Catch me at FITC Toronto, VizThink San Jose in 2009…

I’ll be speaking/facilitating at the following conferences (so far) in 2009:

VizThink 2009 – San Jose, CA | Feb 22-25, 2009
The first one is pretty obvious (seeing as it’s my job and all) – February 22-25, 2009 I’ll be at VizThink 2009 in San Jose, CA for our North American conference. I don’t what exactly I’ll be doing there yet but I’ll certainly be involved and will probably end up facilitating some component of one of the general sessions. We’ve also got some other interesting format ideas percolating – I’ll share as they firm up/get decided.

Early registration for VizThink 2009 is on until November 30 – so if you’re thinking about coming it’s worth signing up sooner rather than later. It’s shaping up to be a great show, some crowd favorites are back (with new sessions/content) including Nancy Duarte, Dave Gray, Bob Horn and Dan Roam and we’ve got a whole host of new facilitators that will be announced in the coming weeks (like Indexed‘s Jessica Hagy – but you didn’t hear that from me ;) ).

FITC Toronto – Toronto, ON | April 26-28, 2009
I’ll also be speaking at FITC Toronto next year. You can see my session description here. Basically I’ll be laying out some fundamentals for designing data for presentation. The goal is to have participants walk away from this session with a solid starting point for creating powerful designs when faced with data-heavy content.

FITC’s super early-bird registration expires on December 1 and their early bird registration expires on February 1, 2009.

Other Events/Opportunities
I’m proactively working on getting a few other engagements together for 2009 – if you’re running a show/conference and looking to add some sessions with a little more visual focus by all means drop me an email to rcoleman (at)

There will also be a VizThink panel at SXSWi this year – Tom Crawford (VizThink CEO) will be on it with some other familiar faces from the visual communication issue. I’m twisting Tom’s arm to get myself down there so I can at least see it but either way, if you’re in Austin for the event be sure to check it out!

– Ryan

VizThink Wrapup: The Conference in General

So here it is, almost a week later now – the VizThink conference is wrapped up and everyone has headed home. I’m surprised with how much enthusiasm has stuck with me. Conferences tend to be a happy, friendly place in general but VizThink just had that extra *spark*.

When people have asked how it was I’ve described it as feeling like a three-day long BarCamp where everyone is engaged & interacting. It’s even more impressive when you consider the make up of the conference.

Throughout the event Tom Crawford, CEO of VizThink and the event’s emcee of sorts, was surveying the crowd (“Hands up if you…”). Surprisingly, less than half the people there would actually say they could draw (Dave Gray fixed that right off the bat with his “How to Draw” general session). In terms of typical jobs etc. there just weren’t any – the mix ran from independent contractors, entrepreneurs, graphic facilitators, consultants right on up to VPs with long titles from huge corporations.

For me personally the conference met and exceeded every expectation I had for it – though I think the truth is no one really knew what to expect.

What worked…

Long Sessions – The format was great – when I first saw the 90 minute session lengths I was a bit concerned (especially as I had to fill one of those blocks personally) – would presenters have a hard time filling the time? Would attendees zone out?

The reality was 90 minutes was just long enough. I got the general impression from most facilitators that we all could have easily filled two hours if we’d had too (I had my group hustling at each step and I just barely finished six seconds over).

General Sessions – I was also worried about the number of big general sessions. The conference format was basically:

90min General Session
30min Break
90min Breakout Sessions (8 tracks)

60min Lunch

90min Breakout Sessions
30min Break
90-120min General Session

At most conferences I’ve been to in the past the general sessions were usually affairs where about halfway through you were looking around the tables for tools you might be able to use to subtly off yourself with. Not so at VizThink – Tom did a great job getting people or panels together that were entertaining and informative.

Paper on the Tables – Every flat surface in the place was covered with paper tablecloths. It took people a little while to revert back to their five-year old self and start drawing on the tables but once they did it became a great work surface during the conference. On Monday night as I was leaving the ballroom I saw two guys deep in conversation with their ideas scrawled out over 90% of the table. I suspect next time around we’ll see more facilitators working the tables into their sessions.

Atmosphere – What any of us who attended will have the hardest time conveying to you is the energy in the room for those two days. I don’t think I saw a single wallflower the whole time – as I said before people were engaged & interacting from the first moment. It just worked. A lot of people were stepping out of their day-to-day shells and really getting into the flow and it was great to see.

What didn’t work…
None of these are really complaints – if Tom & co. ran exactly the same format in exactly the same way next year I’d be back again in a heartbeat. This is just your average ordinary feedback:

Tables – One or two fewer chairs at every table. The conference had ten seat round tables in every room. The size of the tables was perfect but they also had ten chairs around them. The reality was they were too crowded. By the time you got everyone at the table and trying to draw etc. there was just no way 10 people would ever actually fit at the table. As a result, everywhere you looked the tenth chair (and occasionally even the ninth) was almost always pushed away from the table into whatever free space people could find. Ten-top tables with eight chairs would be ideal.

Break Lengths – The break lengths were tough. More and more people are finding much more value in the hallway conversations. There were a lot of great hallway conversation opportunities but I always felt rushed as sessions were typically running a little over and there was enough demand for upcoming sessions that the pull really was to get in early & stay late. As a result the 30min interludes often flew by – giving you enough time to pick up your stuff, move rooms, find a spot, hit the washroom and, if you were lucky, give a friendly nod to a couple of people as you passed them in the hall.

I don’t know how you stretch them without losing valuable session time – maybe start at 8:30 instead of 9:00 and add 15 minutes to each of the breaks in the middle of the day.

Computers – This isn’t even something that didn’t work in a negative sense it’s really just an observation. Before the conference I helped Tom with setting up a VizThink twitter account ( and a public VizThink Skype chat to hopefully act as a bit of a backchannel for the event. The reality though is there just wasn’t time, or the desire, to crack open a laptop during the conference. During some of the general sessions I’d open mine for a few minutes but not for long. Laptops were out a lot during the breaks but most people put them away as soon as the session started. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues – I think both the Twitter & Skype solutions will be useful for the between conference times but at the conference? Not sure.

In Conclusion
All in all, a great, great conference. Huge kudos to Tom and his team for pulling it off. Registrations were just shy of 400 for this go round and I suspect we’ll see a lot of growth next year for the second North American conference.

At the end of the conference Tom also “announced” that a VizThink Europe is in the works. Right now it’s looking like a September/October time frame and it will likely be held in Geneva. Watch the VizThink blog for more details, and of course I’ll post info here once Tom announces some firm dates/details.

This was also a huge event for the local communities. I’ll have more detail in my session follow-up post but it looks like we’ll have more than a few VizThink regional events running in the coming months. I’ve had people from Seattle, Mountain View & London (they already registered the domain!) express serious interest in running events locally – if you’re interested in getting one going in your area please drop me a line!

As for VizThink Toronto – I’m working out some of the details but expect to hear an announcement around VizThink Toronto #6 in the coming week or so.

VizThink Conference: Not quite the Wrap-up post yet…

I’ve been bad this conference. Usually I try to make a point of blogging at the end of each day but a couple of things kept me from doing it. 1) Each morning was spent polishing and honing my session that I was to deliver on Tuesday – 2) Each evening was spent in great conversations with some of the best Visual Thinkers/Communicators on the planet. The days? Packed wall-to-wall with great content, people and again more conversation.

The truth is, I don’t think I’ve even begun to digest what I experienced in the past few days. As I said above, my waking hours were jammed full – and in the evening hours I haven’t been sleeping well thanks to a combination of a cold, jetlag and being completely unable to switch my brain off at night.

In the final general session, my new buddy Matt Homann from XPLANE, did a couple of exercises with the attendees. Part of it was a “Haiku” of sorts where he asked us to answer three questions – and it was at this point, right at the end that I realized something was shifting in my mindset…

The Questions:

Why am I here? (5 words)

What Have I learned? (7 words)

What am I going to do next? (5words)

My Answers:

Build a Visual Thinking Community

This is where I want to play

? ? ? ? ?

The first two answers came easy. I scribbled something down for the third but it was neither good nor correct, I can’t even remember what it was. It simply filled the space.

It’s interesting, I’ve been running events about this area of interest/expertise for a year now but it wasn’t until this week I really realized how I felt about it. Up until this week it was something I did, now I’m wracking my brain to figure how to make it something I live.

Answering that question isn’t going to be easy for me. In the short term I’ll be dragging as much of this world into what I do each day at work. But when considering future next steps, that’s a whole new question…

(I’m going to post my presentation deck and wrap, as well as a proper conference wrap-up in separate posts shortly.)

Off to VizThink (San Francisco)

In just a few hours I’m hopping on the plane to head down to San Francisco for the VizThink conference (blog)- starting tomorrow night and running through until Tuesday afternoon.

At last check over 350 people are registered including some of the best and brightest in the Visual Thinking space.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ll be facilitating a session on building visual thinking communities based on what I’ve learned in my involvement with both BarCamp/TorCamp and running five VizThink events last year. I’m looking forward to a few hours of solitude on the plane to finish off my presentation deck. The framework and content is all there, now I just need to pretty it up a bit (a daunting task considering the context of the conference).

From everything I’ve seen Tom Crawford and his team at VizThink HQ have done a great job getting ready for the event – I expect the actual event will be more of the same.

Connecting in SF / at VizThink
If you’re attending the event and are on twitter defenitely follow the VT08 account at – it’ll help you connect with other VizThinkers at the event. If you’re just interested in VizThink in general follow Follow either account and I’ll be sure it follows you back.

There’s also a VizThink Public Skype chat that can be accessed through the link. If your version of Skype diesn’t support the link just add me “ryancoleman” and I’ll be happy to invite you in.

Last but not least – I expect to have some time in the evenings, my schedule is pretty fluid but if you want to grab a drink drop me a line.

– Ryan

A week in Berlin – Part Four


  • Alarm on the phone goes off – somehow it sounds 100x louder than it did yesterday


  • Knock on the door. This is getting to be a bad habit.
  • Robinson: “Meet me downstairs” Me: “uh, no. I’ll see you at the conference hall”
  • Seems I borrowed some of today’s fun for last night. This isn’t going to be a fun day.


  • Groggy and showered I step out into Alexanderplatz looking for the one breakfast I know my body will appreciate when feeling like this.


  • Huh? The McDonald’s in the train station doesn’t serve breakfast.
  • Lady behind the counter gives me directions to the other McD’s. In German.


  • Visualizing her hand signals I’m now heading away from the conference – hoping the McD’s is close (and I understood her gestures).


  • Success! Thank god for big signs. I can see the restaurant way down the block.


  • Walk-in, don’t even look at the menu – “Sausage & Egg McMuffin”
  • “Sorry, we don’t have it”
  • ????? this is getting worse…
  • “We have bacon”
  • Sure. (I think)


  • Kitchen is slow but I’ve got my food and decide to eat on the run.


  • Oops. Got myself turned around and went the wrong way. Again.
  • Decide to crack open breakfast. Bacon on top of scrambled eggs with bun on the side.


  • This is really bad.


  • Found a garbage can. Hope the conference has good food this AM.


  • Made it just in time for Jaap’s interview of SDL’s CEO, Mark Lancaster.
  • (Common Sense Advisory did a great write up here)


  • Lancaster interview over. Some interesting topics covered (and not covered)
  • Time for booth duty :/

9:30 – 12:30

  • Neither Robinson or I have even had time to catch our breath. One person after another is in the booth. A couple of BIG conversations have us stoked – crossed off a couple of big goals for the show.


  • Lunch. I’m starving
  • Find a seat with Richard Sikes and later joined by Bob from McElroy.
  • Bob’s a great guy and enjoying his insights on the industry as he also comes from a software background


  • Relieving Robinson – my turn in the booth.
  • These lights (booth lights) are killing me.
  • One of them has the most subtle of flickers but today it’s having the same effect on me as a strobe light on a ship in rough waters.


  • Show is starting to slow a bit. Lots of people with luggage milling about and the exodus is clearly starting.
  • Stephen & Amy from GALA just came around – trying to get the prize drawing sorted out. Stephen is concerned about it dragging as there are 20+ companies giving something away this time.


  • Robinson’s other half, Sheena, should have arrived by now – he’s ducked back to the hotel to check and I’m packing up the booth.
  • Rented booths are great. “Packing” consists of throwing all our brochures back in the suitcase which we’ve perfected packing to within a few grams of the airline’s weight limit.
  • Technically the floor is still open so I leave a few brochures out but this puppy is unofficially over.


  • DSC08536Up in the hall for the closing session.
  • Missed the topic description but it seems to be about highs and lows of owning an LSP.


  • Arturo (Moravia) and Hans (Architext/ are cracking me up – both seem like fun guys.


  • Session over – let the drawings begin!


  • Some interesting prizes coming through:
  • A Marionette
  • An Authentic Italian Leather Bag (Made in Poland)
  • Wooden carving of a bird – should be fun to try and pack that. (Our partner Joe from won that)
  • Another leather bag
  • Only two iPods – clearly the fad is dying…


  • Drawings done, conference done.
  • Saddest part of coming out of the last session is walking back into the show floor – by the time we get out the exhibition floor is mostly torn down, in a matter of hours you’ll never even know any of us were there.


  • Back at hotel – agree to meet up at 18:30 for dinner w/Robinson & Sheena – the third wheel portion of my trip is about to begin.


  • Sitting in the middle of Alexanderplatz with my laptop, hoping to scam some free wifi.
  • No dice – but I do find a cheaper hotspot.
  • Call home via Skype & my trusty USB phone (getting some funny looks form people as I talk into my mouse)


  • Meet up with Robinson and a very tired Sheena
  • We head off in the same direction as the Thai place the other night – there was an Indian place that looked good and I want to try it out.


  • Finally get to the Indian place. Sticking to water tonight.


  • Finally get our food – appetizers are great. Main courses have no spice to them at all.
  • Food is good but we could have done with some kick, dishes are bordering on sweet!
  • All of us are fighting to stay awake – might be an early night.


  • Starting the walk back – trying to figure out what the mom & child signs mean…


  • Hackesher Markt is a great district to walk through. Lots of life & restaurants. There’s a beautiful train station here as well but if it weren’t for the trains you’d never know it was there.
  • Each of the restaurants are built underneath the station itself so it just looks like a façade for the line of restaurants.


  • After dawdling back we’re at the hotel and calling it a night.
  • Cleaning up my photos for the day and trying to upload them to Flickr. This net connection sucks.


  • Watch some TV on my laptop (Always travel with a few shows downloaded to it) – don’t even get through one.
  • Zzzz….

All of my photos from Day Four