I remember that my fable for visual note taking started somewhere in school. Just writing down what the teacher said or assembling text as home work was not enough. I needed to add some life to it: Historical topics were framed with country shapes, architecture lessons on gothic churches were brightened up with sketches of windows or architectural artifacts.
Somewhere on the way through university, all this went lost. Meeting notes became all text, technical, detailed, boring and were almost never revisited. I wrote things down to better memorize them for myself, but that was quite a poor way. Then came Evernote which I still enjoy for its simplicity and benefit of searching, tagging and having it on every device I use. But still text only. Here’s how to get better.
Explaining is key
Within the last years I learned to use something much better: Simple graphics, boxes, arrows and text on a whiteboard or flip chart. It doesn’t only make it better memorizable for me but supports communication. When I notice a meeting discussion is not moving forward for more than 10 minutes, I get up and start drawing to focus people’s arguments.
Here is why:
- Makes it easy: People see your position better when you draw it. They’ll get your point easier.
- Creates facts: With a drawn picture you render thoughts into facts and give everyone something to chew on.
- Maps visions: Most people tend to start thinking in exactly that moment. They unintentionally start drawing their thoughts in mind and mapping theirs to yours. Differences show much clearer.
- Creates consents: Sometimes, you see that fighting people in the room were talking about the same thing, but with different words. They can now agree on a common picture.
Sketching is a tool box
On my first SXSW, I saw the great sketchnotes by Ogilvy. For every larger panel or talk, they created a sketchnote in real-time and super large. Wonderful. Now I’m not an artist and I won’t picture someone else’s ideas (might be your thought as well). But I an important part of my job is to convince people. I want to get my ideas planted in everybody’s mind, want to render my concepts into reality. What I need for that is to get my colleagues, team and upper management to support (an of course like) my ideas and concepts. Which only works if the understand them.
That works much faster with a graphic and simple words (everyone knows that, but few people act on it). Being faster means getting out of discussions quickly – with a result everyone can understand and follow.
How to get you started
Take some of your drawing skills you have (they might be hidden, but you got them!) and combine them with great explanation skills – ‘and boom!’
To get you going, I want to highlight two good reads I’m enjoying on my current vacation:
Mike Rhode “The sketchnote handbook” is a quick starter for your sketching skills. Completely done in sketchnote style it’s at the same time visual appealing, entertaining and a great source for everyone who wants to start sketchnotes.
Lee Lefever “The art of explanation” shows you how to become better in explaining and selling your ideas, products, services. He’s the founder of Common Craft who are well known for their explanation videos.
Imagine combining both in your daily work, wouldn’t that give you a big boost? Let me know how it works!
Further topic related links: