There’s enormous power in the spoken word. And when words are coupled with simple, evocative visuals, ideas become more memorable and more likely to spread.
It’s been wonderful to play a part in the movement away from busy, text-heavy slides toward beautiful, cinematic presentations. But are glossy, minimalist slides always the best way to communicate? At times in my own business, I’ve found it necessary to create visuals that feel hand-made or even low-tech to serve a specific purpose.
For instance, when I want to run partially baked ideas by my team, I hand-draw my slides. In a really creative and collaborative culture like mine, I’ve noticed that people feel more comfortable challenging my thinking if my ideas are roughly sketched. It makes my team feel as if I haven’t solved the concept all the way and it leaves more room for them to help form the direction we take.
It might seem counter-intuitive to put something less than your best foot forward when pitching a really big idea to other people inside, or even outside, your company. But when your idea is in its genesis stage, your goal should be to invite others to help build and refine it. If you present your idea as if it’s fully formed and polished, people may think their help will be unwelcome.
When vetting concepts with small groups of people or even one-on-one, it’s even more important that the way you present ideas feels organic and natural, or you’re likely to come off as more calculating than collaborative. Some of the best communicators know just when to pick up the pen. An added benefit of hand-drawn graphics is that they seem right at home in a range of situations, from projected slides, to a whiteboard, to the placemat under your plate at lunch.
Below is an example from when I introduced the concept of starting a training organization. In this presentation, I was making the case for why we needed to start what I called a “seminar business” (now the Duarte Academy). When creating my presentation, I began by sketching out the full idea on a big sheet of paper to make sure I knew what concepts I wanted to visualize and in what order. Then I drew my visuals in stages, using colored felt tip pens and 5×8 index cards, and scanned in each new color and line so it built over time. I’ve added a bar of black text at the bottom to show my talking points:
So you can see those graphics are very raw, and that was just fine for this situation. Polish didn’t really matter because my goal was to convey the basic idea, not create a perfect piece of art. When I presented this at our staff meeting, it set the tone for a lively and open discussion about whether people felt this was a good idea or not and what it would take to make it a reality. If I had used slick slides, my team would have felt like the decision was already made, and I might have missed out on their insights —which were crucial in shaping our new offering.Next time you’re presenting, think about your communication goal and the stage of your idea’s lifecycle. Could hand-drawn images encourage others to make your germ of an idea better? Possibly—just pull out your sketchpad and see what happens!