Embrace Constraints

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I attended yet another pitching event recently. It turned out not to be as entertaining as others I had been to. Why?

The main reason, I think, was that the event in question had less restrictive rules for the pitches. Presenters were given a little more time and they were allowed to use slides. This resulted in more traditional (though short) presentations. You could clearly tell the more experienced "pitchers" from the "newbies": The experienced ones finished early (because they were used to shorter formats) or brought props instead of slides.

In his book, "Group Genius", Keith Sawyer points out a similar effect in group exercises about creativity. If there are constraints regarding the resources they have to work with, people tend to come up with more creative results. The fewer constraints, the more people do what they always do.

This explains why formats with very strict constraints - TED and TEDx with their 18-minute rule, Pecha Kucha with its 20x20 format, or pitching competitions where you have 3 minutes and no slides - often result in great talks. You have to accept the constraints, of course, for it to work. Trying to cut down a 60-minute presentation so that it fits into 18 minutes will inevitably fail. Embrace the constraints and see it as a chance to find a new way to present your topic.

(Photo Credit: Sign by Jeramey Jannene, CC BY, from Flickr)

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