Draw on Pictures to Sell Ideas

By: Kristin Clarke

When word overload blocks your message, break through with simple sketches.

If decision gridlock or the glazed expressions of colleagues are prematurely killing your best ideas, Dan Roam urges you to do something that many professionals consider drastic: Draw.

Don't freak out if the last time you produced a drawing was in first grade or if your idea seems too complicated for a simple picture, says Roam, author of Blah Blah Blah: What to Do When Words Don't Work. Roam's research concludes that you only need to learn six easy drawings to powerfully communicate any idea in a memorable way. (See them in his "Six Vivid Quick Tricks" illustration below.)

"We are overwhelmed with words," says Roam. "The problem for most of us when we're trying to present an idea is that we throw everything at people all at once, and our innate human reaction to that is to panic and run, so we stop listening."

Smart professionals will instead distill their ideas, boiling them down to two or three key pieces and initially presenting the idea based only on those. "Then, once you have people on the hook, you begin to bring in the additional layers, details, and nuances that need to be known," he says.

To help identify the types of drawings most likely to communicate those core ideas successfully, Roam delved into early "visual science, what we are starting to know about the neurobiological and cognitive processes by which our brains understand the visual world."

In Blah Blah Blah, Roam published his "quick tricks" graphic to help idea presenters "turn verbal grammar over. ... If I can describe an idea using verbal terms, I can use exactly the same structure to come up with a corresponding set of pictures to also describe the idea. All I have to do is listen for the words."

Try it for yourself. To download this tool and others, visit the www.danroam.com/tools.

Kristin Clarke is a business journalist and writer for ASAE. Email: [email protected]

Kristin Clarke

Kristin Clarke is books editor for Associations Now and a business journalist and sustainability director for ASAE.