I had an opportunity to present for 60 minutes as part of the Council for Communication Management conference in Toronto on May 1st. The CCM brings communication professionals together to brainstorm, share best practices, network, etc. I think I stretched some of the participants’ minds a little bit, talking about Wicked Problems, Collaborative Event Design, Graphic Facilitation. My presentation was a bit off the beaten path but I hope that it was engaging for most of the crowd.
The way in which I started my presentation was to give each person in the room (about 60) a blank, unruled cue card and asked them to illustrate, without the use of words, how they would communicate the notion of “collaboration” to a person who couldn’t speak their language. I gave them a minute to do that and when they were done, asked them to find a partner and on a third cue card create an illustration that combined each partner’s work.
I then dissected the exercise a little bit and talked about how words are in fact models that are loaded with assumptions and values and how communicating with graphics is an effective method for conveying underlying and unspoken meaning.
As a result of this exercise, I am now endeavoring to spearhead….drumroll please…The Global Collaboration Cue Card Project. With the length of this title and all of the capital letters, I feel as though I should be announcing this at TED or some such conference. It’s not that impressive. All I’m doing is posting all of the cue cards that I get on a Flickr group and I hope that others will copy the activity and add to the set. It would be very cool to see how many different interpretations of collaboration can be created and what common visual themes exist. And it’s all done without words!
The very first VizThink Conference was held in San Francisco at the end of January. It brought together a community of people who like to “Think Visually”. Obviously this is a very broad term with no clear definition. The risk of keeping it broad like that is that it invites a bunch of people who end up have nothing in common and the whole event is unsatisfying for everyone.
The opposite happened.
Attendees included graphic facilitators, illustrators, infographic creators, photographers, comic artists, teachers, professors, people who like to doodle, mindmappers and on and on and on. There was just enough of a “like mindedness” among the participants that we knew we had something in common, but we weren’t all the same. I’m sure you’ve been to conferences where you recognize 80% of the people and you’ve seen 90% of the talks. Not at VizThink. It was the best conference I’ve ever attended. I would introduce myself to people and 9 times out of 10 would be fascinated by what they were doing and how they were incorporating visual expression in their work.
I went because I was invited to lead one of the workshops, but there were so many good talks going on I had a really hard time deciding which ones to attend. I was almost inclined to leave my slides and some instructions at my own workshop and go check out Scott McCloud’s workshop.
Another workshop that was going on at the same time as mine was by Ryan Coleman. He talked about how to get VizThink communities going on in your own town. He’s successfully put on five of them, and he’s planning a sixth! Here’s the Facebook event, or the wiki page.
If you have a chance to attend VizThink Europe or the next one in North America, you should definitely check it out.
Curious to hear your thoughts on what makes for a great conference. Is it the attendees? The speakers? The food?