Preparing the Pitch

Each month of my new life brings another new opportunity and way to demonstrate the value of graphic recording. Got a call asking if I could record a brainstorming session and create a set of posters. The team of six industry leaders of a professional services firm were getting together, for the first time, on a Tuesday to prepare for a pitch on Thursday. They wanted to talk outloud together about how their firm would respond to the four Request For Proposals (RFP) they hoped to win. They wanted to do something different with the hour they had with the client, and had decided to create a series of 6-8 flipchart sized posters. There would be no powerpoint, no ugly slides, just hand drawn interpretations of their pitch. I knew I couldn't accomplish all of this in one day and the client came up with a brilliant solution - I would be in a room with the team, and an illustrator in a room in another state, would listen in, via video conferencing. 

It was lots of fun, for me and for the team - who had never worked with a graphic recorder before - to talk and dream and scheme together. I listened for themes and for different clusters of information - what would success look like at the end of Thursday, what unique skills and experience will they bring, what areas of the RFPs did they want to address and how. - and Dancing along the 20 feet of paper I'd put up, I made connections, and highlighted the words and ideas that came up again and again.

Many hours later we truly had a visual representation of the team's collective experience. The team 'voted', with post its, on the most important bits and pieces of content to include in the pitch. We mocked up the posters, sent photos to the illustrator in the room hundreds of miles away, who created the posters and delivered them on Thursday (along with easels to hold them!) to the pitch location in yet another state. 

When I first got the call I didn't know how this would work or if it would work. The team leader was convinced that my being in the room as they brainstormed would help them focus and encourage creative approaches. This method of preparing for a pitch was unique for this team and it turned out to be very satisfying for all of them. The very next day I received two emails -  'Wanted to say thank you again for joining our team yesterday.  You are amazingly talented and I just love how you were able to capture our thoughts much better than we could ourselves.' and 'Thank you for your creative support in preparing for the pitch. The day spent with you was truly a very memorable day. You have an amazing talent. I feel the pitch went really well. The creative boards were well received and created a number of good discussions and engagement. Exactly what we wanted.'. 

Next I'll follow up and see if they won the work! The adventure continues...



Meeting Design Inspirations

Recently I've been inspired by two resources with slightly similar titles.

Stop Meeting Like This is the rallying cry of Shani Harmon and Renee Cullinan. They believe we that it is possible to reinvent how we design meetings and have some terrific tools and ideas to help organizations do that. When I heard Shani talking about the incredible amount of time and money, wasted when organizations don't put the right kind of thought and attention to meeting design, I wanted to jump up and shout "Amen!"...but we were in a nice restaurant, with lots of glasses on the tables and I didn't want to cause a scene. Shani and Renee want to start a revolution and I think what they have to share is spot on and could make a difference. Take a look at their website and I bet you'll chuckle aloud like I did when you read this question - "What has the potential to kill Barbie, cost billions and cripple teams? Bad meetings."

We've Got to Start Meeting Like This! was written by fellow IFVP member, Dana Wright, and I can't put it down. I'm currently designing the annual IFVP conference and Dana's book has so many great ideas, suggestions, insights for creating a meeting or in our case, a conference to remember. Dana emphacizes the importance of putting "the focus on the EXPERIENCE..with the goal of creating events that are more useful, more productive, more effective, and more FUN!". It's been affirming to find explanations in the book for many of the design choices I made. I've been going on instinct and all those years with GBN, and now I'm reminded of what matters in a great event.   

Even though the title are opposites = Stop and Start, they both get at the  same thing. It's all about paying attention to who you are designing for, what they need, how they learn, and what kind of experience will they have. They are both inspiring me to pause and think. And that's always a good thing, don't you agree?



Virtual Brainstorming, who knew?

What if you got the best contributions from your team - without leaving your offices?

I recently received an inquiry asking if I was available to graphically record, three several hours long, brainstorming sessions for three separate teams of ten people....catch is, the teams wouldn't all be in the same room. I'd never done anything like this before but thought to myself 'When I record I stand with my back to the group, why can't I record with my back to a screen?'. So I thought 'Sure, why not!', and said 'Yes!' to the client.

The purpose of the brainstorming session was to have a far ranging, loosely facilitated discussion to generate ideas. Classic brainstorming and a perfect use of graphic recording. My job, in addition to capturing the content, was to listen for connections, cluster similar ideas, and try to make some sense of what we knew would be a messy, all-over-the-place discussion. Which is exactly what  the three sessions turned out to be. It was fascinating to be in a small media room in an office in downtown San Francisco, three mornings in a row, with one team member there to make sure the camera was properly positioned and the recording equipment was turned on. The three teams' members were in five offices, on two continents, and the sound quality was perfect. It was as if they all were seated behind me. All three teams had been working together, always virtually, for awhile now so they knew one another's voices and were familiar with their specific topic. 

After each session ended I stood back, made connections, created buckets, added lines/arrows and colors. I provided high resolution jpegs of the recordings each afternoon and they were promptly sent to the team members. Everyone was given a home work assignment - 'Look closely at the graphic recordings, identify three things of interest to you, and send that information back in the morning.' To my clients' delight everyone on all three teams did their homework and promptly contributed their three areas of interest. This feedback was collated, displayed on top of photos of the recordings, and returned to the team members in a Power Point deck.

This idea, of recording a brainstorming session, was something this client had never tried. They were as pleased as I was with the results. One team member remarked at how comforting it was to see me, albeit small in the corner of their laptop's screen, moving across the paper putting ideas together and making connections. One fellow told me he'd seen my work before but didn't realize I worked live in real time, and now he had all kinds of ideas where graphic recording could be of value. I've always thought one of the glories of live graphic recording is that people know they are being heard. For these three teams, even though I was in most cases hundreds or thousands of miles away, they still could see me working and know they were being heard.

Thinking about Dan Roam

I met Dan Roam about five years ago. I'd picked up 'Back of the Napkin' after the third person, upon learning that I'd not read it, said incredulously (how often do you get to use that word?!) 'YOU haven't?!!!!!!!??. I was so taken with the book and Dan's philosophy about the power of simple, thoughtful drawings that I sent him an email, asking him to come to GBN and talk with us about his book. To my total surprise and delight Dan responded immediately 'I know GBN and yes, I'd love to come visit with you all.', and that began our friendship.

Dan's thinking about drawing, about how to convey a message succinctly and clearly, are all around me all the time. Just yesterday, in a Christmas message from Kommunikationslotsenmy pals in Cologne, Germany, they quoted Dan in their e-advent calendar - 'There is no problem that can't be helped by a picture.'.

Dan made quite an impression on International Forum of Visual Practitioners members when he spoke at our annual conference in 2010. He told us 'the person who draws the best picture gets the money' and urged us to 'put the markers on your clients' hands!'. 

Earlier this month I signed a contract to confirm that next year, at the IFVP's 20th annual conference, Dan will once again close our conference and give us something to think about for another five years. I am sure Dan will blow our minds at AustinTX 2015, and he assures me he will wear his cowboy boots!

I think of Dan whenever I buy a banana and what he said in a workshop once 'A banana is a facilitator's best friend. It's easy to carry, comes in its own wrapper, doesn't need refrigeration, and is a great source of protein.'.

I think I live a very blessed life. I hope the same is true for you. Happy New Year to you and yours.

Sondheim and Me

One of my greatest and longest lasting obsessions is with the music of Stephen Sondheim. I’ve loved his work since the first time I heard it in 1974…….it’s been forty years now that I’ve listened to the scores of Sondheim’s shows, over and over again, and traveled across the country to see productions of his work….and only in the past few years have I come to realize how Sondheim’s philosophies about work are very similar to mine.

On the inside covers of Sondheim’s first book ‘Finishing the Hat’ I found these words ‘Content dictates form’, ‘Less is more’ and ‘Clarity’.  Boy, do these words speak to me. Once, in the Museum of TV and Radio in Manhattan, I watched an interview from the late ‘70s, with Frank Rich (then theatre critic of The New York Times) and Sondheim where he said, when Rich asked what he does he do to create his amazing lyrics, Sondheim replied ‘I listen.’. Later in the interview Sondheim offered some advice to people attempting to sing his oft times difficult lyrics -  ‘Do not show off or embellish.’.  I can still remember how I felt when I heard him say he those words - “I listen’, ‘Do not show off or embellish’, Content dictates form’. What was important to him, The Man, were the very things that were – that are – important to me in my work.

If you don’t know Sondheim, if you haven’t been exposed to this man’s true genius, you have a wonderful opportunity coming up when the movie version of ‘Into the Woods ‘opens on Christmas Day. It’s a wonderful show, full of storybook characters, subtle lessons in life, and some of his finest lyrics. 

Working with Aloha

Awhile ago I read an article in Honolulu magazine about 'The Best Lawyers in Hawaii'. I was struck by this comment - We work with aloha, which means civility, courtesy and professionalism. Having experienced and come to genuinely believe in the spirit of aloha after a couple of jobs with the Hawaii Community Foundation I told myself that's how I want to work. So I wrote working with aloha = civility, courtesy and professionalism on post its and placed them where I see them every day. The word aloha encompasses many things - grace, a happy disposition, an acceptance of people and things unlike yourself because all deserve your respect, generosity, and an ability to appreciate. I've read that the spirit of aloha is shown by your actions and how you deal with things. I strive to live and work with the spirit of aloha always in mind.

Welcome to my new site!

I'm thrilled to start this new chapter of my life, out on my own after soo many years building my skills and network in the comfy corporate womb. I'll be sharing thoughts and ideas and impressions from time to time, and I do hope you will come back. And oh, by the way, I'm looking for work!