It occurred to me while I was preparing to carve our Halloween pumpkin last week: when did the expectation for an elaborate and detailed pumpkin character get so…high? When did the era of the jolly old Jack-O-Lantern end and the super snazzy CGI effects worthy pumpkin begin? I think the game changed somewhere around the time stores started carrying the “Pumpkin Masters” carving sets. If you’re not familiar, let me explain. There are specialized pumpkin carving kits on the market these days- they include tiny precise instruments such as a mini-drill, a saw, and a few other tools along with a variety of patterns to use. Whoa! I remember being proud of my crudely crafted toothless smile pumpkin with the triangle eyes- this was quite an achievement using a standard kitchen knife!

I remember when a presentation was something that was given either on a large piece of poster board, or maybe projected using an overhead projector with sheets that had the content and graphic printed on them. Now, even high school students are giving presentations in PowerPoint! Creative business folks are looking to impress their audiences by sharing ever-more dynamic presentations using Prezi or short animations.

I sometimes wonder what would happen if someone were to stand up before a large group of people and drag a giant piece of poster board on to the stage. Or what if they stepped up to a podium…with nothing at all? Would people walk out? As the tools we use evolve, so too does the expectation. We have come to expect that things will look slick, more professional, whether it’s a presentation supporting a business theme or a carved pumpkin. But one thing hasn’t changed: there is no substitution for having the discipline to follow a proven process for telling your story or creating your masterpiece.

  • Scan for inspiration
  • Brainstorm ideas
  • Pick one (or several that work together to tell a story)
  • Create a first draft sketch
  • Seek feedback
  • Iterate
  • Build it

A good story is a good story, regardless of whether it has video clips and animated bits. An under-developed story full of video clips and all of the bells and whistles may leave an impression, but will not ultimately resonate with the audience.

As for the pumpkins, I say let’s dare to give them back to the children! The best looking pumpkin I spotted on my street this year was a throwback to one I carved myself when I was about 11- it had some triangles for eyes and a big goofy grin. The real story that resonated with the viewer was the authenticity of the pumpkin, which was proven by the proud parent who told me that her 9 year-old son carved it with just “a little help”.