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A Brand Called You

Lesson 12 of 22

How to Master Presentation

Debbie Millman

A Brand Called You

Debbie Millman

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Lesson Info

12. How to Master Presentation


  Class Trailer
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1 Class Introduction Duration:12:41
2 Defining Brand Duration:09:34
3 Finding Your Mindset Duration:04:57
5 Busy Is A Decision Duration:02:45
6 Honing your Mindset Duration:07:35
7 Generators vs. Drains Duration:19:39

Lesson Info

How to Master Presentation

I wanna talk a little bit about what a presentation actually is. In the same way that I deconstructed what positioning is, I wanna deconstruct what an actual presentation is. Because I think we use the word selling and presenting... We almost use these simultaneously to convey the same thing. I wanna really talk very seriously about what a presentation actually is so you know what is expected when you are showing your work. A presentation, in many ways, is a performance where you are taking somebody through the body of your work in a way that is engaging and inspiring and also educational. Let's talk about a presentation. What is a presentation? A presentation, in my mind... A presentation is the art of storytelling and selling. You are not only entertaining with the story, but you're also selling with the story. You're talking about who you are in a way that is not only engaging and memorable, but believable and inspirational. The only way something can be believable is if it's true. ...

The only way something can be believable is if it's true. Let's think back to the question I asked you earlier this morning. Who here lies? Who here has ever been lied to? Who here knows whenever anybody is lying to them? Which means if you deconstruct that framework, we tend to know when people are lying to us. It's a sense that we have. Whenever you do it to somebody else, assume that they know. I don't know what it is about designers, but we always think we're smarter than everybody else. (audience laughing) We always do. Somehow we think that we're the exception, that we can get away with this, and nobody is going to know. I'm here to tell you everybody always knows. Always knows. There is no other alternative, but to show up authentically. When I talk about selling, I am talking about the process of showing up authentically as is okay. So, storytelling... Selling is... Presenting is selling and storytelling. When you are presenting yourself, you are telling stories in a way, and I don't mean fables, I mean actual entertaining vignettes and anecdotes about yourself, in a way that is engaging and in a way that people feel inspired by. When people feel inspired by the things that you're sharing with them, then they wanna capture that and own that. That's when you're offered the job. A presentation is a process of selling an idea. You're selling the idea. What is the idea? The idea is, I'm the person you should hire. I want to win this job. I want this job more than anything else that I've ever wanted in my whole life up until this point. The goal of presenting yourself, the goal of presenting your work is inspiring somebody to take the action you want them to take. What is that action? Pick me, I'm the girl. I'm the one, I'm the person that you want to hire to do this really special job. A good presentation is a work of art. It's a skill. It's something that you have to practice and learn, and practice and learn, and practice and learn. A great presentation, a super spectacular presentation is a combination of skill, of art, of intelligence, and leadership. I believe that selling your ideas is as important as having them. If you are not able to sell your ideas, then nobody's going to ever know that you have them. If you haven't taken a presentation training class, I urge you to take one. I urge you to take a class wherein you are being videotaped while you present. It will horrify you. (audience laughing) You will come out of that experience devastated, but you will learn all the things that you don't know that you don't know. (audience laughing) Right there in that experience. It was one of the hardest things I ever did. Whenever I see myself on videotape, I re-remember all the things that I know I'm not supposed to do. I do all sorts of weird things. You've probably seen them all now, 'cause I've been here now for a few hours. But the only way I'm reminded that I'm doing them is when I see myself do them. We don't always consciously... We're not consciously aware of all the verbal tics and all the body tics and things like that. You do need to learn how to present. It's so interesting to me that we learn how to do so many other things. We learn how to design. We learn how to set type. We learn how to cut with Rubylith. We learn how to do everything except present. We graduate with our beautiful portfolios, and our resumes, and our hopes, and our dreams, and our ambitions, and then we go out there, and it's like, "Okay, go get a job." How, how do we learn to talk about our work? How do we learn how to talk about ourselves? If you're aren't able to talk about what your benefit is and what the work that you're doing, what the benefit that has to an organization, then all it is is a beauty contest. Beauty contests are entirely, as we've talked about, subjective. Entirely subjective. You need to be able to talk about your work in a way that conveys what it is you intend, what it is you believe, why it's important, and how you can justify the decisions that you've made about how you've gone about making the work. Ultimately though, I want you to understand something. Ideas are easy. Ideas are easy, strategy is is much harder. I can ask everybody in this room to come up with an idea for a beautiful carbonated soft drink label. Give you a funny little name, and everybody can go off and create a beautiful label in probably an hour or two. But, if I said to everybody in this room I want you to go back and think of a reason for a new carbonated soft drink to exist. You know, perform different activities than others. There's a lot of carbonated soft drinks out in the market. It'd be a lot harder to come up with a reason why this should exist. If you could come up with a reason why you've done all the things you've done in your portfolio, it'll resonate much stronger with people, who will then be able to understand your intentions. Sometimes understanding the intentions are more important than the results. If you don't know why you chose something... If you don't know why you chose this typeface... If you don't know why you chose this color... If you don't know why you chose this order of things... Then how is anybody else going to understand? Even if you have to re-engineer the reasons why, then re-engineer the reasons why. Come up with a sense of, what was the strategy behind this work, in the same way that you're coming up with a strategy for your benefit. What was the reason that I designed this, this way? Ultimately, presenting your work, presenting your ideas is a skill that you hae to master in the marketplace. Otherwise, if you cannot articulate what is special and unique about you and what you've done, nobody is going to magically be able to understand it. Oh, there's that magical person again. Look, the unicorn, yay! (laughs) This is hard. This isn't something that you can just do in 15 minutes. In many ways I think this takes a whole lifetime, the awareness of needing to do this is the first giant step on taking the journey to being able to master it. Presenting and selling your ideas takes a lot of practice. I still do it every single day, and I've been talking and presenting my work for 33 years. I graduated in 1983, and I'm still doing it. I'm still trying to get better at it all the time. I still love looking at other people's presentations and deconstructing how they did them, and watching TED Talks, and watching anybody that I can watch, talk about how to communicate with people in a way that is vibrant and radiant and real. It takes a lot of practice. I don't want you to get discouraged. I'm gonna talk to Jim for a second. Quick question, and I'm a designer art director, so I understand this. At what time do you balance letting your work speak for itself, when you're presenting? Never, I don't think that work speaks for itself. It speaks for itself, it's going to be misinterpreted. It could convey a meaning. It can have an impression. Everything has an impression. We as humans have impressions about things all the time. We can see, I think it's about 10 million different pixels, or different images at any given time, but we can't comprehend that many. We can only comprehend about 40. We're living in a constant state of self selection. That's not something that you can control. The best way to break through existing patterns of recognition, is to actually surprise people with something. That might be a way to re-engage what somebody is viewing or having them look at something in a different way. The first impression is always going to be something that is not... You can't control somebody's first impression of your work. What you wanna be able to do is talk about the strategic reasons you made the decisions that you do, or that you did, that resulted in the work that you're showing them. Again, to the previous question we had in the last session, about what if somebody doesn't like it? Let them not like it. The more you try to convince somebody that you're right, the more they're going to believe that you are wrong. Let people have their opinions. Let people have their point of view. Tim, did you have any other questions? Good. You're good, okay. So, as I said, it takes a lot of practice. A lot of practice.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

It takes work to get the work you love. It takes knowing how to interview well, how to communicate flawlessly, how to articulate your own purpose and to simultaneously do this while facing tremendous rejection. Debbie Millman is one of the most influential design minds of our time; an author, educator, brand strategist, and founder and host of the acclaimed podcast Design Matters. In her class you'll learn how to:

  • Create a meaningful philosophy that will guide your career
  • Present yourself in meetings and interviews
  • Network and standout from your competition
  • Find discipline in your approach to work
  • Sell yourself with more confidence

Are you spending enough time on looking for, finding and working towards winning a great job? Are you doing everything you can—every single day—to stay in “career shape”? What else should you be doing?

Join Debbie and answer these questions you should be asking yourself...


a Creativelive Student

B R I LLIANNNNNNT !!!! I love the such solid human being that she is and her grandiosity of holding our shoulder and say : go head! Dare to be your best self, own it. Here are some tips .... !!!! Uhuuuuuuuuu!! So inspiring! Thank you so much, Debbie. For couple of days you were my very BEST FRIEND :) Thanks Creative Live!! This is NOT a live "manual" on technical skills. If that is what you are looking for go some steps down and there are plenty of people teaching that, like traditional schools do. You will only learn what is "there" for you to learn if you are open TO HEAR with sincerity. Debbie tells several things that works and that doesn't in professional field besides showing what successful business look for in the people, or partners. Out standing!! I would love to watch another class with her.


I loved this course. Five Stars. I was initially drawn to this course because of the title. I had read Tom Peter's article (with the same name) in Fast Company magazine many years ago, and found it really inspiring. This was before 'brand' was a household word. Anyway, the course is geared more towards designers looking for their dream job than a typical branding course, but as it happens, I am a designer, so it was quite informative. I can also use much of the advice and lessons and apply them to my own business. From contacting potential employers or clients to creative self promotion, there's valuable lesson to be had. I watched and listened to this course in one day, almost straight through. I highly recommend it. Great insight, great advice - whether you're a design student or not. If you're the creative type, I think you'll find this both enlightening and very enjoyable.