Monthly Archive: September 2012

A Doodle for Your Thoughts

Too many times I have sat down with friends, colleagues, and clients to discuss complex ideas, when, before I know it, my mouth involuntarily rounds into an ‘o’ and starts sputtering, “oh, oh, wait, wait, waaait! ”, while my hand flails into action, drawing all my thoughts out as I verbalize them.

Circles, squares, arrows, stick men, what ever the wishful Picasso in me serves up, I notice people aren’t looking at me, they are fixated on my visuals. What, am I not animated enough?

Pictures are Worth a Thousand Words

According to the Visual Teaching Alliance, not only does the brain process visual information 60,000 times faster than text, but 90% of all information that comes to the brain is visual. Click to Tweet That explains a lot; think of children’s books, magazines, ikea instructions, you get the ‘picture’.

Discussing ideas and reading text only creates part of the big picture (makes sense since 65% of us are visual learners). The rest requires some kind of visual to bring the audience along with the story. Believe me, no artistic gift is required, my stick men look more like tree branches than men.

The Picasso Basics

I’ve found, through years of doodling for people, that there are several techniques to communicate more effectively:

#1. Don’t get fancy, this ins’t a game of Pictionary. Stick to the basics, that is; boxes, circles, arrows, signs, happy faces, etc. The more elaborate you get, the more likely the exercise will turn into a session of Pictionary. Your audience should not have to guess.

#2. Slooooooow it Down. Let the pictures synch in with your verbal story telling. You don’t want to lose your audience. Think of me reading Hasel and Gretel, telling you about the kids getting lost in the woods, while showing you a picture of the witch in the oven. Huh? I know.

#3. Think Linearly. Most people think linearly when it comes to processes or time (guess that explains why Facebook changed its design to show you a timeline). So, if at all possible, draw your doodles in order, whether it’s steps or dates.

If you love to doodle your ideas out and have your own tips and tricks, we’d love to hear them. Email us at or Tweet us@whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper.

Until next week!

Facilitate This!

Buzzwords drive me nuts. Your organization probably has its own over-used business cliches. You may even have played Buzzword Bingo in order to liven up a long and tedious meeting.

Buzzwords, or catch phrases, are different from “jargon” in that jargon has a specific use or purpose, whereas buzzwords are so overused that they have become cliched. In fact, the user can be perceived as insincere, unoriginal, or ingratiating.

One such word that’s been bugging me recently is “facilitate”. The fact that it has become a buzzword immediately imparts a negative connotation, and as someone who facilitates – that is just wrong!

What is facilitation anyway?

fa·cil·i·tate transitive verb \fə-ˈsi-lə-ˌtāt\ : to make easier : help bring about

Thank you Merriam-Webster Dictionary for that very unspecific definition. I skimmed some of the comments below the definition, and read the following, which I found much more helpful:

Facilitating is like a traffic cop directing the traffic. He’s not telling anyone where to go…he’s just helping them get where THEY want to go.

In fact, facilitation is an art form, really. Think of the traffic cop in the comment above. Have you ever seen a video of those amazing traffic cops who keep things moving along with style? (No? Click here)

The fact is, every organization needs an artful facilitator from time to time. Whether you are trying to develop a complex strategic plan, decide upon a course of action, or brainstorm solutions, sometimes it’s helpful to have an objective third party leading the discussion.

Herding Cats isn’t Easy

Could someone involved in the issue facilitate the discussion? Certainly. But it’s a lot easier to herd cats when you aren’t one of the cats. Click to tweet. People who are too close to the issue have trouble separating themselves, hearing all sides, and considering all options.

A skilled facilitator can:

  1. ask the “dumb” questions that no one else will. By doing this, the facilitator addresses all the hidden issues or “elephants in the room” and brings everyone to the same level for a healthy discussion.
  2. remain completely objective. If an external facilitator is selected, then he or she has absolutely no vested interest in the outcome. It’s unlikely that he or she knows the parties around the table and therefore has no “baggage” or preconceived notions. Like the traffic cop, the facilitator helps the group get to where THEY want to go.
  3. ensure that everyone participates in the discussion. We’ve all seen that person who sits with arms folded and brow furrowed. A truly talented facilitator can burst through that facade and encourage participation.

Next time you hear the word facilitate, consider the intent. Is it being used incorrectly? Perhaps you can throw a different idea in the ring, run it up the flagpole, think outside the box, and start a paradigm shift.


Until next time,

PS – Make sure to follow us on Twitter @whiteboardcons to stay up to date on what we’re up to this week. Have thoughts or ideas? Use #betterfastercheaper to join the conversation!

Whiteboard Presentation Skills 101

I might as well be using transparencies…..

I always found the most memorable professors in University to be the ones that didn’t throw up a million wordy slides. Worse, if they provided the slides before or after class and then just read them aloud, what was the point of going to class?

Sometimes it was the professors that used those horrible transparency sheets, and they’d cover some things and then reveal them as they were working through their material that impacted me the most because I couldn’t read ahead and get bored. And I’m someone who likes a lot of “WOW” in my presentations. Sometimes we do the same, and just use a whiteboard as a presentation tool if we really want to impact the client.

In the public sector going to a presentation was either an absolute delight or a nightmare. Have you ever been to a presentation and had someone read all their slides aloud? What’s the point? I can read alone! Have you ever been the presenter and had people reading through your slides in advance? It’s the absolute worst feeling ever!

What is a good “deck” anyways?

I’ve always been comfortable in front of an audience – nervous beforehand, but always comfortable once talking. I didn’t need loads of speaking notes, but I always prepared well.

But there are a few quick and easy tips to making an effective presentation that can make your audience say WOW! And when you are prepared and your audience is paying attention, it can be way less nerve wracking!

Are you tired of having people yawn through your presentation? Or read ahead on the printed materials you have? Or check their Blackberries while you are presenting the big project you’ve been working on for months? Do you want them to say “WOW! That was great!”? Then read on…

Three quick and easy tips to a POWERFUL presentation.

1. Know your stuff & know your audience.

They key to being able to present well is knowing your topic, and knowing the key points you need to get to your audience. Click to Tweet! Who is your audience? Are they senior executives who need to understand the story and key points quickly? Or are you presenting to a technical audience who needs to understand the details? If the former, bring them along to story and get to your decision point quickly. Have all the details in an appendix or attachments so if they ask details, you have them ready. If you are presenting to the technical folks, have the details up front and save the corporate strategic bits for the appendix.

2. Don’t use your words…..

Give people a reason to pay attention. Don’t give everything away with all the text on your slides! Lure them in with your ability to talk plainly and expressively about your topic without knowing exactly what you are going to say before you say it. Grab your audience’s attention. Everyone seems to have a hyperdrive attention span these days. It takes some practice, and can be scary, but once you master it – it is so much more enjoyable to present.

3. Anticipate questions and have answers prepared in advance.

Have a dry run with someone that you trust, respect, and is a member of or understands your target audience well. This is a great way to be super ready for a presentation and learn about some questions that your audience might ask, and help you flesh out or cut out information as necessary. Ask for feedback and opportunities to improve, and then apply them. You’ll be glad you did.

As we always say, everything is a process so try out these steps. Practice, improve, and repeat. Soon enough you’ll be the star of every senior management meeting.

Check out how Ruth & I design our slides and speak to them during our webinar with Ian Brodie here.

If you have tips or tricks to presentations, we’d love to hear them. Email us at or Tweet us@whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper.

If you or your organization would like some help with designing and delivering effective presentations, let us know. We’d love to help.

Until next week…..

Good Luck vs. Good Management

A survey administered by ESPN magazine today proclaimed the Toronto Maple Leafs as the worst of all major sports teams in basketball, baseball, hockey, and football. That’s 122 teams! (Read the full article here.)

Of the survey’s eight criteria, the Leafs came in last or second last in four categories, and ranked no higher than 104th (and that was for likeability of the stadium).

Leafs fans are in high dudgeon over the news. But whether you agree with the extreme nature of the results or not, you have to admit – something is surely wrong with the management of the Leafs brand.

Voice of the Customer

What is it the Leafs are missing? The eight criteria in this survey include:
*Bang for the Buck (wins vs. fan-generated revenue)
*Fan Relations (treatment of fans by players, coaches, and management)
*Ownership (honesty and loyalty to core players and the community)
*Affordability (tickets, concessions, parking)
*Stadium Experience (quality of arena, promotions, and environment)
*Players (effort and likability)
*Coaching (strength of leadership)
*Title Track (championships already won or expected)

I was pretty impressed by this list. It’s varied, it includes both objective statistics (revenues, wins, quality measurements) and subjective statistics (honestly, loyalty, leadership, likability), and it has about ten years behind its methodology for consistency and comparison.

Let’s look at the subjective measures a bit more closely. Do you notice a theme here? Half of the criteria are directly linked to the customer, and I would argue the other half are at least indirectly related.

Does Leafs management use the voice of the customer in its brand strategy? Hard to say, but I’m going to guess “no”, based on the Fan Relations score (119th).

What Gets Measured Gets Done

Leafs fans are unique in that they tend not to vote with their feet. Despite being “the worst team in major sport”, the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to sell out each game. This probably has more to do with sentimentality of its place in hockey history and its knucklehead die-hard fans than good administration.

Most business owners do not have this luxury. Customers vote with their feet all the time, and the only – and I mean only – way to avoid this is to measure what is important to them, and take appropriate action based on the results. Click to Tweet.

I would love to be a fly on the wall of the leafs Management Team as they discuss this survey. A strong team will take this as critical feedback, perform root cause analysis, do some customer surveys, engage staff and players in developing action plans, put project plans and project leadership in place, and set its own performance goals for the coming year. A poor team will blame the survey methodology, highlight excellent attendance records, and maintain the status quo.

What would you do?

Until next week…..

PS – Make sure to follow us on Twitter @whiteboardcons to stay up to date on what we’re up to this week. Have thoughts or ideas? Use #betterfastercheaper to join the conversation!