No more boring meeting minutes with this visualization workshop

End of 2019, directly before the Global Scrum Gathering Vienna, I was fortunate to take part in a visualization workshop by Stuart Young. An extremely valuable experience! This 6-7h training improved my drawing skills in professional environments tremendously and motivated me to make better use of them during my work with clients. “Visual Thinking” trainings with Stuart can be booked via Radtac, but other consulting companies also offer high quality courses.

No, above links are not affiliate links and I don’t receive a provision for this recommendation. It was just SO GOOD.

Here’s my short testimonial of this workshops, some insights into the excellent agenda and the collaborative way to conduct such a training while bringing participants together:

Workshop setup

The preparation had been immaculate: Participants were welcomed to sit in groups of four or six people at big tables with enough space to draw. These small groups triggered conversations immediately and Stuart had used and fostered the social nature of all participants: Early on in the training we’ve worked in groups of two and had drawn portraits of one another. Naturally one gets to know one’s workshop partner over the course of a workshop day. The workshop later concluded with drawing a visualization of the others’ CV accordingly. My visualization workshop partner was Dee Rhoda. Here’s our portraits from the start and Dee’s road to Vienna from the end of the workshop:

Visualization workshop: Let’s go!

After a short get to know we started directly with basics: Forms!

One of the main aspects of visualization to moderate meetings or document results of course is speed. We simply can’t afford to draw slowly but detailed. The solution is to be as concise and iconic as possible:

As a matter of principle, Stuart uses a lot of aspects of Agile Working: After a short block of theory, we immediately dive into praxis, both privately in our own note books and on a huge A1 sheet of paper on the wall. The amazin thing: The room itself becomes the canvas and participants walk around and give each other feedback!

What I struggle with most, when it comes to drawing, is people, movement, hands and faces. All of these were covered in the next exercise. Not surprisingly it comes easy drawing the former, after having practiced forms right before. I was startled how easy one could draw recognizable people when considering the following suggestions:

  1. Any for is better than stick men, since there proportions are difficult.
  2. The main line determines the movement of a person.
  3. The nose determines the direction of view

When using visualization for workshops and meetings, there is some more good advice:

Visualization 1×1: Lettering

Lettering is one of these. In my opinion it’s enough to have a good handwriting, which is something I’m blessed with. But obviously my opinion aside, there’s more to lettering: Spacing, proportions, shadows, all these can help improve readability.

I have worked with people who had been very visual types: Drawing a lot, expressing themselves visually already, but failing and losing people on the whiteboard. Why? Because they had a terrible handwriting which people couldn’t even read if what was written was an exact transcript of what had been said.

Visualization1x1: Highlighting

Underlining is easy. But underlining loses emphasis once more than three things are highlighted like this. There’s many more ways to highlight text and they’re not even difficult: Banners and “pinned” boxes are super simple. Banderoles look great and only need a little bit of practice.

Visualization 1×1: Structure

During this part of the visualization workshop I drifted off slightly, mainly because my own workshop preparation already are very visual. That means: All meetings I’m preparing take shape on an A4 sheet of paper with a proper structure. With the experience of doing this regularly, it’s also easier to moderate and document ad-hoc meetings in a structured manner. Nonetheless the overview of different structures was helpful:

Visualization training: Final assignment

All things should convene at the end. In this training they really did convene in an impressive way. All participants were free to chose what to draw. Since I knew back then already that I’d want to share this with many colleagues, I summarized as many aspects of the workshop as possible:

Above drawing shows clearly how the preparation was scribbled in yellow. The black final version then really did change some things for the better. Already from a distance of 2-3 meters, the yellos is barely visivle anymore.

Visualization workshop conclusion

Everything I described here so far might create the impression this had been a 2 hour event. But good things take time: The workshop took an entertaining 6 hours. I thought it good and right to be able to practice things myself, try new things, take in all that new knowledge. Having time to take feedback and give it was valuable and insightful. Altogether it was a superb workshop.

The training closed and left me with the several realizations:

  1. Anyone, really anyone should at least once have joined in a visualization workshop like this. We all know that a picture says more than a thousand words. And yet we draw much too rarely in our professional lifes.
  2. Visualize all the things!!!
  3. Visualization means capturing the essence of meetings.

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