Creative Camp 2012

Last Friday I attended my first Creative Camp in Belfast, hosted at Media Zoo studios. For those unfamiliar with Creative Camp, it’s a small conference where anyone can sign up to present a 15 minute talk; either around a specific theme for the day or a topic of their choice.

The theme last week was Serendipity – there where some great talks on this subject, most notably by Ben Bland and Jonny Campbell – who told the highly amusing story of #WINNING - how he managed to convince the world that he’d won an internship with Charlie Sheen.

David Turner also gave a brilliant talk on simplicity and showcased some of the work we have been working on recently.

One of my favourite talks of the day, was a short presentation by Jonathan Gaston, the man behind ColoursVideo. If you haven’t seen any of his videos before, be sure to check out the ColoursVideoNI YouTube channel where you’ll be guaranteed a laugh.

Self Improvement

The most important element of the day for me was my own talk. This was the first time I’d done something like this and it was a huge step for me. My talk was titled Every Product Tells a Story and explored the benefits of storytelling within product design. I explained how stories can create a strong, emotional connection to a product and touched upon customer stories as a tool for social validation and promotion.

One of my goals when I started the Masters was to improve my public speaking and become confident in giving talks in front of a large group of people. I’ve had significant training in this on the course; we regularly present our work to the rest of the class and also had the opportunity to work with local actress Andrea Montgomery.

The full day session with Andrea taught me a number of things:

  • Techniques for warming up my voice before a talk
  • How to breath the room and relax
  • How to compose myself physically and become aware of my body language

Speaking at Creative Camp seemed like the perfect opportunity to put these techniques into practice as well as give a proper structured ‘design thinking’ talk in front of a large audience.


I put a lot of preparation into the talk, referring to the principles I’d learnt from both Andrea and Chris Murphy. The key element for me is rehearsal, I spend days reciting a talk at home until I know the entire thing off by heart.

A good way to test this is to practice the talk while driving – if you can subconsciously recite everything while focused on something else then it’s certainly been imprinted upon your brain.

Knowing the talk inside out gives me confidence and means I’m not having to think consciously about what I’m going to say next during the presentation – this spares some brainpower to focus on other things like body language. I’ve become much more aware of this now and make sure I keep looking at the audience, making eye contact with people and also using gestures while I speak; to re-enforce my points or else to divert peoples attention to the slides when required.

I faced two problems on the day, one which I handled well, the other not so well. The first was the amount of background chat amongst the crowd before I started talking. Fortunately I remembered what Andrea had taught us about raising our voice to say Hello before pausing to let people settle – and then continue. This asserts a level of authority and grabs peoples attention. Thankfully this worked perfectly, I gave a loud** Good morning everyone** and managed to silence the room straight away and gain everyones attention.

The second problem was during the Q&A session. I received one question which I stumbled to give an answer to at first. I almost gave the wrong answer before back tracking and trying a different approach.

The answer I gave wasn’t great but I did answer the question. I knew beforehand the Q&A is something that can’t be prepared for and will only come with practice. I did learn that it’s a good idea to take a moment to think about the response instead of trying to give a rapid fire answer.

It’s important not to dwell on this kind of thing though, it’s a learning experience that requires practice and reflection.

A Little Experiment

At the end of my talk, I threw in a little experiment based on Dustin Curtin’s blog post about assertive language. He talks about how You should follow me on Twitter is a more more effective than I’m on Twitter.

Switching from a command to a statement like this, according to Dustin’s research, improved his click through rate by 38%.

I decided to use this little comment at the end of my talk and while I have no way to compare this to using a statement such as Im on Twitter, it did earn me around 10 new followers straight after my talk.

Wrapping Up

All in all, I had a fantastic day, I got to meet some great new people, I stepped out of my comfort zone; something I would have never considered doing this time last year. I also had fun at the workshop afterwards learning how to rephrase problems, and of course a few beers at the after party.