Interviewed for VizThink Issue of “Associations Now”

A few months ago myself, Sunni Brown (VizThink Austin) and Mike Rohde (VizThink Milwaukee) were interviewed for an article on visual thinking called “Are you a visual thinker?“. It ran in Associations Now Magazine, a publication of the American Society of Association Executives & The Center for for Association Leadership. At the time I thought it would just be a little piece in one of the back pages of the magazine but it turns out they had bigger plans and ran it as the cover story.

In fact, they went the extra step further and hired Mike Rohde to design the cover and provide illustrations for the article. The end result was a fantastic looking piece that exposed the idea of visual thinking to a whole new audience. Mike did a great write-up over on his blog about his process in creating the illustrations which is worth a read.

Of course if you truly want to learn from the masters, both Sunni & Mike (along with Austin Kleon) recently recorded a, very well received, VizThinkU workshop with VizThink called Visual Note-taking 101 where they share their secrets and advice for producing excellent visual notes.

I have to admit too that I was pretty stoked to get my first block quote in an article. Having it hand drawn by someone I’d call a friend makes it that much sweeter.

Overall the article turned out far better than I ever imagined – be sure to give it a read, as well as Mike’s blog post & the VizThinkU session. Thanks to Associations Now and especially Mark Athitakis, who penned the article.

– Ryan

All Photos by Mike Rohde,

Next VizThinkU Workshop: “Agile Presenting” – July 30th!

VizthinkLogo400A quick VizThink update: Next Thursday, July 30th, we’re having our next VizThinkU workshop: “Agile Presenting: Engage your audience and introduce interactivity to your presentations” with Heather Gold and John Vlismas. Both are successful comedians who have also made a name for themselves as speakers with their respective, widely-praised, sessions “Unpresenting” and “The Shared World”.

Now I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “What do two comedians have to teach me about making my presentations better?”

More than you might suspect.

Imagine the work environment of a stand-up comic: Performing in an unfamiliar environment, to an unfamiliar crowd and they know there are at least one or two people out there in that dimly-lit room who probably want to take them down a peg. Sound familiar?

Maybe reminds you a little of your last speaking engagement, sales presentation or meeting?

While we’ve focused a lot at VizThink on making your presentations look more appealing and be more effective from a visual stand-point, we haven’t spent a whole lot of time on the skills around delivering it – which is why we assembled this VizThinkU course. This workshop will introduce you to new ideas about engaging and interacting with your audience as well as approaches to think quickly on your feet and react to unexpected situations.

Our two faculty members for this session, Heather Gold and John Vlismas, are both accomplished comedians and public speakers. In addition to their stand-up careers they’ve also consolidated their skills and experiences into workshops that they’ve delivered around the world, and our now bringing them online as part of VizThinkU.

This session promises to be entertaining and informative and you don’t want to miss it – be sure to register today.

This two and half hour webinar will be divided into two parts:

w/ Heather Gold

People who work in the digital realm love interactivity in every realm, but when it comes to presenting, they forget all about it.

In this workshop on UnPresenting innovative comedian Heather Gold breaks down how public communication works and then remakes it in our collective image. Heather focuses on the main thing business has ignored: the actual source of power in the room and how to engage it.

The Shared World
w/ John Vlismas

Successful comedians are high-functioning multi-taskers. They must exert charm, pre-empt mood changes and conclude a sale every time they tell a joke. Essentially, they are expert at forming temporary movements and guiding that movement for the duration of the performance. Take away the humour, and the skill set resembles the ideal profile for a good leader, be it a person or a brand.

Where corporations find it difficult to react to their markets quickly, encumbered by protocol largely designed to assign blame, comedians must assess and react in the blink of an eye, sometimes facing several thousand people they have never met.

Ideally specialist communicators, comedians are adept at managing risk, and do so constantly.

The Shared World™ is a system of thinking which encourages high-speed analysis using empathy, intuition and assimilation of data rapidly to make lightning speed, high quality decisions.

The key to winning over an audience is to position oneself directly at the heart of the crowd. Instead of trying to analyze how they feel – experience how they feel.

Don’t Miss this Workshop

Honestly, I’m really pumped for this workshop – John & Heather are both hilarious but, at the same time, also have really great content.  Whether you have to make small internal presentations or speak regularly to large audiences I guarantee you this is one you do not want to miss.

Check out the workshop page at and register today!

– Ryan

Upcoming: Next VizThinkU Workshop on June 16th!

Late last week we announced our next VizThinkU workshop – details posted below:

A couple of weeks ago we had our inaugural VizThinkU course, Visual Note-taking 101, which from all accounts was a rousing success – so today I’m very pleased to announce the next VizThinkU course “Drawing out your ideas: Techniques for visual thinking, note-taking and presentations with Nancy Margulies, a master visual facilitator.

The workshop will take place online on June 16th, 2009 at 2pm EST (GMT 18:00) and will last approximately 3 hours. Additional details about this session are below.

Drawing out your ideas: Techniques for visual thinking, note-taking and presentations
With Nancy Margulies

June 16th, 2009 | 2pm EST (GMT 18:00) | 3 Hours | Online | $195/person


Watch as Nancy Margulies, a master visual facilitator, demonstrates the process of using words and images to convey ideas during this three hour online workshop. Using example projects from participants, Nancy will create visual images that conveys all the ideas and relationships among them while teaching you tools and techniques that can be taken back to apply to your own work.

Nancy has taught thousands of people to develop skills that enable them to record their ideas using images as well as short phrases. This skill will enable you to “think on paper” to gain a deeper understanding of complex systems.

With the skills Nancy will teach, you can map a given activity and then look at the consequences, unintended consequences, resources needed, and other factors so that you have the “big picture” and a truly systemic view. Or you can use visual recording to convey an idea you want to present to others, with images that make your presentation more engaging.

Nancy is the author of several books on drawing and visual recording. She can teach you to draw with greater skill and will give you a set of symbols you can use for everyday visual mapping. If you believe you can’t draw, prepare to be delightfully surprised.

Planning is another process that is greatly enhanced by visual recording. As a student of Nancy’s you will have access to templates that you can use as the basis of “planning maps” – planning for everything from a meeting, to a large scale event or even planning your future.

Sign up early and submit the ideas you would like to see visually mapped by Nancy. First come, first served!

Register now!

BONUS: Get the most out of this session by starting with visual Note-taking 101
This workshop is a logical continuation of the Visual Note-taking 101 session from last week – while it’s not a prerequisite, it will certainly help you maximize your experience with Nancy.

Missed it? Not a problem! To help you catch up we’re offering a special discount on Visual Note-taking 101 for the next couple of weeks. Everyone who registers for the workshop before June 9th 2009 will receive a discount code that gives them $50 off the cost of access to the recordings from Visual Note-taking 101. It doesn’t get any easier than that!

Take advantage of this time-limited offer:

(Cross-posted form the blog)

Visual Note-taking 101: Introducing VizThinkU

Over a VizThink we’re launching a new series of online, educational workshops & webinars. Dubbed “VizThinkU” we’ll be pulling in the best content and facilitators our community has to offer and presenting it in regular sessions, in a variety of formats.

Last week we announced our first course, Visual Note-taking 101 and it will take place on May 12, 2009 at 11:00EST. The details are below:

Visual note-taking 101: Techniques for making your notes more visual and memorable
with Mike Rohde, Sunni Brown and Austin Kleon

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 | 11:00am EDT (15:00 GMT) | 3 Hours

Course Description
Ever since Leonardo put pen to paper, visual note-taking has been a route to improve the quality of your thinking, make information more memorable, and make your ideas easier to share with others. Learn practical techniques and “tricks of the trade” from modern visual note-taking masters Mike Rohde, Sunni Brown and Austin Kleon. In this three-hour course you will learn how to use visual note-taking to improve your listening skills and take better, more memorable notes. The focus of this class will be on how to write, sketch, and diagram ideas live, in real time, as you hear them. Many of the techniques you will learn will also help to improve your skills in drawing your ideas at the flip chart or whiteboard.

Course Faculty

kleon_headshot.jpg Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon is a writer who draws. A collection of his Newspaper Blackout Poems is forthcoming from HarperCollins in February 2010. He’s drawn cartoons for clients such as Austin City Limits and South by Southwest. He works a day job designing websites, and lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife Meghan. You can see his work online at

sunnibrown.jpg Sunni Brown

Sunni Brown, M.P.A., is Owner of BrightSpot Info Design, a company specializing in visual thinking
to support organizational and group success. BrightSpot operates on the principle that “information overload” is best managed by using visual language and the thoughtful design of
information. Coupling text and presentation materials with graphics and visual architectures
significantly enhances meaning, comprehension and memory. Sunni was trained in graphic facilitation at The Grove Consultants International, a San Francisco based company that pioneered the use of visuals in meetings and group processes. Sunni is currently an Associate of The Grove and an Associate of Momentum Leadership, a change management consultancy. She is also co-Founder of VizThink Austin, currently the largest visual thinking community in the United States. She holds Bachelor’s degrees in Journalism and Linguistics and a Master’s in Public Affairs from the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs. She lives in Austin, TX.

mike-97x129.jpg Mike Rohde

Mike Rohde is a designer and art director with a passion for simple, effective and usable design solutions. He has over 20 years experience as a professional designer, working in print design, logo and identity design, application icon design, web and user interface design. Mike has been hired by conference organizers such as SXSW Interactive, An Event Apart and SEED, to capture live, real-time sketchnotes of events using only a gel pen and Moleskine sketchbook. He lives and works in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is a member of the 9rules network, founder of the Palm Tipsheet e-newsletter and founding member of the Milwaukee tech community group Web414. Mike’s work can be found at and on Flickr .

Register Today

When you register for a VizThink webinar, you will have access to the live session, as well as a recording which will be made available to you after the webinar is over, as well as any course materials provided by
the instructors. You will also have the satisfaction of knowing that your money will go to support the VizThink staff and community.

Where: Online

When: Tuesday May 12, 2009 @ 11:00 EDT (15:00 GMT)

Duration: 3 Hours

Tuition: $99

Work examples from this session’s Facilitators: