Most of us rely heavily on words to get our message across. We may spend much time and energy creating a perfect memo or email. Yet visuals—pictures, photos, diagrams, and now videos—can say it more powerfully than words on a page.
Visuals are a universal language that can transcend culture and linguistic barriers. Think about the universal symbols for important things. No translation needed!
Humans have more sensory apparatus for sight than for any of the other senses, yet we don’t take advantage of the opportunity as often as we could to communicate visually. How might a leader interested in creating change harness the power of the visual? Here are strategies from easiest to more complex
1. Keep a visual record on a chart or white board when groups are brainstorming ideas or solutions. This assures everyone that their ideas have been heard and captured. A list that all can see can discourage rehashing. Our brains can only hold 5 plus or minus 2 items in short-term memory which is why a visual list is important for a group. (Even with a visual list, the leader or facilitator must continually reinforce the rule that in brainstorming, all ideas are listed before any are evaluated or criticized.)
Capturing ideas or solutions on a laptop that is projected can also be effective. The process, however, can be distracting. People may strain to see in a bright room or watch the typing to be sure that their ideas have been captured.
2. Invite an emotional response from your audience. Start your slide deck with images that will evoke an emotional response (happiness, interest, pride, concern, etc.) in your audience. Use photos, pictures or a short video. If a visual can get your point across, use it instead of words. You can say out loud what needs to be said.
One of the reasons people are so annoyed when a presenter reads the slides is that most of the people will have read the slide much faster than the presenter can speak the words. Here is a sample Haiku Deck slide. Adding relevant pictures, photos, and drawings into your existing presentations will make them more impactful.
A few hints for charting: Use dark markers that smell good or are odorless; avoid red markers as red is difficult to read from a distance; add a title to every page; and write big.
3. Present data visually—beyond spreadsheets and tables. Often we present data in tabular format because we haven’t thought of other ways to present it. Tables are clean and simple, but not always the most impactful.
I rely on A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods for ideas on presenting information and ideas visually. This resource is a homage to the Periodic Table of Elements, and arranges the options according to purpose –quantitative data, information, concepts, strategy, and compound (mixed). You will enjoy looking at all the choices. The “Bridge” under Metaphors is one of my favorites.
4. Create Infographics. These data visualizations are found everywhere and with good reason. An infographic is 30 times more likely to be read than a text article (Kolowich, 2017). You will find many do-it-yourself resources for creating infographics online, but for change processes where the stakes are high, use a professional designer to get your points across visually.
5. Use Simple Graphics in Facilitation. Facilitators can use graphics in creating visual agendas and custom templates for the group’s work. The majority of people are visual learners. Simple banners, bubbles, clouds, and icons add immeasurably to a group’s engagement in their task.
Graphic recording is becoming very popular, a process in which a graphic facilitator captures the conversation in pictures with only a very few words. Watch this blog space for more on what facilitators can do to harness the power of the visual!
For leaders who want to develop their skills and approaches to creating change and transformation, the Journey of Facilitation & Collaboration (JOFC) offers a unique opportunity to do just that. This 5-day, immersion will be offered April 2-6, June 18-22 and October 29-November 2, 2018. I will be happy to answer your questions about JOFC. (It’s a life-altering experience!) Please contact me at mailto:[email protected]
Kolowich, L. (2017) Why are infographics so darn effective? Retrieved from https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/effectiveness-infographics
Lengler, R. & Eppler, M.J., (n.d.). Towards a periodic table of visualization methods for management. Retrieved from http://www.visual-literacy.org/periodic_table/periodic_table.pdf.
Pullan, P. & Randle, V. (2008). Graphics made easy. Retrieved from http://www.makingprojectswork.co.uk/graphics/