Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


The Back of the Napkin

The other day, I was on a conference call with Cliff Atkinson (author of Beyond Bullet Points) who was training a group of folks on How to Create Your Graphics LIVE on a Tablet PC, Whiteboard or Piece of Paper (one of his weekly e-Lessons). One of the tips he gave us to get better at ad-hoc presentations was to read Dan Roam's book, The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures.

Seth Godin's review (see the diagram at right , from the dust jacket of the book) says it all. This is a very interesting book, and I've already applied some of the concepts from the book to improve a couple of whiteboarding sessions at the office.

The gist of it is to use drawings instead of dry slides or wordy diatribes to explain your ideas. Instead, engage the audience by creating simple diagrams to illustrate your points. The big problem I have: coming up with good graphics to illustrate my point. I am finding that a) practice helps, and b) if I am planning to do a talk, part of that planning should include brainstorming how I can tell the story better with pictures, and deciding which pictures to use.

The book is full of examples, along with techniques to help you come up with visual methods to present various topics and problems in a compelling way. For example, you'll find chapters on:

  • Pictures that solve a Who / What problem
  • Pictures that solve a How Much problem
  • Pictures that solve a Where problem
  • Pictures that solve a When problem
  • Pictures that solve a How problem
  • Pictures that solve a Why problem

And even if you don't choose to do everything in pictures, you'll find techniques that will help you structure and simplify your message for greater effectiveness.

This book isn't just for people who do presentations all the time. I bet you'll find that the skills you'll develop by studying and applying the approach in this book will dramatically increase your effectiveness in meetings, and improve your ability to "sell" your ideas to others.