Real-Time Visuals for Better Meetings


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As a visual processor, SmartDraw makes creating real-time visuals possible for everyone. A visual project plan can be created and edited in a collaborative meeting environment. This allows more actionable work to be accomplished during the meeting, eliminating the seemingly endless cycle of revisions and follow-up.

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Real-Time Visuals for Better Meetings

  1. 1. Real-Time Visuals for BetterMeetingsFebruary, 2011 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Through the power of real-time visual communication, SmartDraw makes planning and conducting meetings much more efficient and productive—saving both time and money.  Reduce average meeting time by more than 25%  Achieve clarity and consensus faster  Eliminate the seemingly endless cycle of revisions and follow-up meetings As a visual processor, SmartDraw makes creating real-time visuals possible for everyone. A visual project plan can be created and edited in a collaborative meeting environment. This allows more actionable work to be accomplished during the meeting, eliminating the seemingly endless cycle of revisions and follow-up. Introduction In the business world, time is arguably the most precious commodity. And many people in business spend a lot of time in meetings, as well as planning them and performing follow up tasks. Well-run meetings can be collaborative, efficient, productive and empowering. Unfortunately, most meetings are not well-run today because they are not planned well, they tend to get off topic, and the results are not immediately actionable. Time is wasted, and team members can lose interest and feel unengaged. The potential benefit of collaboration is lost. Using real-time visuals for meeting preparation, presentation, information capture and follow-up can provide significant benefits to1 858-225-3300 ©2011 SmartDraw, LLC. All rights reserved.
  2. 2. managers and allow them to get the most from their team members’ valuable time. A solution that can shortenthe length of the meeting cycle (planning and preparation, execution, and follow up) as well as capture real-timecollaborative information in an easy-to-use visual format provides real, measurable return on investment for thecompanies that adopt it throughout their organization.Isn’t it much more productive to have team members actually working on project tasks to achieve their goals andobjectives, rather than spending their time in meetings? Ask yourself this question: if you could make more timefor your team, how much more could be accomplished?Fortunately, today there is a solution that for the first time enables the real-time creation of visuals, whichchanges the face of meetings forever. It is called the visual processor.What is a visual processor?Just as a word processor enables anyone in your company to create nicely formatted written documents quicklyand easily, a visual processor allows anyone to create professional-looking, automatically formatted visuals justas quickly. There is no “drawing” required. In fact, you can even use the keyboard to create your visuals! With avisual processor, great looking visuals are just as quick and easy to make as great looking written documents.There is no longer any reason not to use visuals as much as written words in all business communication(documents, presentations, emails, etc), including meetings.There has never been a visual processor until now. Until its introduction in June 2010 by SmartDraw, traditionalgraphics software was all that existed. Graphics software requires too much time, expertise, and designexperience for it to be effective or useful for 98% of business users. It is the breakthroughs of automaticformatting and the built-in “know-how” of the visual processor that enable anyone to create presentation-qualityvisuals in real-time, or in other words “at the speed of thought.” It also enables for the first time the ability inmeetings to capture collaborative information in real-time, so that everyone can get on the same page, come toagreement on topics, brainstorm ideas that are instantly documented, and have it all in a visual format (that caneven be converted into a project plan with a single click!)Simply put, the visual processor reinvents business in may ways. Visuals are scientifically proven to be up to 6 1times more effective than words alone in communicating ideas, data, information, processes, plans, projects andmore. This improved communication leads directly to increased sales, lower costs, productivity gains, andreduced errors that all add up to significant business performance enhancement.It changes everything, because the visual processor can create many different visuals – all of the ones that arecommonly used in a variety of meetings:Flowcharts for process documentation sessions,SWOT diagrams and balanced scorecards for strategic planning meetings,Venn diagrams, BCG and product positioning matrices for marketing meetings,Mind Maps and project charts for project brainstorming and project planning,Org charts for company resource planning and optimization, and much more.Now, for the first time in history, the benefit of using visuals significantly outweighs the time it takes to createthem. And the visuals created by the visual processor have built-in standards called visual grammar, so thateveryone’s visuals follow rules that make understanding them much easier. This enables widespread adoptionthroughout the organization (and even outside of it with partners, customers and suppliers), much in the same2 858-225-3300 ©2011 SmartDraw, LLC. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. way that written documents follow generally-accepted rules of grammar and punctuation so that they can beeasily understood by wide audiences.Traditional graphics software (like Microsoft Visio® and the Microsoft Office® drawing tools) are an impedimentto the widespread business use of visuals, because their lack of automatic formatting meant that it took toomuch time, hassle and ultimately, cost, to make the return on creating them worth the effort. This is why so fewbusiness users have ever created a visual—in fact, less than 3% of all business communication uses visuals. Theyalso cannot be created in real-time, causing extra cycles of transcribing, reviewing, and editing which waste timeand generate poor results.In fact, some organizations that are using the visual processor in meetings have ultimately replaced theirwhiteboards and ad hoc note-taking with real-time documentation using meeting-specific visuals. Their resultshave been higher engagement and agreement by team members, and significantly decreased follow up timerequired to produce essential meeting documents and project action plans. Capturing information visually and atthe speed of thought translates into immediate team action and increased productivity.More Productive MeetingsIn a survey of Microsoft® employees known as Microsoft Office Personal Productivity Challenge (PPC), the resultsfound that on average people spend 5.5 hours a week in meetings, and 71% feel that meetings are typically 2unproductive . The survey also found that the most common pitfalls are unclear objectives, lack of team 3communication followed by unclear priorities .That is a staggering amount of lost time that could have been prevented by communicating visually. All three ofthe above pitfalls can be addressed from the proper planning of the meeting and employing the proper use ofvisuals to augment the overall effectiveness of the meeting. A recent study from the University of Minnesotafound that the average length of meetings in which visuals were used were 26.8% shorter (26.7 minutes vs. 18.6 4minutes) than meetings in which no visuals were used . So, by changing how your meeting is planned and run viavisuals, the productivity and communication to the participants improves exponentially. Thus, time not wasted.How?Let’s look at the most commonly used tool – the meeting agenda. Meeting agendas are typically lists of topicsand sub-topics for the group to discuss within the time scheduled. However, lists are limited in their ability tocommunicate. Using SmartDraw to create mind maps, the meeting planner now is able to communicate visuallyand more powerfully the topics and sub-topics, and how each is interrelated within the overall discussion.Because of the visual processor, meeting agenda mind maps also have the ability to be changed and revisedduring the course of the meeting to properly and accurately record the discussions and any notes taken fromthose discussions. Moreover, with the visual processor, a mind map can be created from SmartDraw in a fractionof the time than a list.3 858-225-3300 ©2011 SmartDraw, LLC. All rights reserved.
  4. 4. In essence, by using visuals like mind maps instead of a text-only lists and documents you save time in thepreparation of the meeting and meeting agenda, and you communicate effectively and thoroughly to theparticipants ensuring they understand the objectives of the meeting and the actions and priorities that resultfrom it - thus eliminating future meetings and discussions for the sake of clarity. Time saved, and well spent. Meeting Agendas (mind maps)PresentationsWhy is it that so many presentations are painful to sit through? Presentations are often disengaging, boring, andultimately a waste of time (for the audience and presenter). In an online survey conducted via A Time to Market 5Training Centres, nearly 66% of the respondents said it takes about 1-5 hours to prepare a presentation . So, ifyou are going to spend that much time preparing a presentation, why create it in such a way that leads youraudience believing the presentation you worked so hard on is a waste of their time; and ultimately your time?The problem is that so often presenters do not plan nor give their presentations visually. A visual presentationbuilds engagement and your audience walks away absorbing the information and feeling that it was time wellspent.So, what are the barriers preventing people from using visuals more in their presentations? Virtually in every casethe problem is the very tool that is supposed to have elevated the presentation – PowerPoint®. ® ®Since PowerPoint was introduced in 1987; a stack of bulleted PowerPoint slides has become synonymous with"presentation." Weve all sat through meetings where a co-worker reads the bullets from each slide of a ®PowerPoint . Needless to say presentations like this are as ineffective as they are boring. ®Why do most presentations follow this formula? Ironically, the main culprit is PowerPoint itself. From the ®beginning PowerPoint was designed to make it easy to type in a title and bullets. Creating a slide of bullets wasthe default action, and after more than two decades, it still is!4 858-225-3300 ©2011 SmartDraw, LLC. All rights reserved.
  5. 5. SmartDraw removes these barriers and places the power to create visually rich presentations into the hands ofeveryone. SmartDraw gives you a whole new way to create your presentation which reinvents the way you use ®PowerPoint .But creating a truly visual presentation means more than taking an existing text-based presentation and replacingsome of the bullets with visuals. You need to think visually, plan visually, and compose your presentation visually.SmartDraw automates the creation of visuals to such a degree that anyone can do it, and get great results in ®minutes. Creating professional-quality visuals with SmartDraw is as easy as typing bullets in PowerPoint .But even the best visual can be ineffective if displayed in the wrong way in your presentation. ®As presentation expert Rick Altman explains in his excellent book, Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck andHow to Make them Better, showing a visual to your audience all at once can be overwhelming. They will be toobusy trying to absorb all the information to focus on the specific point you are trying to make. Rick calls this"drinking from the fire hose." Instead, its better to reveal the visual in a series of steps. Rick calls this"sequencing". ®SmartDraws presentation features totally reinvent the way you use PowerPoint . Not only does SmartDrawmake it easy to replace boring bullets with powerful visuals, it gives you a better way to compose, build, andmanage all your presentations. The result is better, more effective presentations that are even easier to createand edit.Effective presentations leads your audience to more quickly absorb the information presented, and leaving themsatisfied as time well spent. And for that reason, your time spent in the preparation and delivery of thepresentation is now appropriately well allocated and justified.Email, Reports and CommunicationCommunication is at the core of all businesses and is the life blood of organizations. In the past, before wordprocessors were introduced, written reports and documents were created only by a small pool of professionaldocument specialists (typists). This meant the process of creating one was fairly time consuming, error-prone,costly, and involved a back-and-forth process between the person trying to communicate, and the personcreating the written document. The result was that written communication was not nearly optimal.As soon as the first word processors (with their automatic formatting and built-in know-how) began to show upon a large number of users desktops, business communication was improved in significant and breakthroughways that changed things forever. The improvements even came in ways no one had ever imagined possible. For those who purchased wordprocessors for all of their employees, the incredible return on investment became evident very quickly. But it stilltook time for some companies to see that they were quickly falling behind the times and losing theircompetitiveness. They resisted change, even though embracing and adapting to the change was clearly the rightthing to do. In the end, word processors did end up on every business person’s PC.Today, there are so many different ways people communicate both internally and externally from theirbusinesses that it becomes paramount to communicate in ways that everyone can understand and do it in anexpeditious manner. Visual communication is the language, and by leveraging the power of SmartDraw’s visualprocessor, it is now possible to breakdown all global language barriers and communicate visually by leveragingthe power of SmartDraw’s visual processor. How?SmartDraw provides you the ability to create professional-quality visuals like charts, mind maps, and flowchartsin a manner of minutes, and then export those visuals to a myriad of file formats or directly into your email clientfor immediate sending and delivery to those you are communicating. No other traditional graphic softwareprogram does this. Quick and efficient thereby saving you time and energy in the creation of the visual, thesending of the visual and the absorption of the information via the visual.5 858-225-3300 ©2011 SmartDraw, LLC. All rights reserved.
  6. 6. In a meeting, the real-time visuals created and edited in SmartDraw can also be instantly delivered to all teammembers via email, or checked into SharePoint so that everyone can access them the moment they get back totheir desk.Project ManagementMany projects are delivered late and over-budget. More often than not, a project is doomed to be late fromconception because of the flawed assumptions and estimates of the people managing it, and this is because thevast majority of people tasked with managing projects in their organizations dont have any successful method orprocess to rely upon. Many project managers simply "wing it" and the result is late projects. Once again, time,money, and resources wasted.Typically, unsuccessful project managers’ plan projects something like this: identify a few broad, coarse tasks andarbitrarily produce an estimate based upon how long they think it takes. They do it this way because its quickand easy, but the result is project timelines and estimates that arent realistic.The solution to all of these project planning and scheduling problems is to use a simple system that replaces off-the-cuff assumptions with facts and data, and to have it empower the project planning and team meetings. Thiskeeps everyone on the same page. This is especially true if the project team is distributed and interacts primarily TM TMover the internet (with a service such as WebEx or Go-to-Meeting ).SmartDraw’s visual processor simplifies project management through its innovative project charts that ultimatelywill keep the project on time, and under budget. The meeting agenda can be even turned into a project chart ortimeline with a single click of a button.Project management consists of breaking down large tasks into a number of smaller tasks, estimating thecompletion dates of those smaller tasks, and rolling those tasks up into estimates for larger tasks until you have aset of estimates for the entire project. Additionally, you must determine the order in which these tasks are to becompleted and which tasks maybe dependent upon the completion of others so the project moves forwardfluidly.SmartDraw does this for you, automatically. SmartDraw creates and manages your project charts easily andquickly so that virtually any manager can begin immediately. The manager now has at his fingertips an easy-to-use system to manage and track the various tasks and sub-tasks within the project so that everything maintainsits schedule towards completion. Project managers who employ project charts via SmartDraw on average savemore time than other project managers because their projects are completed on time and under budget. Theyare able to estimate more accurately their completion dates saving time and resources that otherwise would bewasted.ConclusionBusinesses can never have too much time – which is why time, in all aspects of business, is so vastly important.And meetings can be one of the biggest time wasters in any organization. Businesses that think, plan, manageand communicate visually are the ones that demonstrate how to recoup more time than those that don’t. That’sbecause visual communication should be easy, fast, flexible, and universally understood – this is especially truewhen it comes to meetings.Until the invention of the visual processor by SmartDraw it wasn’t possible, because creating and editing visualsjust took too much time to make it worth the effort. The visual processor makes real-time capture of information TMpossible in a collaborative meeting environment (even over the internet using a service such as WebEx or Go- TMto-Meeting . Only by leveraging the power of SmartDraw’s visual processor are organizations able to improveefficiency, optimizing operations, improve communication and manage projects to meet deadlines leading to realworld time savings return on investment.6 858-225-3300 ©2011 SmartDraw, LLC. All rights reserved.
  7. 7. Here are examples of visuals being used by different departments oforganizations in various industries: Sales (charts) Marketing (mind maps, charts) Facilities (project management) HR (org charts, mind maps, flowcharts) Finance (charts, mind maps) Product Development (flowcharts)Endnotes1 “Presenting Effective Presentations with Visual Aids,” U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA Office of Training and Education, Published May 19962, 3 Microsoft Office Personal Productivity Challenge (PPC), Published 20054 “Documents and Writing Reports,” University of Waterloo, Department of Systems Design Engineering, Published by John S. Zelek, P.Eng,Ph.D. 20045 “A Time to Market Online Survey,”A Time To Market (, Published 20107 858-225-3300 ©2011 SmartDraw, LLC. All rights reserved.