Presentations Workshop

Last Friday I led a four hour workshop on giving presentations. The audience was primarily parents who have children with disabilities. These parents are very active in the community as advocates, educators, and activists and sought new ideas for communicating their message. These are the day’s graphics.

I organized the class into three basic sections: Content, Methods, and People. Of course, these elements all overlap to create a successful presentation, but by taking each in turn, we didn’t get overwhelmed.

We discussed ways to hone in on and organize content. My guiding principles are clarity, honesty, simplicity, immediacy and impact.

We talked about four common methods for presenting information. I discussed the limitations of PowerPoint presentations and the benefits of using graphics as a way to share ideas and informations.

I divided the People section into two parts: the Audience and the Presenter. Throughout I emphasized the idea of a call-to-action. What do these people need to know right now? What do you want them to do tomorrow? I’ve worked in human services long enough to know that if you don’t provide clear instructions and a strong impetus, even the best idea will die slowly and painfully in committee.

The last section of the day was about the Presenter. At Chloe’s feet you’ll find practical ideas for making your presentations go smoothly. Arrayed around her head are many of the more conceptual ideas that guide a good presentation.

Many thanks to Darlyne Sahara, Gwenda LedBetter, Fred Lashley and Jim Johnston for their contributions to making this workshop a success.

Planning Graphics: Small scale project management

I have been doing a small stone work project in Chapel Hill recently. This is a 3.5 hour drive from home which encourages me to plan the project in greater detail. I can’t run home to grab a chisel I forgot I needed. This graphic shows the way I organized the project for myself on an odd scrap of big paper. I was particularly concerned about the hidden costs of working so far away- forgetting an important tool, not realizing that running the truck is way more costly, etc. The dollar signs represent my costs of doing business (gas, materials, hotel, etc.) I had my specific budget numbers at the bottom of the page. It has worked exceptionally well so far. I did before the bid was finalized to make sure I covered my costs and have used it as a guide since the work started, to make sure I hit milestones and am properly prepared.

Here’s the work so far. Just waiting for the ironwork to be completed.

Marketing Plan: The Tree House

A few weeks ago I led a workshop on DIY marketing. I liked the workshop and engagement I got with the group, but I came away from it wondering if I could deepen the impact and increase the likelihood that the strategies I advocate would be used. I decided to pilot a facilitated marketing plan. The structural core is the same as the workshop, but the primary goal is to create a meaningful plan with a business owner and their team. Tanya of The Tree House, a soon-to-open early learning center and cafe in North Asheville allowed me to test the idea with her team. We met this morning for three hours in business space, even now in mid transformation. The graphic above represents our work for the day.
We started with a title and then spent some time detailing the big picture goal- to the right in the graphic. We discussed some of the unknowns, fears and assumptions that might derail the project. I don’t linger in the negative, but I think it’s a powerful tool to recognize the doubts and roadblocks; it strengthens the resolve and helps us to move towards the goal. We discussed the people we wanted to reach with our marketing campaign before taking a short break. After the break we dived into the strategies we would employ to reach those people: media, content, and distribution channels. Names in blue indicate persons responsible for the work. That’s an important aspect of a good plan. Ideas are good; actions are great; people making those actions happen are golden.
I think this model has some real power. People in the group talked about how it made the marketing concrete. Diffuse ideas accumulated over the last few months of planning are becoming real. Just in time too! The Tree House will open within the next few weeks!

Click the image for a larger, more legible version.

Reading Skills

I dragged the flip chart easel into the office where Abe was getting his feet worked on by his physical therapist. I drew this story about Robot and Shrimp one word at a time, helping Abe sound out the tricky vowel combinations as he went along. After he had read a sentence from start to finish I would draw the accompanying picture before beginning the next word. It was a fun distraction for both of us and I feel that his reading skills are growing in leaps and bounds right now, in part because we play games like this on a regular basis.

Workshop: D.I.Y. Marketing

On Thursday, I led a workshop on Do-It-Yourself Marketing for Small Businesses. The image above shows the calm before the storm. This graphic would serve as the outline for the half day workshop.

Everybody had their own copy of this graphic on a large sheet of copy paper. Colored pencils were provided, to encourage people to make it their own.

Setting goals is the first step of just about every visual process. With a clear idea of where you’re going, you can figure out how to get there.
I also talk about roadblocks because so many of the self-employed people I’ve met and talked to struggle with some aspect of marketing. Some hate to take time from their chosen work, or hate the idea of selling themselves. For me, I was hung up on my primordial punk rock belief that success = failure. Getting over that was crucial to me being able to move forward.

We discussed values as being at the core of a successful small enterprise. Marketing is so much more than advertising. How you talk to customers, the speed with which you respond to calls and complaints, all of these things make up the public face of your business. This will make or break you.

Targets are generally considered to be the ideal customers. I think it’s important to consider what you want that customer to do as well. Not everyone who gets my postcards is looking for a stone mason. I want those people to keep the postcards and show them to others. That part of my marketing is built on the notion of making something worth keeping and sharing.

In the modern age there’s an endless array of media than can be used to reach potential markets. No one in business for themselves can possibly cover every angle. It’s important to choose those that help you reach your goals and that you can keep up with. Don’t start a Facebook page unless you are willing to do the work to periodically update it and keep it alive.

Good marketing is education. I use the triads as a way to figure out what to educate your customers about. As a stone mason, I lean heavily on the product. A roofer, as noted in the graphic, may lean more heavily on his personal convictions.

It’s fun to talk about, but it isn’t worth much without taking any action on it. I gave out three different templates for action planning.

Getting Started In Graphic Facilitation: Tools of the Trade

This is a list of the basic tools and sources you’ll need to get started graphics and visual organization in your training and facilitation work.


Sometimes called banner bond, the perfect paper for graphic wall work comes in rolls. It’s generally best to find it on-line and Dick Blick is my preferred vendor. I prefer the 48″ variety. The weight of the paper (20# and 24#) doesn’t matter much. Heavier stocks are a little bit more durable which can be helpful when reusing graphics.


Artist tape is white and can be used to cover up mistakes as well as fasten paper to the wall. It’s sticky enough to do the job but doesn’t damage surfaces. I have been using it exclusively for eight years and never had it take any paint off a wall. It can be expensive in stores but Blick’s prices are very reasonable.


The Alvin Zippy is absolutely the best paper cutter for this type of work. These are often available at local craft stores.



The Grove makes Charters Markers, which are the best markers for facilitation I’ve ever used. I order them by color now, as I primarily use black, blue, green and purple. I have enough red, yellow, orange and brown to last me for years. You might start with full sets and then over time, figure out which ones to order individually. They last a long time and are worth the price. Sharpie makes a set of markers that are okay, but blunt quickly and have some odd colors. Avoid permanent markers and the scented varieties. White board markers often go through the paper.


The Daily Icon: 27 February 2009

The Daily Icon has been just a bit less daily this week. My evening hours have been consumed with readying the materials for a stonework class that I led Friday morning. I discussed what good stonework is and then showed a gazillion images of what it can look like. The cross section posters were available as hand outs and people took notes as we discussed the key concepts illustrated.

Sustainability in stonework construction

Yesterday I took part in the Mt. Green Sustainability Conference at Warren Wilson College. I led a session on Sustainability in Stonework, in which I introduced the Green Target tool I recently created. I blogged about the class at Hammerhead.


Another recent project was the first edition of the Daily Sledge, the Hammerhead Stoneworks newsletter. Here’s a link to a PDF optimized for fast download.


The Daily Icon: 22 February 2009

Cross section of a drystone retaining wall.
I’ve been working on a handful of similar illustrations for an upcoming class on stonework I’m leading at the North Carolina Arboretum. I don’t label the drawings, preferring to print posters and write in the key information in the classroom. A copy sized version of the illustrations will be given as handouts for structure note-taking.


The Daily Icon: Drivers : 17 February 2009

These are activity boards I made for the new woodworking table in Abe’s pre-school classroom. We chose the short, stout screwdriver to be easier to grasp for small hands. This idea was borrowed from a Montessori catalog.
Drawing with Sharpies on wood is fun.


The hex driver.