4 steps to super charge your meetings with visuals

We've all been in those meetings. Meetings where you're not sure what the point is, and you know that whatever it is, you're not going to achieve it, right? 

The hours we spend in unproductive meetings directly reduces the time we have to actually get stuff done, and it is that which makes a lot of meetings so very, very frustrating. A recent survey of 182 managers from across a range of industries found 71% felt meetings were unproductive and inefficient, and a whopping 64% felt that meetings actually got in the way of deep thinking. (Harvard Business Review)

So what can you do to turn this miserable situation around? To make your meetings more engaging, efficient and collaborative..?

One suggestion is to use a visual agenda.

Step 1.

Firstly you need a clearly communicated goal for the meeting that everyone is aware of and a set finish time that you commit to honouring. Let's face it, if you don't have this as a minimum you really should be saving your, and everyone else's time, for something more useful.

Clearly communicating what the meeting is about beforehand will also help people prepare. Introverts, for example, will appreciate having thinking time to themselves to prepare in a way that works for them to contribute to the topic.

Step 2.

Create a visual agenda that you can also use as a collaborative tool. Let me show you...

BLOG - agenda.jpg

If you don't have a long whiteboard or roll of paper to use don't worry, you can split these across several flip chart pages stuck up onto the wall or window.

Now you might want to tell me that you can't draw, but look again at the images. They are super simple and I'd bet that you can do something similar without breaking a sweat.

You might want to roll your eyes and ask me, "what's the point? Really?" I'd say to you that working visually makes your meetings more engaging, more focussed and more efficient. For your audience it's clear and forward-focussed. They know exactly what's going to be expected of them. For you, as a facilitator, it allows you to keep the group on task much more easily...and as I'm about to show you, it gives you a collaborative and easy collation tool, too.

Step 3.

Use your visual agenda as a live collaborative tool.

Stick sticky notes directly onto it as you brainstorm. People will feel their idea is recognised and so will be less likely to disrupt. The collation is super visible, so people will find it more compelling to participate.

BLOG - agenda3.jpg

In this example I want the group to filter or prioritise. So use the agenda. Get people to vote onto the sticky notes, or have some open discussions, whatever works best for your team. Collate sticky notes into common themes to show consensus. Move the priority sticky note to its new spot.

BLOG - agenda4.jpg

Discuss the challenges and capture them up onto the agenda. Again people will see that they've been heard, which reassures the group that their views are being valued. 

BLOG - agenda5.jpg

Finally, don't leave the room without being clear on next actions. Write next actions straight up onto the agenda. No excuses not to be clear on who is doing what next. 

Step 4. 

Take a photo and distribute. No more dusty flip charts curled up under someone's desk waiting to be deciphered and typed up.

Now of course your meeting probably won't fit this example exactly. Don't worry, visual agendas are totally flexible. Any combination or order of images will work, just remember:

  • Keep it clear

  • Keep it collaborative

So why not have a go? ...and send me examples of your visual agendas in practice @graphicchange #DrawABB.


Cara works with individuals and businesses helping them to get the benefits of working visually, and is author of the upcoming book Draw a Better Business. If you want to find out more about working visually in meetings join our online course Be a Visual Facilitator to learn the skills you need. get in touch.

If you know someone who will appreciate this post, share it forward.








Think Do Draw

I'm always going on about why you should work more visually...

Yes it's quicker, stickier and quite frankly a lot more fun...you already know that right? In fact, if you're reading this I guess you're already at least one foot in the visual workers club...(oh I should so open that club!)...so I thought I'd do a show and tell of our learning journey.

think do draw

Here's how you can step in to some online training, at a level that suits you. Head to the training page for more info and more student testimonials like this one: 

"The course "helped me connect with a visual style of communication which is powerful and effective...it helped me think differently about how I approach the design and delivery of my work to improve impact and help ideas and experiences stick."

Reset to positive

Working visually rocks(...just say no to negative conditioning!)

We can all draw.  A lucky few of us get that nurtured in us as children, and if you're one of those lucky few, then as adult you may well have dabbled in some creative pastimes, or even ended up working professionally (or unprofessionally...who am I to judge!) in the creative industries. Woohoo!

The sad fact is though that many of us don’t get our creativity nurtured as children. In fact it's my view that historically, school has been pretty good at knocking your creative mojo out of you. You get conditioned to thinking you can't draw.

NOW when I say that we can all draw, I don’t mean we could all paint a masterpiece or illustrate the front page of The New Yorker. The people who can do that are exceptional. Rare. But we all have elements of those same skills buried within us. It is innate within us.

I've been training people to work more visually for years and almost without fail the vast majority of people start the session by saying, "I can't draw". 

One of the first things I often ask people to do is draw a lightbulb. 

Have a go.

Lightbulb exercise:

Grab a pen and a post it and draw a lightbulb from memory. 

(I'd love it if you could send me a snap of your lightbulb over on twitter or insta @graphicchange #drawabetterbusiness)

lightbulbs graphic change ltd

Even though the lightbulbs you can see here are all entirely different, you can tell they're all lightbulbs. Brilliant! You can draw well enough to work visually. That's all we need. 

Reset to positive - start working visually

I was working with the Leadership Team of a utilities company a few months ago. We had a day of creative activities and thought provoking presentations, all captured in a big graphic record. At the end of the two days one of the Senior Engineers came over to me and said, “All my life I never thought I was creative until today. I never knew all these different ways of doing things existed, and now I’ve had a go and found out that I’m quite good at them. I’m creative!”

Well that is music to my ears. Little gives me more pleasure than seeing people rediscover their creativity. So be kind to yourself. If you're not already working visually, your creative muscles will need a bit of warming up. So here's another exercise to get you started.

Circles exercise:

This is an exercise developed by Bob McKim of IDEO.

Get a cup or another smallish circular object and draw round it to give yourself a circle.

Repeat. Fill your page with circles.

Now grab a pen. How many of the circles can you turn into something else? The only rule is that the circle has to be a part of the object. I've filled one in to get you started.


Don’t worry if the ideas are silly or fantastical. Set yourself a time limit of 5 minutes and off you go, see how many you can fill in?!

Now if you're wondering what the point of all this is, then I'm gonna refer you back to my last two posts: 

Reasons to work visually #1 and #2

Suffice to say, working visually rocks. It rocks for you and for anyone you're communicating with, so come on : ) get with the programme, pick up your pens and draw more. What have you got to lose?!

Cara works with individuals and businesses helping them to get the benefits of working visually, and is author of the upcoming book Draw a Better Business. If you want to find out more about working visually or if you want to join one of Cara's online courses to learn the skills you need get in touch.

If you know someone who will appreciate this post, please share it forward.