How to make a message stick: Just get visual and sketch

Whenever you try to communicate ideas, you are competing for attention. People may be physically with you, but where are their minds? Everyone is preoccupied with their own thoughts. Add to this the fact that we are bombarded by thousands of words every day, and you would be forgiven for wondering how on earth you can engage people and make your message stick.

The answer is to get visual and sketch your idea.

Simple symbols convey business ideas fast

No Picasso? No problem. Easy-to-draw symbols are all you need to explain numerous business concepts.

Look at the picture accompanying this article. It is comprised of symbols formed of simple shapes. Each symbol conveys meaning and the brain finds it easy to absorb information presented in this way. People will even recall exactly where the symbols are located in a diagram such as this.

When you have a concept to explain, just think what symbol instantly comes to mind to represent it. Then choose the easiest one to draw.

How do we draw it? Ask yourself what basic shape to draw first, whether that’s a square, circle, rectangle or triangle. In this example, you can see how business ideas such as funds, data and global are easily represented with a shape. Rough sketches and two-dimensional symbols work perfectly.

Label the symbols to clarify meaning and enhance memorability. Make key points stand out by highlighting them and using colour.

It's easy for people to see the big picture

When people see the whole idea in one image, everything is easier to understand. Relationships between elements of complex problems become obvious. This enables people to engage with the topic and spot problems or new possibilities.

One can easily imagine sketching ideas in this way on a whiteboard. In fact building up ideas “live” by starting with a blank surface has great benefits. When people watch you sketching your idea, the moment you make a mark with your pen they are hooked.

Engagement and ownership is enhanced

Sketches can be quickly modified during discussion to show new connections, and it is easy for groups to join in by adding or subtracting elements. When used in this way your picture is far from a static diagram. It becomes a dynamic business tool that fosters engagement. Innovative thinking is encouraged because, as a picture develops, it kindles the imagination and sparks creative thought.

One of the biggest challenges in business is getting ownership and buy-in for decisions. When teams work with sketches to solve problems, they are much more likely to be committed to the result because they have been very tangibly involved in its creation.

So pick up a pen and get visual

Working visually lends itself to explaining numerous business ideas, from visions, trends, graphs and financial models, to project plans and problem scenarios. Once you start thinking about it, you will be surprised how often a quick drawing will do the trick.

So next time you have an idea to explain or problem to solve, just get visual; pick up a pen and sketch it. Be prepared to be amazed at how easy it is to bring ideas to life.

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