Five Ways To Improve Your Skills
The transmission went out on my car yesterday (which is partly to blame for the lack of post here yesterday). The car broke down at 7:45am, just as I was leaving physical therapy, and after much ballyhoo I finally got to work just over seven hours later, at 3:00pm. Long, long day. But all of that waiting and driving around gave me a lot of time to think and during that time I decided I need to set some guidelines to help me become a better presentation designer this year. It occurs to me that these ideas could be adapted a bit to help anyone become better at what they do. So ask yourself as you read this if any of these ideas might be adapted to whatever it is you hope to become better at.
Give More Speeches
I joined Toastmasters a few years ago as a way to keep my public speaking skills fresh, and I’ve enjoyed the consistency of having to give a new presentation every couple weeks. However, after a while anything can become rote and I find myself phoning it in, not really putting in the effort I should. This is my fault more than it is Toastmasters, but I’ve decided I need to find other, more formal ways of giving speeches that have more riding on them. In addition to my weekly TM meetings, I’m going to try to find ways to give free public lectures, teach classes, and maybe post some videos of myself here on the blog. The idea is that by going through the process of preparing for and delivering more presentations my skills will improve more quickly.
Post More Of My Work Publicly
I’ve been designing presentations for a few years now but the majority of my work has been for the company I work for and its clients. The experience has been very beneficial to me in terms of learning how to be a designer, but since most of the work is proprietary I don’t have permission to post the slides I create for public viewing. When I recently attempted to put together an online portfolio, I suddenly became aware of just how little material I had that I was allowed to share. So in the next few months I plan to create a few presentations as show pieces, and to complete some work from clients who will agree to allow me to display the slides I create for them. I want to do this mainly to be able to show potential clients what kind of products they can expect me to produce, and to get feedback from the general public about what works and what I could be doing better.
Meet More Presenters/Presentation Designers in Person
Twitter is interesting in that it gives you the opportunity to develop something similar to a relationship with people all over the world. But despite these online interactions, it’s still nothing close to the feeling you have after having met someone face to face. Although I’ve been connecting with bloggers and presentation designers online for years now, I’ve met very few of them in person. I want to make an effort to meet more of them in person in order to see what kind of culture exists in the presentation world and to develop friendships that go beyond what cordial online interactions can offer. My company has agreed to send me to Hook Conference in March which will I hope be a big, first step toward achieving this goal. (Are you going to Hook? I’d love to say ‘hello’.)
Read (At Least) One Design Book Per Month
I have a degree in liberal studies which is like getting four minors (mine were in Communications, English Literature, Great Books, and Biblical Studies). I don’t have any formal design training, so in that respect I’m completely self-taught. In the past few years I have read dozens of design books, and have purchased even more, but I find it easy to leave them on the shelf unread unless I make a conscious effort not to. My goal for this year is going to be to complete at least one design-related book every month, in addition to my more typical recreational reading. I’ve come a long way in this area, but I’ve got a long way to go and realize that I’ll probably never know as much as I could. I’m always looking for more to add to my list, by the way. Can you recommend any that I shouldn’t miss?
Create Something Daily
This last point is something that sounds easy but has turned out to be quite difficult. Over the past few months I’ve been trying to write a new blog post every weekday. It’s been quite a challenge and I’ve missed a day here or there, but I’ve found that just going through the process of sitting down to write everyday has helped my writing skills improve significantly. I may or may not share what I create, but I hope that just doing some kind of creative work everyday will be like exercise for my design muscles.
What do you think? Do any of these sound good to you? Could your painting or photography or knitting or cooking benefit from some of the same commitments (with slight changes, of course)? If so, I hope you’ll share which ones you want to commit to, too, in the comments below.