Your audience speaks sign language

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Steven Danschutter

Steven Danschutter

It’s 2PM and it’s your time to shine. It’s the final workshop to gather input. The kind of workshop you circled with a red marker in your agenda. A meeting room with about 4 to 8 people is the location of choice. Two of them join via conference call. You are about to explain your current vision on the project. You’ve taken into consideration all the feedback from the past two workshops.

One of the main topics is how to onboard new online customers. On a high level all is clear and has been decided. It’s just these last few bits of unclarity that you need to get out of the way.

Blog Your audience speaks sign language first slide

You’re destined to involve everyone. Although you very much appreciate the feedback of the chatty people from last meeting, you need input of all the stakeholders to make this project a success.

Ok, here we go.

A polite greeting and an easy going welcome joke sets the right tone. After a brief intro, you dive into the topic.

3 people actively join in the conversation. The same 3 people of last meeting. Just one conference call attendee gives his vision.

Hold on, this sounds familiar.

Why is it that just a few people actively join the conversation? Why is it that this conference call attendee tends to give replies that sounds like: “this my vision on this specific topic, do you need me for anything else?” ?

Not all minds build the conversation structure in the same way.

In our workshop we are getting answers from 3 stakeholders. The same ones as during our last session.

They remind you of this one teacher you had. He managed to make simple things sound complex. If you wouldn’t have known better, you would suspect him from doing it on purpose. But in his mind, his explanation was crystal-clear.

These 3 stakeholders are the “bad teachers”. They make sense, but it requires a lot of concentration to follow the train of thought they’re on. After all, it’s 2 in the afternoon. And that’s a bad timing to count on a lot of concentration.

Involve everyone, including yourself; use icons

To prevent this workshop from derailing, you probably had some topics in mind to stick to. You even made a slide.

Even better would be to make a slide, where icons accompany or replace as much words as possible. Make things as graphical as possible. But in a simple way. This means: simple icons.

Blog Your audience speaks sign language second slide

Your favourite search engine will gladly show the right image if you look for the “[the topic] + icon”. Even if there is no relevant icon, a semi relevant icon will do. If you can’t find an icon for “deadline”, then the “date” icon will do fine.

Your advantages of using icons

Now how exactly can you prevent ‘bad teachers’ from high jacking a workshop with complex-explained thoughts? Just move to your slide and rephrase their answer while pointing at relevant icons”.

  • You now motivate these ‘bad teachers’ to also point at the icons. Now their thought train will more likely fit in the wireframe that you had in mind.
  • You don’t allow the quiet attendees to daydream. It’s clear what the topic is, it’s clear what the context is. Less room for interpretation of the problem situation, more room for ideas.
  • Don’t tell anyone, but your own concentration span is also limited. ;) This helps you too.
  • The conference call attendees now have something to look at. Agreed, it doesn’t move for them, but brainstorming over a drawing is more likely than brainstorming over a paragraph. It keeps them more involved.

What’s your excuse?

I don’t have time for this.

Looking up some icons takes more time than typing it. No arguing there. The driving motivation here is that you want to have your meeting or workshop as efficient as possible.

Typing the first slide took me less than a minute.

Making the graphical slide with icons, took me about four minutes. It doesn’t have to be that pretty. You probably also noticed that I also used our company template. It’s just to show that font size and colours also play a role in keeping your slide vivid.

I’m not creative

Some are more creative than others. But it’s something you can grow in to. If you really have no idea where to replace text with icons, then don’t replace the text, just add the icons.

It’s a start. Now that you know where to find icons, you can do it again next time. Maybe with more icons and less text this time.

My topics can’t be explained in icons.

I can see why you would say that. Maybe you’re showing pieces of code. But even then, your code has a functional output. Are you talking about ‘naming conventions’? Put a “hello, my name is” icon next to it. It’s recognizable, breaks the pure-text-structure, and can be funny too.

Hello my name is

At 4C we know that a project and its workshops are more than just dry facts and figures. Bringing content in a structured, recognizable way is key to keep your audience involved. Sure your audience can read words, but they can ‘read’ sign language too.

Want to know more? Contact us.

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