Sketchnotes versus PowerPoints

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on May 03, 2021

Doodles can infuse more creativity into marketing presentations

It’s the world’s most ubiquitous presentation tool. Microsoft’s PowerPoint (PPT) is loaded onto perhaps over a billion computers. There are estimates that over 30 million PPTs get made every single day. It’s arguably the most influential piece of software, part of boardroom presentations, government meetings, corporate strategy sessions, and educational workshops.

And let’s admit it. Marketers do love their slides. There is something so persuasive about those bulleted points, and the slick phrases that roll out — not to mention the videos and music that jazz it all up. But is PPT fatigue setting in now? Is the information clutter on those slides taking away creativity?

What is the alternative — if at all — to PPTs? Oh yes, there is the Jeff Bezos way. The Amazon honcho famously banned PPTs from executive meetings, asking team members instead to read up briefing documents and rely on verbal discussions. He even said it was the smartest thing that Amazon did.

But sketchnotes — notes with words and drawings — have been slowly brushing their way in as an alternative to slides.

Recently, brand coach and strategist Ambi Parameswaran, a self-confessed PPT junkie, experimented with the artistic form. He explains how he had heard that Harvard Business School was giving out doodles at the end of its executive education talks and felt he should experiment with the idea too.

Says Parameswaran, “I did a three-session workshop on ‘B2B Marketing — Role of Branding’ last month. Instead of giving the participants a copy of my PPT, I gave them a doodle.”

The doodle was created live by Chennai-based graphic designer and artist Pavithra Muthalagan during the workshop. “Later, I used the artist to create a doodle as I delivered my talk ‘Spring — Bouncing Back From Rejection’, based on my new book,” says Parameswaran.

To test whether the doodle was more appealing than a PPT, Parameswaran took it to social media. “An overwhelming majority said the doodle was a lot better than a PPT. Some suggested that both should be shared,” he reveals.

“The big advantage of a doodle is that it captures the key points in one page. So you can pick up this page and get a quick refresher of the topic,” says Parameswaran.

While Parameswaran is a recent convert, talent coach Abhijit Bhaduri has been sketchnoting away for years. It all started when he was at Wipro and began doodling his thoughts over a Monday mailer to his colleagues.

The doodles became a hit and Bhaduri began honing his craft. Somebody introduced him to designer Mike Rohde, the author of the book The Sketchnote Handbook — the illustrated guide to visual note taking. “I read his book and started following his ideas,” says Bhaduri.

Bhaduri says a sketchnote is a powerful way to simplify complexity. You present only the key things there. You can convey the sequencing and interlinkage of ideas. There are plenty of visual metaphors one can use in sketchnotes — a lightbulb to convey an idea and so on. Since Bhaduri began posting his sketchnotes on LinkedIn, he says, his follower count grew from 30,000 to over 8 lakh.

Although Rohde in his book stresses that regardless of your artistic abilities you can do sketchnotes, many prefer to use the services of professionals who will convert your speech into visual notes. Muthalagan says her first time drawing live was at an inclusion conference.

“The challenge is mainly when the concepts are abstract... converting that to something that’s visually engaging; sometimes the doodle ends up wordy. Or when the speakers/panellists have a lot to say, ensuring it fits on one sheet of paper requires some note taking and structuring of the drawing,” she says.

Everyone is agreed on one thing, though — the fun is back in note taking and presentations with doodles.

Published on May 02, 2021

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