I spend a lot of time talking and writing about the benefits of visual comms, and introducing those ideas into the daily workings of some of the biggest, brightest and best companies in the world. But some companies are so used to sending any visual work to their creative team or outsourcing it to their agency of choice that they think of the visual as something that is completely distinct from their job role.
The attitude of “I’m a sales manager, not the visuals guy” is logical enough, but it’s also potentially damaging to how and when your people use visuals. Visual comms shouldn’t be something that is fenced off, neatly partitioned from your everyday tasks and sent to the creatives in the basement to deal with – it should be something that is used, integrated, ubiquitous through your practices and processes.
Let me make one thing very clear: I am not a designer. I’m not an artist, not a ‘creative’ in the professional sense. I know it’s hard to believe from my whiteboard drawings and doodles for LinkedIn pieces, but there it is. My formative working years were spent in sales, driving long hours, chasing numbers and collecting signatures on dotted lines.
It’s an important point to make, because design technologies and the segregation of creative teams in companies of any real size sort of mythologise the visual – it becomes something that people think you need training for, where really the complete opposite is true. The power of the visual comes from the fact that it comes very naturally to everyone to observe, understand and explain things visually.
That’s why when I talk about visual comms and whiteboarding, I’m not talking about visual comms in the way that your IT department mean it. They’ll tell you that they couldn’t possibly afford a significant investment in visual comms, because they’re thinking exclusively again: they’re thinking of ‘visual comms’ as ‘visuals comms tech’ – video conferencing suites and the like. It’s all about exclusivity, all about pricing people out and making people feel like it’s an area of communication that is beyond their scope of work and knowledge.
The real way to use the visual in your organisations is to strip it right back. Make things simple, make them easy to explain and easy to understand. It starts with a simple idea: that true understanding is the key to delivering your message confidently, credibly and consistently. How do you explain something to someone properly and ensure that they understand it properly? Well, to return to some favourite stats:
– 2/3 of people are visual learners
– Well-delivered visual aids aid understanding by up to 400%
– 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual
– People remember 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they read, and 80% of what they see and do.
So, the short answer is that you draw your idea. “But Mark”, you’re thinking, “I’m a high-flying manager / director / CEO in a global sales organisation… I’m not a very creative person…” The good news is that you don’t have to be. You just need a few key components – the simpler the better. You need some standard images for drawing your idea out – people, computers, data centres, maybe some shapes to tie those images together. You need a clearly thought out, sequential way of drawing those images and a coherent narrative that walks your audience through that idea.
You don’t need to be a designer. You barely need to be able to draw a stick man. What you do need is an idea, an audience, and the confidence to coherently explain your idea, however complex, to the people who need to hear it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you need a particular degree, particular work experience or particular tech to feel the benefits of embracing the visual in your day-to-day communications. Just jump in. Need some guidance? Drop me a line, let’s talk.