The other day, a story came across my news feed that touted a new slide design product. It, just like Keynote and Prezi, promised that presenters could deliver better slide presentations that capture, and keep, the audience’s attention.
Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.
Fancy slides aren’t going to make you a better speaker.
A good graphic design template isn’t going to turn you into a badass graphic designer — it will only give you a platform to display your artistic mediocrity.
Good presentation skills, like other skills, require time and coaching to develop.
There is no quick fix for expertise.
It’s not just slide design or public speaking skills — it’s a mindset that people believe that a quick cheap fix can replace the training, time, knowledge, and talent, of an expert.
In the past few years, we’ve seen a rise in products that promise the average person that she can design a website with just a few clicks, become a masterful photographer with just a few filters, or become a pro video editor with just one download of some fancy new software. Gone is the need for a photographer, graphic designer, or videographer.
People often think, “Why pay for expertise when you can do it yourself for one easy low price?”
It is not the products themselves that I have a problem with, but it’s with the mindset that drives the decision to go it alone rather than use the services of an expert.
You don’t have to look very far for examples. Take your typical small businesses, your solo- preneurs, your self-published authors, or your first-time business owners. I’d wager that 95% decided that they could do their logo, web design, intro video, web copy, book cover, or anything else that required creative expertise, on their own. Or worse, they went with the lowest bidder in terms of both fees and experience.
When you ask why they didn’t pay for creative expertise you’ll hear the common refrains:
“Well, it’s all so simple anyone can do it.”
“I don’t have enough money and people always overcharge.”
“When I start making enough money, I’ll redo it all — someday.”
“It’s really the product that matters — everything else is just flash — no need to spend a lot on it.”
But the psychology of marketing has told us otherwise.
The creative media for a product matters just as much as the product itself. Go look at the self-published books on Amazon and see which ones you want to click on first. I’m guessing the ones with well-designed covers rather than the ones put together by the authors themselves, right?
Look at the wedding photos of an amateur photographer — you know, your cousin who just got that new camera for Christmas — compared to ones from a pro. Big difference, right?
There are people out there who have been developing a skill for many years of their lives — you will never catch up with them.
From videographers to graphic designers to writers and coaches — their skills are worth it.
Early on as a speechwriter, I had the I-can-go-it-alone mindset. I thought that I could design slides for my clients’ presentations. I have no training in graphic design, little knowledge of color theory, and I can tell you a little bit about the Rule of Thirds. When I tried to design slides for my clients, the slides were no better than an amateur hack job. It wasn’t until I partnered with a graphic designer that my product improved. She took care of the slides and I took care of the text; in the end, we could deliver a fantastic product to the client.
But my mindset would not have shifted had I not been willing to admit that I didn’t have the required expertise, and that no product out there would give it to me. I had to admit that what I needed was another person — another expert — with the skills and knowledge and talent that I didn’t have.
Whether you work for a large company or yourself, there are three maxims that ought to guide you in when shifting your mindset from “I can go it alone” to “I need an expert”:
First, expertise takes time to develop.
It’s fantastic if you want to add to your skill set — please do. But realize that you won’t become a better public speaker overnight for your sales presentation tomorrow. Instagram filters won’t make you a professional photographer.
Second, know what you are good at and what you aren’t. Outsource what you can’t do or don’t have the time to do.
This requires some humility but it will better serve you in the end. While some look at the financial assets when judging a business, you should also look at time and quality as assets, too. Focus on what you do well, do that, and leave the rest to the experts. Some might bemoan that they don’t have the money. If you don’t have enough money for even entry-level costs, you don’t have enough to start out on your own.
Third, hire the best so you get the job done right the first time.
Any expert will have a portfolio and a past client list. Look for the work that you want and trust that the person will deliver a fantastic project. Make sure to have a clear contract and set of expectations, a timeline with deliverables and milestones, and keep in constant (but not suffocating) communication. But, in the end, defer to the expert’s advice and guidance: that’s why you hired them.
There is no quick fix for expertise. No product or template can replace the knowledge, training, and experience, of an expert. Right now, there are thousands of experts waiting to help you on your next project. Use them to save time and enhance the quality of your next project.
Photo credit (creative commons): Paul Downey on flickr