Why you should draw your next presentation

Edward de Bono is the guy who coined the term “Lateral Thinking.” He seems to stand out on his own, I don’t seem him referenced often. I was introduced to his ideas in my first job out of college where we used his “Six Thinking Hats” method to structure group discussions. I didn’t buy into his idea that marmite could bring peace in the Middle East, but he has great ideas about developing your creativity, getting the most out of a discussion, and feeding your mind. This post isn’t so much about De Bono, but the way he gives a presentation.

1. Drawing is captivating

I saw Edward de Bono talk at the Millennium Forum in Derry and I was amazed. He was using transparencies and markers, no PowerPoint here. I hadn’t used transparencies since the late 90s, and usually, we were printing those. Oh, the fun of finding one printed in a shiny smear because you put them the wrong side down into the printer! Edward de Bono had a better idea: draw your presentation. This is a good video that shows how he draws out his presentations live, in front of the viewers. The advent of data projectors didn’t stop him using transparencies.

What I thought was interesting was to see how his drawings were like children’s drawings, in that the drawing was an EVENT. “Children draw pictures and tell a story at the same time; they act a role and create their lines as they go along.” (From When Small Children Play: How adults dramatise and children create meaning, Lindqvist.) As when children draw something and something crashes, they are making the sound effects, and it’s really happening.

Edward de Bono used that same effect. Here is a thing, and this is what happens to it. For the viewer, the effect is different than watching a slide presentation. It feels more spontaneous. I was captivated watching him.

Though I had never attempted to draw my own slides until recently. Next time – I think what I’d like to do is actually DRAW somehow live like De Bono – perhaps projecting right from my iPad. Until now, I do think the drawings themselves, with a few simple build animations get a similar feeling across.

2. Drawing your ideas helps you organize them

Nancy Duarte’s book on creating presentations, Slide:ology, has an entire section about starting with drawing, rather than going to PowerPoint first. “Sketching is the magical part of the process.” Indeed, what I’m saying is stop there, and don’t go to the next phase of prettying everything up. I could see in certain contexts, perhaps you need to look professional to investors or clients. Though I do think people’s expectations are changing too.

I’ve seen more and more presentations include drawing, for example, this presentation by “Happy ScrumMaster” Nancy Beers. She uses drawings to show relationships and people. I don’t think you’d get the same warmth from stock photos.

Drawing as a way to build your ideas
Highly recommend Nancy Duarte’s Slideology – https://www.duarte.com/books/slideology/

3. Drawing your next presentation will be fun

I drew a recent presentation I gave at Women Techmakers in Belfast and whoah, it was fun. It was fun to prepare and fun to present. Drawing felt like a totally different approach to preparing the presentation.

My technique is to start with talking and recording myself. Instead of trying to match photos, I drew while I listened, and imagined how I could get an idea across. Having the drawings then helped me structure the ideas, and I returned to practicing again.

“We don’t expect dentists to have creative side projects. You should get paid for your work.”

Drawing was more enticing to me than hunting for hours for stock photos to get my ideas across. It didn’t feel like work. It also meant I could use my slides to add humour sometimes as a counterpoint to what I was saying. I found that hard to do when using stock photos.

I did simple animations – for example, in this slide I had a “quiz” and left the box unchecked and let the audience guess.

“Open source is free as in puppies, not just free as in beer.”

I drew this slide below early on, it shows the flying trapeze I felt like I was on. And funny enough it didn’t fit anywhere in the presentation, but it captured how I felt about making a creative leap to do the presentation this way – but also echoed the feeling I had about collaborating in open source. It was a nice way to end my presentation, sending my ideas out to the audience in front of me. I don’t think I could have used a word or a photo to get this feeling across.

4. Drawing your presentation will give you creative freedom

If you think this sounds like a great idea but the opposite of fun because “I can’t draw!” — Don’t let that hold you back.

Get a copy of any book or anything by Lynda Barry. She wrote Picture This especially for people who say they can’t draw. She also recommends Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice by Ivan Brunetti, to learn how to draw simply to get ideas across.

It’s something I struggle with too. If you think you can’t draw you won’t feel sorry for me, but I have the opposite problem of having TOO much experience drawing, that I tend to be too realistic. My ideas get lost in the weeds of “making a pretty drawing.”

In this classic Ivan Brunetti assignment that Lynda Barry gives to students, they must draw a castle. Not once, but 9 times. At first, they get 3 mins to draw a castle, then the time decreases with each drawing, 2 mins, then 1 mins, etc. until they get 5 seconds for the last drawing.


5. Drawing your presentation is easy with Keynote in iPad

I drew my presentation with my new (to me) iPad and Apple Pen in Keynote. I’m guessing Microsoft Surface works equally well with PowerPoint, and there might be similar integrations with Android.

Keynote is a surprisingly awesome drawing program. You can do line drawings that resize. You can group elements together, fill them in, and even erase lines and fills.

This fella from macmostvideo does a really good demonstration of the new features which were released in April 2018. “The new versions of Pages, Numbers and Keynote include the ability to draw freehand with the Apple Pencil, or your finger.”

So- next time you’re giving a presentation, consider drawing it!