VizThink2: A recap

VizThinkSo VizThink2 has come and gone. Mark Mulholland and Michael Gerochi took about 90 minutes and walked a crowd of about 45 through the basics of Mind Mapping.

Location, Location, Location
First off, the Indoor Playground is a great venue for this kind of event – with tables & chairs for +/- 40 and an easily reconfigurable space we quickly took the room from office, to presentation space and back to office with very little hassle – thanks to Mark Dowds for offering it up.

One future note/suggestion for people using that space in the future – snap a photo of the “before”. We got halfway through reconfiguring the space and realized we didn’t have a clear picture of how it went back together and there was no one from IP there to help us out. I think we got it pretty close, if not perfect at the end of the night though.

The Feedback
The presentation was well received and people seemed to be engaged throughout. I was personally interested to see just how many different uses Mind Mapping had – I’d always thought of it as a basic tool but with new software packages and online applications the depth of Mind Mapping is ever increasing – I couldn’t help but thinking that Mark is to Mind Maps as Sacha Chua is to Emacs (only the mind maps don’t talk to him ;) ).

The universal feedback I got was “more exercises” and I would have to agree – although the one Mark did use was quite good. In a nutshell he asked the room to pair off with someone they didn’t know (surprisingly easy in this crowd, which I thought was great). They then had to Mind Map each others lives based on the fundamentals Mark has just taught the group. After about ten minutes he then asked the pairs to “couple up” with another pair, where we then introduced our partner to the other members of the group via our Mind Map of them.

All in all it was an effective exercise and got the conversation flowing between people who hadn’t met each other before but I think the group would have liked at least one more exercise – I think Mark even knew that at the end of the night, and we know for future events that the crowds tend to be keen for hands-on stuff.

Shortly after Mark handed over the reigns to Michael, a local entrepreneur who uses Mind Maps to manage his business. He is also a Mind Mapping software reseller – I have to honestly admit this concerned me as he started into his portion of the presentation. I didn’t really have a sense of what he was planning on doing (my fault) so I was really worried it was about to turn into a 30 minute sales pitch.

To his credit, he walked the fine line quite carefully and managed to stay just this side of the “showing us what Mind Maps can be used for” line rather than the “Look how you can use my product for Mind Mapping” side. The points where he did stray into sales pitch mode were largely driven by the crowd’s question.

I shouldn’t have been worried though with guys like Mark Kuznicki and Tom Purves in the room – they always seem to know just the right questions to put out there to help steer a topic back on course (or throw it off the rails completely if that’s what needs doing).

Drinks & Conversation
As is TorCamp tradition the event was followed by a quick hike to the nearest bar that we figured could accommodate 25-40 people with absolutely no notice. Venue of choice this time was the Shoeless Joe’s at King and Spadina where at least half the crowd ended up having at least one drink with us. I think the 80’s pop music (in a sport’s bar????) finally drove the last of us out around 11:30pm after some okay food and great conversation.

Thanks to…
All in all a great night. Thanks again to Mark and Mike for doing the presentation, Mark Dowds for the room and the folks who stuck around to help cleanup/reorganize at the end of the night (especially Libin Pan who came early and helped setup too).

So, onto scheduling VizThink3 – As I mentioned at the event, I know when it won’t be and that’s June 18-22 as I’m out of town. I’m working on co-ordinating the date with a “special guest” who may be in town so I’ll post here as soon as I know the date/location.

In the meantime check out the Facebook Group and VizThink Wiki on the Barcamp site. I’ve also registered and will be setting up a separate blog there shortly to centralize announcements & resources etc. related to VizThink.

Also, I’m looking for people to talk on a variety of creative topics/concepts. If you know people who are into things like; Illustration / Line Drawing, Photography, Improv etc. please put them in touch with me. I’d love to mix in some arts etc. alongside the visual thinking theories & concepts to help get the creative juices flowing.

Thanks also to the few people who came up to me after VizThink2 and offered to help out – I’ll be following up next week.