Going slideless – Speaking at Smashing Conference Toronto

I was invited to speak at Smashing Conference Toronto last week. 
The special thing about this conference was that none of the speakers at the conference was allowed to use slides, but instead was demoing their craft live to the audience.

 Live sketching at Smashing Conference Toronto. Photos by Marc Thiele:  flickr.com/photos/marcthiele/albums/72157670813337918

Live sketching at Smashing Conference Toronto. Photos by Marc Thiele:  flickr.com/photos/marcthiele/albums/72157670813337918

Vitaly from Smashing Magazine always has new (and sometimes slightly crazy) ideas, but when he asked me a few months ago if I wanted to take part in a 'slide-less conference' I was immediately up for it. Many of my talks include some part where I either invite the audience to sketch along while I draw or where I use 'sketching and talking' as a format to explain concepts. Usually I have some slides to give context and frame the whole talk, but this time, everything was supposed to be live and generated in the moment.

 

How I think when I think visually

In my talk I explored 'How I think when I think visually', breaking down my process for developing the types of visualisations and diagrams I use to understand complex problems and that can help as frameworks for problem solving with others.
In preparation for the talk I sketched a lot, visually thinking through different examples and tried to distill my process into a set of structured (and repeatable) steps. Thinking is a messy process and thinking visually is not necessarily happening in a straight orderly line either, but there are certain principles and 'modes of thinking' that I apply at different stages in the process.

 Some of the 'non-slides' that I drew live for the audience

Some of the 'non-slides' that I drew live for the audience

The talk (as the whole conference) was a bit of an experiment. Although I had practiced and made myself a nice time-boxed plan for getting through all the new material I had prepared, 40 minutes were not quite enough to get through everything. I actually think that the material will be best packaged into a full day workshop with demos and hands-on exercises for each step in the process, which I'll try to build out in the coming months.

 

A refreshing risk to take

I really enjoyed the conference. Seeing other designers and developers demo the way they work was very insightful and a refreshing change from the usual slide-packaged content. I have a lot of respect for all the speakers who took on the (slightly nerve-wrecking) challenge of demoing live (with all the things that might possibly go wrong) and for the Smashing team for taking the risk of trying out this new format. I heard from several attendees that they were slightly sceptical about what to expect before they arrived, but that they thoroughly enjoyed the different approach and the more direct and authentic glimpse into how other people in the industry practice their craft.

Thanks Vitaly and team for a smashing time in Canada!
A a special Thank You to Kristin Bolton-Keys for capturing this lovely sketchnote of my talk:

 instagram.com/p/BknsAyKDNXk

instagram.com/p/BknsAyKDNXk

My 'slides'

Here is my initial plan and the diagrams I drew live during my talk. As words and images are best friends, the sketches alone only tell half of the story and are not meant to be self-explanatory. I think the video of the talk will eventually be released.

 Timing for the talk

Timing for the talk

 Intro – When I think visually

Intro – When I think visually

 Three layers of communicating

Three layers of communicating

 Words and images are best friends with different strengths. Combined, these become super-powers.

Words and images are best friends with different strengths. Combined, these become super-powers.

 Different aspects of clarity that come with different challenges

Different aspects of clarity that come with different challenges

 The design process diamond: Diverging and converging – Exploring and shaping.

The design process diamond:
Diverging and converging – Exploring and shaping.

 My process for thinking things through visually.

My process for thinking things through visually.

If you have thoughts or questions about the material below, please leave a comment. I am interested to hear your thoughts and to develop the material further. 

Speaking at PixelPioneers Conference in Belfast

This week I spent a few days in Belfast to speak at the PixelPioneers Conference and to teach a workshop on Sketching Interfaces the following day.

My conference talk was about 'Visual Literacy and Visual Fluency', explaining why expressing yourself in a visual way is a powerful complement to verbal expression and showing lots of examples of how simple sketches can help you clarify your thoughts, communicate more clearly with your colleagues and even make your words more trustworthy.

In the run-up to the conference, I gave an interview on the PP blog where I shared some tips about sketching.

I also took some sketchnotes of the other speakers' talks.

I had a great time on stage and got a lot of lovely comments from the audience afterwards. Thank you all for the warm welcome and the good chats I had in the breaks.

I was particularly happy about the following tweet. Giving yourself permission to sketch, even if the outcome is not perfect, is the first step :)

A few people even sketchnoted my talk, which is always fun to see. Thank you :)

Video: 5 Steps to Change your Note Taking

I've recently been speaking at a few conferences and I thought I'd try out a new format... instead of using slides, I live sketched my presentation and invited people to sketch along, learning the basic priniciples of sketchnoting while they where doing it themselves and walking away with a nice sketched summary of the talk. 

I think it worked out quite well, but you can judge for yourself as the talks were recorded. You can find the recording from Smashing Conference Freiburg here. The one from Frontend conf in Zurich is embedded below.

And here is the final 'slide' from my talk:

 I also gave a German version of the talk for a Carlsen Verlag in Hamburg. Unfortunately there is no video recording, but at least the final sketch.

I also gave a German version of the talk for a Carlsen Verlag in Hamburg. Unfortunately there is no video recording, but at least the final sketch.

At both occasions, I asked the audience to sketch along and tweet their final sketchnotes of the talk. It is great to see the resulting variety of people's work. Below are a few examples.

If you are sketching along, why not share you sketchnote on twitter and mention me (@evalottchen) so I can see what you did. :)