Visual Thinking Tools To Help You Host Better Virtual Meetings and Events
Though the work landscape has changed dramatically, Ink Factory’s team is still hard at work supporting meetings and events–virtually, of course! Both our clients and our own team are navigating our new world of online meetings, and we’ve found some super helpful strategies and visual thinking tools that we think can help anyone boost their creativity, productivity, and communication in their virtual workplace.
Visual Thinking Tool #1
Visualize your agenda
For longer or more formal meetings, take a few minutes to visualize your agenda. What does that mean? Think of it as a graphic design project. You don’t need to create a masterpiece, or even draw your own art: using computer-generated fonts and pictures works well, though we’re fans of hand-drawing! Including clipart or icons from your company’s own branding will help convey what topics you’ll be discussing.
Start by making a clear, visually structured agenda with the help of scale. The topic or title of your meeting can be large and bold, so everyone can see what the meeting will be about at a glance.
Then, write out each section of the meeting using a secondary, slightly less eye-catching font. It should be smaller in scale and less bold than the title.
Timing is essential to your agenda! Add meeting times in a column to the left of the session titles to help your audience find them easily.
Write questions and sub-topics relevant to your sections with an even smaller font. Place these to the right of your section header, or below. You can denote questions using a symbol, or just use simple bullet points!
If decisions need to be made or roles assigned during the meeting, leave blank spaces to be filled in later.
Add icons to your most important agenda items! You can use one large “anchor” image that reflects the overall topic of the meeting, or smaller icons related to the topic of each section.
Want a super simple way to put this into practice?
Use this template to make your first visual agenda:
Visual agendas are a great tool to keep your team on track. Show it before each new section of your meeting to align everyone on the task at hand, or use it to recap what was accomplished at the end of the meeting. It’s also a great way to document what you covered for later reference!
Visual Thinking Tool #2
Host a free-flowing visual brainstorming session
Consider turning your next brainstorming session (whether it’s by yourself or with a team) into a VISUAL brainstorming session! Why? When you organize ideas visually it helps you generate a larger amount of high-quality ideas. You’ll also be better poised to execute plans, and you’ll be able to identify visual patterns between ideas.
For a successful visual brainstorm, approach your canvas/page/white board with hierarchy in mind.
Write the topic or question around your brainstorm large-scale in the middle of your page.
Disperse your sub-topics or questions in a medium-sized text around the title. Each sub-topic can be a different color. If you don’t have any sub-topics, you can skip this step, or identify the sub-topics later by circling similar ideas with the same colors.
Capture ideas around each topic in a small, clear font. If you’re in a group setting and multiple people repeat an idea, you can star it or underline it. As you write, connect your ideas to the sub-sections with connectors (lines or arrows).
If you have any ideas or action items connected to other ideas, join them with a different type of connector, like a dashed or dotted line.
Organize the ideas you’ve written by color-coding them in sections.
If ideas fall between two sub-sections, you can use a dashed line, two arrows, or a colored line to show the idea fits in two places.
Add visuals to your favorite ideas. This can help you decide what you want to move forward with or prioritize. A simple heart or star can be used to notate which ideas you like the most.
You can also add a Solutions or Next Steps section, to write a reflection on the results of your brainstorm, or add a key to code your ideas for moving forward.
Want to try out a visual brainstorm, but aren’t sure where to start?
Try this simple template:
Visual Thinking Tool #3
Take virtual whiteboard notes
Many teams used to working in close quarters are now without their handy whiteboards to keep track of ideas and meeting notes. Virtual meetings can prove challenging in this regard – notes made in text editors all look the same, and without a system to differentiate your notes and ideas will start to blur together!
Consider taking whiteboard notes virtually, and giving your notes from each session a different visual look to help break up the monotony of working virtually.
Our favorite way to take virtual visual notes is by using an iPad, Apple Pencil, and Zoom. Using the Procreate drawing application, our artists airplay their iPad display to Zoom on their laptops, turning the screen into a digital drawing board! However, this option is pretty high-tech and requires a lot of expensive equipment.
But, we don’t think you should struggle through drawing notes out with a mouse – that’s just torture. Through the basic principles of scale and hierarchy (already mastered from your visual agenda and brainstorming), you can still take visually organized notes with your keyboard!
If you don’t have a drawing tablet, you can still take visual virtual notes in your next meeting. Zoom’s whiteboard feature is a little clunky, but with a practice it can be a helpful tool. Use the text tool in a large, bold font to create your notes’ title. Then set a smaller, thinner font for section headers. A third, smallest font can be used to add details.
The draw tool works well for circling, highlighting and connecting ideas, and you can even add very simple symbols with the stamp tool.
Other virtual meeting platforms with whiteboard features:
- Mural is a digital collaboration tool with plenty of visually-focused meeting templates.
- Miro is a team collaboration whiteboard software with tons of slick features.
- Limnu is so much like a real whiteboard, you might forget you’re drawing digitally!
Want more visual note-taking practice? Read our blog on creating your first visual note for step-by-step instructions.
Visual Thinking Tool #4
Send a visual summary
A visual recap of your last strategy session, client call, or finance report can be a super effective tool for keeping everyone aligned and on-task. Use your notes (or your memory!) to visualize top takeaways and action items. Because visuals stick in our long-term memory better than text, your coworkers and clients will greatly appreciate an at-a-glance recap that they can easily reference and remember even after many weeks have passed!
If you made a visual agenda beforehand you can easily annotate that to update your team on the decisions you made and the questions you still have.
To create a simple visual summary, start with a title. What is the most important thing you want people to know after reading this summary? Write it large across the top of your page, and keep it concise.
Draw a visual to reinforce this high-level summary.
Fill in high-level categories for what was discussed.
Fill-in any supporting details in a smaller font and attribute them to a corresponding category.
Add a section for action items. Label the action items according to teams, roles, employees, due date, or whatever is most relevant to you.
Of course, you can add any additional sections that make sense to you! Clearly label each section and create a system for following up if needed.
Here’s a super-simple template you can use when creating your next visual recap!
Overall Tips for Better Visual Thinking & Communication
- Organize your information through scale. Higher-level ideas and concepts should be larger, and details can be smaller
- Write clearly and legibly so your visualizations are actually useable and useful!
- Use visual cues to help stimulate memory and reinforce important ideas
- Clearly delineate action items, summaries, and questions
Interested in learning more about the visual language?
Check out our workshops, happening throughout the year. We’ll teach you the fundamentals behind visual note-taking and visual thinking strategies that our artists use every day.
Visual Thinking Tool #5
Work With A Pro Visual Thinker!
Of course, you don’t have to implement all of these visual thinking tools by yourself! For meetings & events that require a big impact, Ink Factory can work with you to create show-stopping visual assets that boost inspiration and engagement.
Rolling out a new process or product? Have a complex idea to simplify for clients or employees? Our illustrations and videos are perfect for communicating that complexity in a simple and engaging way. Illustrations and videos can be seamlessly integrated into a presentation to take your virtual event to the next level.
Ink Factory offers all these visual thinking tools and more to improve the way you work, think, and communicate. Want to learn more about how we can be your visual communication partner? Send us a message and one of our project managers will get in touch about how we can help you achieve your goals.