Sunday, March 23, 2008

SXSW: Book Reading: The Back of the Napkin

One of the many new additions to SXSW this year was Book Readings. Select authors are given 20 minutes to discuss their new book while attendees relax with coffee, friends, and food in the Adobe Day Stage Café.

The book reading we attended was called “The Back of the Napkin” written by Dan Roam, a “professional visual thinker” who helps executives solve a variety of complex business problems with pictures. According to Roam, any problem – no matter how complex – can be solved with visual thinking. His book illustrates the many ways simple pictures can take the place of excel and powerpoint to sell an idea or solve a problem. He discusses the different ways people see, the built-in tools we all have to communicate, and how to draw for your audience. Also, artistic ability doesn’t matter – it is the process that is important – how you look, see, imagine, and show. Drawing is the last piece of the process.

Here some reasons why drawing can be a great way to present your ideas:
  1. It will be clear to everyone in your audience that the drawing is a work in progress and meant to be discussed and revised.

  2. You don’t need special software or special skills to draw and everyone in the room will be able to understand it.

  3. Everyone can draw – they don’t have to be good at it – which makes it easier for your audience to participate in the process.
    The moment they take the pen and start adding to or revising your drawing, you’ve won them over.

So, the next time you have to give a presentation, forget the powerpoint slide or the excel spreadsheet and just grab a pencil and a napkin!

For more information about Roam's book, visit

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