Visual notes are an effective way to capture the essence of a meeting, the key points raised and the actions to be taken. Ady Howes elaborates.
We started working with Woven in October 2019 to help develop and deliver the company’s digital learning strategy. A review meeting was called to take a look at progress and the impact of the digital initiatives that had been implemented.
It’s quite common for people to do digital projects and not take the time to sit back and reflect and figure out what the journey has been like. So, when Julia Whiteley, head of people partnering and development at Woven asked for a review meeting it was nice to actually be working with a client that recognises the value in doing that.
As a part of the review meeting, it was suggested they create visual notes to help condense the outputs so all the team members could easily look back at what was said and see what actions were agreed.
Visual notes – where did the idea come from?
The inspiration for creating visual notes came from some work with artist and illustrator Simon Heath.
At a CIPD Conference we interviewed eight bloggers on the topic of the future of work. Each person had a different take on the topic, so Heath suggested creating an illustration made of images representing what each person had said. Four years later and I can still recall what each person talked about just by referring to the image.
A picture can engage people in a way a text document can’t. It’s more stimulating and memorable.
The experience showed me that a picture is a useful way of capturing a moment in time that can easily be referred back to in the future. Heath agrees. “Done well, visual notes are a really good way to play back key topics and insights outside the room,” he says.
How the process works
The original idea was to send Heath audio files of the meeting for him to work from. However, with three hours’ worth of audio, I decided to pull out the key points and send those to be illustrated. I didn’t provide Simon with a brief as I trust his work and wanted to give him artistic licence to create what he felt was the most fitting illustration.
Heath provided an illustration that included images to represent the key points of the discussion. He also included text to provide some context for the images. Both of these elements made the information easy to understand and eye-catching. The result is that both the Woven team and Digital Skills People team can refer to the image and easily understand what it is being said and what the key messages are.
The illustration has been well received by the team at Woven. Whiteley is looking to frame the image and put it on the wall in the office so that it is visible for the team to see. The rest of the team are using it to refer back to the meeting. It is also being used a checklist of action points.
Whiteley used the illustration in her own review of L&D activities to the executive board, showing the impact of investment in learning. She said, “Deciding to have a visual representation of the review meeting generated additional excitement for the team. It was a very creative way to get all our outputs on one page.”
For the team, this one illustration had so much more impact than could ever have been imagined. They say a picture paints a thousand words. That has definitely been the case for this set of visual notes.
Illustrating a digital review meeting is a powerful way to engage the team and stakeholders in the work of the L&D team. If you are considering commissioning visual notes, then consider the following points:
- Take the review process seriously. It is important to step back and reflect on what you have learnt, what has worked and what needs to be changed. Representing this in a visual way can be very powerful.
- Artwork is great to look at and to have on display. A document isn’t. A picture can engage people in a way a text document can’t. It’s more stimulating and memorable.
To make the most of visual notes, Heath recommends working with someone who understands how organisations work. “A really skillful visual minute taker will be able to hone in in on the really important, compelling messages and avoid simply regurgitating word for word.”
Heath also recommends:
- Building in time for the visual minute taker to play back the content to the attendees at the end of the session. This helps refresh and reinforce before folk head off.
- Making sure the visual minute taker is situated so they can hear everything.
- Creating a digital version of the minutes so they can be made more widely available.
- Reviewing the minutes at subsequent meetings as an aide memoire. Frame them and hang them in communal areas. Turn them into laminated desk mats or screensavers. Cut and paste vignettes into other communications media.
About the author
Ady Howes is CEO of Digital Skills People and Simon Heath is an author, illustrator and facilitator.