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The Power of Engaging with a Visual Narrative

When we were colleagues in the same company, I remember dropping by one of Richard Rose's qualification courses on AgilePM©. And I saw the diagram above drawn on a flipchart. I've seen this before and I've noted the way he does it.

Richard tells a story as he draws what is a key diagram for AgilePM.

And he must have done this on the day before. The diagram shows how the different roles relate to so much of the AgilePM method. So much so that he deliberately draws this early on in the course and leaves it on display for the delegates to reflect on as they consider later topics in more detail.

I've discussed this with Richard and other exceptional trainers that I've had the honour to work with. One of the most powerful ways of understanding complex content is through a visual narrative. It seems that people can recall far more of what is being said if they can see it drawn at the same time. And quirky hand-drawn cartoons appear to be even more memorable than if something is homogenised into some PowerPoint presentation. It's the quirky-ness and the humour in class that sticks in people's minds.

All I could do at school was paint and draw and that was the only time I ever passed any exam. It was the only thing I ever got right at school.

David Bailey

David Bailey


I've tried various online techniques, from recording my Prezi-based presentations and using Whiteboard animation software. Here is an example of a whiteboard animation:

And here's video book review I did using Prezi:

Yet nothing seems to stimulate people's engagement, aid recall, and help integration with other aspects of a subject as much as seeing a live discussion drawn.

In fact, I'd had such a torrid time recently with display technology at a particular venue where I spoke to about 200 people that I decided to abandon my presentation and use a flipchart. It went down a storm. People loved it.

Visual Thinking

Even more so, nothing seems to help me develop my understanding of a new subject better than if I can sketch it out as I explain it back to someone else.

I came across this post by Michael Babwahsingh called Make Crappy Drawings, and another called Putting Visual Thinking to Work. He makes some valid comments.

Also, I’m reminded of Mike Rohde’s Sketchnote Handbook. Here’s an interesting video vignette of his journey and what the sketchnote actually is.

In my book, Leading Yourself, I explore how I use Mind Mapping, and it’s not always pretty! See this rough Mind Map, for example:

Rough Mind Map

It is a mess to you, but to me it helped me get certain thoughts in order.

What was the best live illustration you saw drawn before you that has stayed with you?

Do you use any kind of visual notation or special kind of doodling for yourself? If so, what is it?


Leave your comment below.

How much breakthrough skill do you really have?

Have you ever wondered whether your efforts at self-development are really paying off? Do you sometimes feel like you are just treading water in getting better at your job? How we really get better at something is a critical issue of time, money and effectiveness.

[shareable]How we really get better at something is a critical issue of time, money and effectiveness.[/shareable]

For years now I have been a student of how we truly progress in skill… in anything.

In particular, I’ve looked at these skill sets:

  • communications skills,
  • the skill of leading people through big changes, and
  • the skill of working on my own personal organization in the face of sometimes seemingly overwhelming busyness. Continue reading
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