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If You Can’t Draw It, You Don’t Understand It

It’s said that if you can’t draw it, then you don’t really understand it. This is the philosophy under which I operate when I’m facilitating a meeting or workshop that needs to accomplish one of the following two things:

1)      Identify a core problem that needs to be solved, or

2)      Identify what success would look like at the end of a project or initiative

The instructions for this type of activity generally resemble something like this:

  • “Using a piece of blank paper and the markers at your table, take the next 10 minutes to draw (without using words or numbers) what you think success will look like two years from today. Once everyone has finished, you will be asked to present your artistic representation to the rest of the group.”

Or it may look like this:

  • “We have identified ‘respect’ as a core team value. Take 5 minutes to draw what ‘respect’ looks like when interacting with other members of the team or organization.”

I’ve used this as both an icebreaking activity at the beginning of a session and as an anchor activity that helps transition into a new topic at some point during the course of a meeting. Breaking out blank paper and markers holds a number of benefits:

  • Every participant has an opportunity to be involved and to express their thoughts in a way that works for him or her
  • It challenges individuals to find ways to represent their observations and thoughts without using words – this means they ought to understand the issue extremely well
  • There’s no time to email or text or check Facebook when you know you’ll have to present your artwork to your fellow participants in the next few minutes
  • Even though people often use the same words to describe a situation or problem or experience, this activity allows participants to see what specific aspect of the situation or problem or experience is truly important to other people in the room

Know of someone else who’d like to get some ideas on how to get an audience to really show you that they understand a situation, problem or concept? Pass this along!

As for you, if you want access to a steady stream of articles to help improve your presentation skills then you should probably follow this blog.

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