from Dean Meyers

Love the post-it note and index cards.

The simple story of transformation

The simple story of transformation

In a world where Martha Stewart reigns as “Queen of the Craft”, it dawned on me last night that during the Great Depression of the 1930’s making clothing, cooking, and even handwriting were practiced, utilitarian crafts in many if not most homes. Jump to 2008 and my focus on visualization skills of the typical, high-school educated to high-level professional, and I routinely see outright FEAR when I suggest laying out a story on index cards, post-it notes..anything non-digital. I love facility and ease of use, most certainly: InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, PowerPoint, Flash, Final Cut Pro…all are my great and good friends. However, the invitation to tell a story the PowerPoint way – “Insert your TITLE HERE”…”Add your text here”..or through Flash’s interface – “Start with a Keyframe on a layer” – “add your library elements” doesn’t address the question that drives the purpose of using these tools in the first place: What is the point of telling this story? These are great tools, but they create anarchy when they offer no guidance or pathway to the process. And, to make matters worse, much of the templating/chart building/clip art libraries obscure the message or are useless.

Specialization, as in inspired and gifted artwork and design, has its place, but it really heightens one’s own ability to take ownership with pride when you can craft it yourself. At the very least, understanding the process of having an idea, seeing it in your mind’s eye, showing some kind of representation of that to others and, lo and behold, making the communication happen, should be an essential craft in your arsenal. Learning by doing? I’m all for it. Here’s a simple exercise:

Draw a square on the left side of a post-it note. Draw a circle on the right side. Draw a 4-sided box with rounded corners in the middle. Draw an arrow between the square, and then one between the rounded-corner box and the circle. You have just told a story of transformation!

In summary, don’t be afraid to sketch it, doodle it, scribble. In fact, you SHOULD do that and more–a slick presentation is like packaged white bread: a pretty wrapper and a lot of air to puff up an anonymous product. Make it, own it, wear it.

Here’s T. Boone Pickens doing it, live, on a whiteboard:

Send me your scans/shots of your index cards, post-it notes, napkin sketches. Anyone have a good visual concept of “Status quo”?

Filed under: Diagrams, Presentation Skills, Visual Expression, Visual Problem-Solving, , , ,

Better meeting notes can jog extra memories

I have a debriefing call on Monday about a training on presentations I co-facilitated 3 weeks ago. A senior management team convened for a “Reporting with Impact” training seminar, and my role was to teach them Visual Expression in reporting to executives. I’ll talk about that elsewhere, but my challenge for Monday is: How do I remind everyone of the issues we discussed three weeks ago, and make it feel fresh? My solution: at the beginning of that workshop I drew a rough sketch of the table, listing the names of everyone there in their seating arrangement, their titles, and then one or two salient quotes from each person as they spoke. I will admit, I don’t remember people’s names very quickly off the bat, so this was a trick I learned watching lawyers prep prospective jurors–they use a card system with a seating chart, and they write notes on the cards. Here’s my version, first, the pencil draft, and then revised into a graphic that I will distribute before we meet for the review:

Quick sketch showing individuals and their key concerns

Quick sketch showing individuals and their key concerns

Cleaned up and ready to distribute for review

Cleaned up and ready to distribute for review

Here’s the take-away for you: Organize your notes visually, using spatial reminders: draw the layout of the room with major elements, the tables or seating arrangement first–no fine drawing skills required. Use a single page. Write on the page or use post-it notes to label the participants in their position in the room. Make quick notes of what they said on the post-it note or under their name. It will remind you not only of who said what, but will bring back the spatial memory–did the team leader sit at the head of the table? In a panel discussion, who sat next to whom, and was that because they had a relationship worth noting? You will probably remember more with the seating chart jogging your memory than a standard bullet-point note-taking format. Try it at your next meeting or conference.

P.S. if you look at my previous post about the Edward Tufte Workshop I attended in November, you’ll see that I made a quick little layout of where he sat at the beginning of the program and where I was sitting in that giant hotel ballroom. Now you know why I do that.

Filed under: Diagrams, Visual Expression, , ,

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August 2021