Mumbo Jumbo: The art of verbal presentation with a sense of urgency

By R. Lloyd Brooks, Program Chair, Visual Communications

Students must learn the art of verbal presentation with a sense of urgency.

“The real issue is not talent as an independent element, but talent in relationship to will, desire, and persistence. Talent without these things vanishes and even modest talent with those characteristics grows.”
 –– Milton Glaser

New students coming into the visual communications program at Ivy Tech are often frightened or even shocked at the thought of verbal presentation to their peers in the classroom.

It is vitally important to train our visual communications students to speak well so they can better communicate their ideas. It is my contention that verbally selling your work is as important as doing good work. If you can’t motivate the client to believe in you, to get excited about your ideas, those ideas will never become reality.

I have an Einstein sort of principle I have stated with students and young designers since the beginning of time. It goes something like this: “There is an equal and proportionate relationship between the designer’s ability to communicate his or her ideas to the creative freedom given by the client.”

In other words, if you can verbally and effectively communicate your ideas, solutions and concepts that sell your ideas, you get more creative freedom. From my thirty plus years as a creative director, it was my responsibility to present the ideas and visual concepts developed by my creative teams to gain the confidence of the client, to allow us to do good work. If you cannot convey the “concepts” for your “Big Ideas” to your client, if they come away from the meeting unenthused, your ideas will die on the vine.

I have a library virus I hope will spread with all our visual communications students. I assign a visual communications research project in all my classes. The student either has to develop a Powerpoint presentation or a written research paper. And, this topic has to be presented verbally for all students to enjoy the rewards of discovery of the generations of innovative work done in the fields of photography, advertising, design, publishing and packaging. I have at times directed a student back up and start a presentation over from the beginning because the student got confused, nervous or jumbled with the presentation.

We have to insist our students develop their verbal presentation skills in a professional manner. The increased confidence gained by the designer or photographer will be contagious with the client. Now that is a virus that has righteous and creative germs worth spreading.

As program chair, it is difficult to develop something new for our program that has both educational virtue and creates excitement without degrading the valued asset of time and equity invested in an idea or classroom experience. Research, writing and verbal presentations carry the predisposed symptoms of a migraine or cold sore. When I mention the assignment to my classes I get the roll of eyes, a glassy remote gaze at the floor or a dreaded stare of disbelief. But magic can and often does happen when students unearth the rich and visual history of our industry. The quote at the beginning of this blog by Milton Glaser may seem to be just a slogan of obtuse words to any student until they research the work by this ingenious artist. Then the work, its historical value and a recognition of the richness of what has gone before us becomes a lively and vigorous desire to learn more from the past, while exploring the unknown of each individual student’s creative future.

Can you imagine a doctor or lawyer practicing their profession without knowing of Jonas Salk and the polio vaccine, or the implications of Brown v. Board of Education in civil rights? A lawyer cannot enter a courtroom without a sound knowledge of legal precedent and its jurisdiction on a case at hand. I submit to you a visual communicator needs that similar and necessary awareness of design history to navigate visual solutions for a mass audience that must relate emotionally to a client’s product or service with real and tangible meaning.

I dream of a better land, where our visual communications students shout their names with confidence, get excited when sharing their ideas and smile all the way to the bank. The future is close at hand, with talent, will, desire, persistence, and competent verbal skills.

Look into your client’s eyes, speak loud and clear. “This is my Big Idea and your customers will love it. This is why….”
Now go with portfolio in hand and conquer the world.

Photo: Luke Cruser, Model: recent graduate Julie Bradshaw

R. Lloyd Brooks is program chair of the Visual Communications department at Ivy Tech Columbus. He enjoyed a career as designer and creative director for over thirty years. His professional experiences have taken him to Taiwan where he had a package design office for three years to Russia just prior to the fall of the Communist regime in the early 90s. For more information on gallery exhibits or our program, call him at 812.374.5139.

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3 Responses to Mumbo Jumbo: The art of verbal presentation with a sense of urgency

  1. Phil Manning says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Good public speaking skills are essential in this field.

  2. David Williams says:

    I can’t agree more with the idea that even a stubborn client’s limiting, non-design concerns can soften with sound reason presented in a clear and confident way by the designer. But don’t flood them with too much design mumbo jumbo—there is a limit to anyone’s patience while being schooled!

  3. Nina Lisowski says:

    Much student insecurity may stem from inexperience, underdeveloped visual literacy, and dare I say it, not being prepared. That’s when the mumbled mumbo jumbo starts to flow. There is no faking dedicated effort and real enthusiasm. We must all put ourselves in the direct path of the learning virus to overcome the disease of apathy. College is a great petri dish where new life patterns can be developed.

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