Raise the Bar on Meeting Participation – The Art of Visuals

  • No one remembers what went on in your meeting.
  • No one knows what to do.
  • People look blank when you ask them a question in your meeting.
  • People repeat themselves over and over in the same meeting or from meeting to meeting.
  • People are literally falling asleep in the meeting.

These may be signs that you or the meeting leader has forgotten the importance and use of effective visuals. Here are four reasons why you need visuals, five times when you can use them and what six visuals you can use to make things go better.

Why You Need Visuals – Four Reasons for Using Them

I did a little internet search and here are some good points and quotes:

1. Most brain processing happens visually. The majority of scientific and education researchers agree that about 75 percent of your learning is through your vision. Far more people are visual learners than auditory learners. If you just say it, they will not remember it as well as if they hear and see it. Even more effective is if you can have them do the thing you want them to remember. So if you make THEM write it or draw it, it can be even more effective.

2. Research at 3M Corporation concluded that we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. The human brain deciphers image elements simultaneously, while language is decoded in a linear, sequential manner taking more time to process.

3. According to neuroscientist Dr. John Medina, “The more visual the input becomes, the more likely it is to be recognized and recalled.”

mosaic4. Your brain defaults to images for words, when it can. We remember images. We forget words. Pictures translate across culture, education levels and age groups…the richness of the whole picture can be taken in at a glance.” One study showed that those who used visual presentation tools to convey information were 43% more successful than those that did not!

When to Use Visuals – The Five Most Important Times to Use Them

1. Your Agenda – send it in advance electronically and post it in the room, virtually or in-person. You can organize the topics you want to cover with a visual diagram.

2. Sharing Data – people really understand data much more quickly when it is presented in the form of graphs, charts, photos, etc.

3. Generating Ideas or Brainstorming – write the ideas down so all can see. This is really important in all meetings but especially in virtual meetings. Having people write down their own ideas (do), sharing them outloud (hear) and posting them (see) can be even more effective.

4. Decisions and Actions – unbelievable as it may seem, how often do you actually see the decisions and actions recorded? Appoint a scribe to capture this on your flipchart, whiteboard or virtual note pod.

5. Posting Meeting Notes – what if you actually took and sent out the notes? If you are not good at getting the notes out quickly, get someone who loves to do that job.

What Visuals You Can Use – Six Simple Ones

Enjoy our visual examples of each point below…

1. Flipchart or Whiteboard Notes – There are many important tips to making sure flipchart or whiteboard notes are effective in helping participants use the information that you are recording.

a. Consider using bullet points for each discussion point. Vary the shape and colour of the bullet points for visual intrigue – asterisks, points, squares, arrows. It is good to go back and forth between 2 or 3 colours to ensure each point stands out.  With practice, you can develop agility in having two or three uncapped different  coloured markers in the same hand.   For readability, never take notes in red or orange or pink.  Those colors do not show up well from a distance and are very hard for people who have color recognition challenges.

b. Ideally start a new page for a new discussion or product summary and be sure to put a header, i.e. short phrase describing the topic being discussed at the beginning of each new discussion

c. Ensure your printing for each word is approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) high.


2. Photos – Now you have beautifully scribed your notes for all to follow in the meeting, consider taking photos of the key decisions and actions that came out of the meeting.  People often like to see photos of themselves and each other interacting in some of the meeting activities.  Be sure to ask for their permission first.  Consider posting photos on the walls too.


3. Colour, Borders and Space – This is a universal rule to use colour, borders and space in your agenda, flipchart/whiteboard, PowerPoint, and follow-up notes.  Make sure there is enough white space and headers to  make it easy to see whatever is being read.


4. Graphics – could you consider organizing the agenda into a chart or mind map so people can see the relationships between the various agenda sections or topics?  Could you use simple images on your printed and flipcharted agenda? And, what about inserting a graphic into your documented notes?


5. Charts & Graphs – Use charts and graphs wherever you can to portray information.  When you are summing up the discussion on any agenda item, have a separate wall to post all of the action items onto an action chart and in the follow-up notes. If you haven’t used Sam Kaner’s Gradients of Agreement Decision Making Scale, that is a great visual that allows people to quickly see where all meeting participants are on the spectrum of agreement in terms of an important decision.


6. PowerPoints – Consider using photos, graphs, cartoons as much as possible when presenting data.  Also, PowerPoints are a very effective way to post instructions for small group work.  It ensures you don’t have to repeat your instructions 4-5 times to different people and it also helps every small group consistently follow and complete the task in the same way.  What is the end result?  More consistent product, faster processing time and shorter meetings.











Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.

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