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...

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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