Conduct Visual Meetings to Boost Productivity

Do your meetings tend to suck the wind out of your team, instead of filling its sails?

There’s nothing more annoying than a meeting that goes on and on and on – except maybe a meeting that goes on and on and on AND doesn’t accomplish anything.

Many ministry teams fritter away precious time during meetings on unfocused, inconclusive discussion rather than rapid, well-informed decision making. The consequences are delayed decisions that lead to wasted resources, missed opportunities, and poor long-range planning.

Want more successful meetings? Try the following solution and your team will look forward to meetings instead of avoiding them.

Conduct visual meetings to boost productivity.


THE QUICK SUMMARY – Visual Meetings, David Sibbett

Visual Meetings explains how anyone can implement powerful visual tools to facilitate both face-to-face and virtual group work. This dynamic and richly illustrated resource gives meeting leaders, presenters, and consultants a slew of exciting tricks and tools to unlock creativity, collaboration, and breakthrough thinking.

Using techniques like graphic recording, visual planning, story boarding, graphic templates, idea mapping and more, Visual Meetings will help you and your team communicate ideas more effectively and engagingly.


Used properly, a simple drawing is more powerful than any data spreadsheet or software presentation platform. It can help us crystalize ideas, think outside the box, and communicate in a way that other people simply “get.”

Over the last decade, the concept of utilizing visualization techniques has moved beyond a few talented practitioners to become available to – and useful for – any leader.

Anyone can clarify a problem or sell an idea by visually breaking it down using a simple set of visual-thinking tools. Thinking with pictures can help you discover and develop new ideas, solve problems in unexpected ways, and dramatically improve your ability to share your insights.

In my experience, visualizing meeting purposes and objectives is one of the most helpful things you can do to make a meeting work. And getting people involved early in talking about expectations and hoped-for outcomes is even more effective. Because people are free to imagine whatever they want and often do, this investment is the first step in focusing group intelligence.

The Power of Visual Meetings

Participation – Engagement explodes in meetings when people are listened to and acknowledged by having what they say recorded in an interactive, graphic way.

Big Picture Thinking – Groups get much smarter when they can think in big picture formats that allow for comparisons, pattern finding, and idea mapping.

Group Memory – Creating memorable media greatly increases group memory and follow-through – a key to productivity.

Benefits of Visualization

  • Visual recording in a meeting immediately acknowledges that someone was heard and how they were heard in ways that verbal communication alone does not.
  • Working visually is deeply integrative – it combines both visual (right brain) and verbal (left brain) ways of operating with interaction and physical movement.
  • Graphic displays can contain contradictory information on the same sheet of paper, softening the either/or thinking that our spoken language reinforces.
  • Working with graphic metaphors allows people to talk directly about how they are making sense of things.
  • Working with visual imagery taps people’s imagined realms, making the stuff of hopes and dreams, intentions, and visions more accessible.
  • Arranging information on pages or wall displays addresses not only the individual words and symbols, but also their overall interconnections and organization.
  • Translating from spoken word to visual representation forces everyone to become conscious of the patterns in both.

David Sibbet, Visual Meetings


In order to start your team thinking about a visual meeting, you have to begin before the meeting. Consider taking these actions in advance of your next team meeting:

  • Create a poster with a catchy title and simple graphic image and place it at eye level outside your meeting room door.
  • Using a chart tablet or white board, have meeting participants sign in with their first name and a pressing issue or question related to your meeting.
  • Prior to the meeting, visually list your agenda on a chart tablet or white board.
  • Using a chart tablet, create a scorecard listing decisions made, action items agreed on, and individual responsible. During successive meetings update and add to this scorecard as needed.
  • During the meeting, ask participants to visually illustrate the conversation and decisions of the meeting. Build in time at the end of the meeting for each participant to briefly share his or her “visual notes” with the rest of the team.

After one month of following the above actions, schedule one hour to review, evaluate, and revise your team’s use of visual meeting practices.

Many church leaders view meetings as a necessary evil to accomplish ministry assignments and tasks. The solution presented above demonstrates that not all meetings are necessary, and the right kind of meeting doesn’t have to be evil.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here. Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.


Seeing With Your Brain

We live in a culture rich with images. My generation (Boomers) grew up with television – maybe only 3 channels, but what a difference from our parents’ primary information – the radio and the spoken word only.

My kids (2 Gen X, 5 Gen Y) expanded on the basic television, first with cable, then videotapes, then the Internet, and then DVDs.

My 4 grandchildren? They are digital natives, taking visual communication to new – and participatory – levels with social media, smart phones, tablets, apps, streaming video of all types on many different devices, and who knows what’s around the corner.

We can’t escape the power of the visual image – and most of us don’t want to.

Most of us are visual learners. We like to see a picture, not just hear a word. Len Sweet has said that images are the language of the 21st Century, not words. Why?

Pictures stick. We remember pictures long after words have left us. Pictures communicate far more than mere words. There’s a simple reason:

We see with our brain.

Vision trumps all the senses. Half of the brain’s resources are dedicated to seeing and interpreting what we see. What our eyes physically perceive is only one part of the story. The images coming into our brain are changed and interpreted. So it’s really our brains that are “seeing.”

If we are on an increasing visual trend in our culture and we understand the importance of vision in our lives, then it follows that leaders should be leading the visual revolution, not just observing (pun intended) it.

With that in mind, I wanted to introduce you to a trio of resources that will help you know how to use visual tools, manage visual practitioners and their work, and understand how to help your entire organization be visually literate – especially if you don’t think of yourself as being skillful visually.

Visual Leaders

Visual Leaders will help you and your organization take advantage of the visualization revolution. Visualization is transforming the world of work and the role of leaders in an age of global communication and complexity. The book is a guide to increasing your own visual literacy and your ability to help others with theirs. (Download a free summary of this book here.)

Visual Meetings

Visual Meetings supports a group’s cycle of learning. Visual Meetings explains how you can use graphic recording, sticky notes, and idea mapping when imagining, engaging, thinking, or enacting in meetings. It is loaded with very practical and detailed descriptions of how to conduct different visualization activities. It also reviews the Group Graphics Keyboard and the seven archetypal choices for organizing displays.

Visual Teams

Visual Teams explains how to create and sustain team performance with visuals. Visual Teams builds on Visual Meetings and shows how to use these methods across the whole arc of a team process, including the parts in between meetings. It also provides a graphical user interface to thinking about team dynamics with the Team Performance Model. The seven challenges of high-performing teams are explained in detail and linked to tools that help meet them.

Got a pen?


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