Right Brain Planning: How to Map Your Speech Structure Through Drawing
On listening as a graphic recorder:
Listening is actually the primary skill that I need for what I do. I'm listening very, very closely to cues from the speaker and I kind of compare it to—it's sort of like I have a little cache in my mind and I think actually there's a neuroscience behind this as we can have four bits of information in our mind before we need to capture it in some way and let it go. I'm always capturing one thing and I'm listening ahead for the next point.
I have heard a lot of different styles of speaking and I try to be very attuned to the tone and quality of someone's voice because that helps me understand how to represent it visually. It just takes practice. Listening is a skill like any other. School teaches us somewhat but it is like an art. There's kind of a meditative quality to it.
On organizing a presentation:
I guess the more organized a speaker is, I find it easier because they will have an overarching concept or an arch to their talk and I can tell pretty early on if that's the case. Some people have a fire hose approach of, I guess, they have a bullet point list and they're just kind of like running through it. That's a little hard for me. I then, need to do more organizing on my end. It's like if the speaker's organized, I'm just putting that organization into a visual format.
I even wonder if people might try diagramming their topics and their points because I think having that visual might inspire you to kind of compose it as a piece of music over time, something like that.
On being in the moment:
As I'm sure because we speak a lot as well, some people will give you their slides but you might linger over an anecdote and kind of go quickly to the next two points. So I don't want to get too caught up in what's supposed to happen. I just want to be with what is happening.
On telling stories:
The one overarching thing I've taken away from speaking which is something I hope to do more of myself which is just tell stories, just tell stories. It's how we learn, it's visual, it makes it concrete, it makes it emotional, it's so much more recall power and by and large the most effective speeches that I hear are from people who can take this big, cool, abstract concept that they're talking about and make it very human and very visceral. I always feel a little bit heart broken when there's a missed opportunity.
I do feel that a lot of speakers, they spend a lot of time in the beginning when the audience is fresh, kind of doing an exposition about who they are. It's hard to keep all that energy focused on you so I think that stories are also having seen changes, having to think about when you go from, okay, we've completed this little story and now I'm going to take you on this little story. That reengages people with you.
If you’re just coming up with ideas to talk about, mind mapping is awesome. Everybody can mind map. You're just clustering ideas based around themes so that's a great way to identify themes that you want to talk about.
For diagramming, I feel like left to right is important in this way because you are talking about—it's almost like story boarding really. You're talking about ideas through time and you want to give each one a moment and rest with it. I feel like it's more of scenes, story boarding scenes, no drawing required. You could have words on a post-it note and reorder them and think of maybe movements, like you have Act 1. I am, actually, more familiar, I guess, with plays and symphonies. Just whatever it is, phases of your talk and kind of think about where you want to end up and how—there are sections.
On being vulnerable:
There seems to be this kind of sweet spot between being really vulnerable, being really confident. It's something people are bold and inspiring and they get these big ideas but they share really personal moments too. But they're strong enough so that you don't actually feel like worried for them.
On being inspirational and informational:
If there's one criticism that I would have of Seth Godin, he is all 'big picture' and I'm kind of like, at the end of it, I'm like, “How? What do we actually do?” Sometimes, he gets there but he usually is fast and has all these cool ideas. I do feel like people want to be inspired, and then you'll be like, “Okay, what’s the next step? What can I do now?”
Keith Ferrazzi, who was talking about how to create more connection and build relationships was like, this is why. This is the big picture. This is inspiring, how powerful it can be. Now, just call someone and ask them to go copy. This is a simple step that you can take towards a future that I've painted for you. It makes my job easier because then I can draw two people having coffee but it also gives people the feeling of, “I can make this happen. This is really possible,” and I think that's important too.
On having a clear message:
If I'm not following you on a logical progression, I feel like the audience isn't either. If you're making leaps and not connecting maybe more dots than you think you need to connect, either inspirational or practical, then we're going to get to the end and be like, “Okay, you had thoughts and I don't really know how to put them all together,” so I feel like, yes, I can tell and it comes back to that being really clear about where you're going.
On practice and graphic recording:
I would say just practice. There's nothing stopping you from putting up a big sheet of paper on a wall and giving it a shot and seeing what happens. It's all about the more you do it, the better your skills get and the more sense of timing that you'll get also. The practice is huge. People focus on drawing as a skill but simple drawings can be learned fairly easily. It's almost like you can kind of practice those independently. It's more about capturing the right ideas, main ideas and timing it in such a way that it makes sense and organizing information.
On taking notes:
There have, actually there's been a couple of studies that have, I think it was a couple of years ago, about doodling and how it actually helps us retain focus. If you're feeling, in a meeting or in a speech, like your attention is wandering even if you're just making marks, even if it's not taking notes, you could just be coloring in squares and grass paper and it actually brings us back to listening. It's 29% more or something, you'll retain that much more information.
I just saw an article, I think, yesterday about how now they're finding that people who takes notes on laptops, it's not as effective as handwriting. But the fact is we can't write as quickly as people speak so that's where the visual comes in, connecting ideas or trying to instill the main ideas. Any kind of physical note taking is going to help you focus and underline the content because it's adding modes of learning. Hopefully, I can also be adding a layer of visual content and to that process as people are listening and seeing and that together will help them retain that information.
In a perfect world, I think everyone would be doing it themselves because I think it's an incredibly effective way to learn.
What does it mean to speak like a pro?
You inspire people and help them see how the ideas that you're inspiring them with are possible. I think it's both. I think it's taking responsibility for inspiring them, but also helping them see the tools that they can use.
I think any resource around story telling are great and I think I would say learning to tell your own stories, like take a memoir class or read great memoirs or just people who are really good at telling personal stories.
As far as tips, I would say make fewer points than you think you can because we are overwhelmed by information especially people are at a conferences and they're taking in all sorts of stuff.
I think anything you can do to explore some diagramming, some tools with mind mapping or using post-it notes to storyboard even with just keywords.
- Person: Austin Kleon