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What Makes a Great "One Great Idea"?

What Makes a Great "One Great Idea"?

A “One Great Idea” presentation is a 10-minute (or less) solo stand-up that is a standard feature at all GreenBiz Group events. (You can see examples here.) They are intended as brief flashes of inspiration, often used to break up longer periods of programming, such as panels and interviews.

They may be brief, but they can be powerful. Indeed, people often come away from an event remembering the short, inspirational presentations more than the longer-form segments. “One Great Idea” presentations help to focus an audience on a single but powerful idea, success, or challenge.

Here are 10 tips intended to help you conceive and develop a powerful “One Great Idea.”

1. Focus focus focus. First and foremost, the presentation should be about one great idea! Don’t try to compress your usual dog-and-pony presentation into 10 minutes. Focus on a single idea or concept.

2. Make a point. The idea isn’t just to describe your company or job or product — it’s to have a takeaway — some point or conclusion that you want the audience to remember. You should consider starting with that point, then working back to it by the conclusion.

3. Don’t sell. The best presentations illuminate without being preachy or salesy. If you’re trying to promote something — yourself, your company, a product or service — you’ll lose the audience. Instead, share an idea. If you do it well, it will give you far more credibility, and will invite conversations that will allow you to make your pitch later on.

4. Use slides sparingly. The best presentations have some slides, but not many — maybe 6-8 in a 10-minute presentation. And those slides have relatively few, if any, words. Just a single image or a key phrase or two — not your basic bullet-point sales-meeting slides. Think about the old adage about 1 picture = 1,000 words, but not every word needs a picture.

5. Tell stories. Nothing communicates better than a real-life story — the more personal the better. People remember them more than anything else you'll say. Stories make facts real and relatable. Whenever possible, use humor (but only if you think you can do it effectively; nothing's less funny than forced humor).

6. Be inspiring. Audiences are looking for hope, heroes, and inspiration — but not hype. Leave them with a new idea, an inspiring story, a vision of what’s possible.

7. Practice. Then practice some more. The best presenters don't wing it. They rehearse, fine-tune, and rehearse again. Give a dry run or dress rehearsal to your colleagues, family, or pets. The more you do it, the better it'll get.

8. Take it to the limit (but not beyond). Ten minutes is ten minutes, not 12 or 15 minutes. You won't score any points by going longer.

9. Don't worry about being perfect. There's no such thing, and you'll make yourself crazy trying. Even the most polished presenters stumble from time to time. The audience is on your side -- they want you to succeed -- so don't worry about the occasional hiccup.

10. Have fun! Okay, it may seem hard to do after all these tips, but if you can make it happen, you're well on your way. Audiences appreciate a presenter who truly enjoys what they're talking about. It can be contagious.

Here is a video we like that will help you learn a bit more about making successful short presentations.

Here are a few of our favorite One Great Ideas:

  • How a Futuristic Environmental Design Idea Became a Reality, Jim Kor, Owner, Kor Product Design

  • Tackling Home Energy Through Good Design, Matt Rogers, Co-Founder and VP of Engineering, Nest Labs

  • Creative Sourcing for Green Innovation, Alexis Ringwald, Director, Business Development, Serious Energy

    For more, visit the One Great Idea microsite.

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    What Makes a Great "One Great Idea"?