find my site?

14. Navigation: Is the site easy to get around? Have I asked folks
to bookmark my site so that it will be easy for them to return?

15. Sound: Do folks have an option to hear my sound or “must” they
hear it and spend the extra time waiting for it?

16. Spelling: Did I spell check my site?

17. Tables: Do tables help or distract attention in my site? Can I
use a single table to make my text look better?

18. Text: Is it easy to read? Are the colors of the text and
background complimentary? Have I provided an ALL text version
for those who don’t view graphics or who use reading devises
because they are visually impaired?

19. Title: Is the title appropriate for my site?

20. Vanity: Is my site worth the time that viewers will spend on it
or is it just for my own vanity?

Did the checklist help your site?

5 Photo Tips for Speakers

If you get up to speak at a meeting, workshop or conference, you probably will be using some form of visual. By following some basic photography tips you can make your pictures more effective. Here are 5 photography tips for public speaking:
  1.     The most unique photos you can use is one you took yourself. Your iPhone or other smartphone has a camera that can and should be used to take pictures. Use it.
  2.     Move in, zoom in, or crop your pictures to avoid distracting backgrounds.
  3.     An advantage of using digital cameras is that you can take pictures without worrying about the expense of developing film. However, the problem with digital images is how easy it is to loose track of them. Important images should be copied and re-named. For example, the (scanned version) of the photo of P.J. is named PJ_Polaroid.jpg. If it were called 229945.jpg it would be much more difficult to find in my computer.
  4.     Using a Polaroid picture, like the picture of P.J.,  makes it a bit more personal and unique. Although Polaroid stopped making film for their cameras, The Impossible Project does make film for your old Polaroid camera.
  5.     If you use a photo on a PowerPoint or Keynote slide, use little or any text with it. You want the audience to look at the picture, listen to you, or read what is on a slide…one at a time.

Used wisely, pictures are great aids to making an effective speech or presentation.