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Visualize clearly – practical tips that work

Visualize clearly
Relying solely on PowerPoint has been going out of fashion lately. Many firms have recognized that PowerPoint presentations aren’t always well-received by participants. So I would like to give you a few tips for drawing on flipcharts. Of course, these tips also apply to working on a tablet with a program like OneNote.

Concrete terms versus abstract ones

Firstly, I will differentiate between concrete and abstract terms. For instance, concrete terms are apple, tree or bottle. Here, an image that comes to mind, although it is not exactly the same for everyone. One person might think of a red apple, the other of a green one. One person might think of a birch tree, the other of an apple tree. But the differences are not very extreme.

It is different with abstract terms. There is not always a symbol available, like a heart for love or a cross for religion, be it alone, on a church or a bible. What do you see when you hear the word development or trust? It gets a bit trickier here. People think in pictures and it’s normal to associate. So think about the pictures that occur to you. Take luck, for example. You might think of a four-leaf clover, a horseshoe or a chimney sweep. Which of these symbols do you have a concrete idea of? What does a chimney sweep carry with him? Most people draw a shamrock because it is easiest. It is just four small hearts, but even if you don’t know that, then the human eye recognizes the form and adds in the rest. It is even easier when the symbol is combined with the right color. The word happiness is easy because there are already many common symbols for it.

Objectify abstract terms

It is more difficult if there are no common symbols. Let’s go back to “trust” or “development”. What symbol comes to mind? Trust is abstract, so how can we express it more concretely? Trust between two people getting married, for example, is an option. Here you could draw two interlinked rings. This might also mean marriage. Ideally, find an image that is unambiguous and not confusing. But you’ll also be there and can give a brief explanation. Then everything will be clear.

“Development” has to do with a direction, and it can be positive or negative. The final goal is to develop positively. Depending on the situation, you can work with a green arrow pointing up or a red arrow pointing down. Or think about the word from another point of view: maybe developing a picture in a dark room. Maybe there is another way to arrive at a symbol.

Like with “open point”: this can be thought of in the sense of something that is not finished. So you can draw a checklist or a to-do list where most point are checked off but there is one that is not yet ticked, open. Or look at the words more closely and draw a dot with an “opening”. And draw an arrow in the hole. Then a drawing of the conceptual pair “open point” emerges.

Combine symbols and figures

In my last seminar, for example, a participant drew a clock and a leaf of paper for “time plan”. She took the different components of the word and drew then individually.

Visualisierung Uhr

A person in a rush could also be demonstrated by a stick figure and a clock. Or give them a clock for a head to express it more strongly. Similarly, you could express creativity through a person with a light bulb for a head.

Visualisierung Glühbirne


As simple as possible

Simple drawings do not require much detail. So leave out all the details that are not necessary to recognize what the drawing is. With figures, often just the head is enough, with faces, eyes and mouth or even only eyebrows, depending on what you want to display. For a pig, a head with its nose is enough and for an elephant the ears and trunk. A flower can be recognized from the petals, a stem is not really necessary. So look at which elements are necessary to recognize the animal or object.

Use colors specifically

You don’t need colors for spontaneous visualizations, but they make it easier. A circle can mean a lot when it is black, but if it’s yellow we think of a sun, it it’s orange then we think of an orange, and for green, an apple. Or when talking about advantages and disadvantages, the common colors green for positive and red for negative could be used. Use new color and image combinations to attract attention. Like a green heart for the environment or a black heart for lovesickness. Think about the color combinations that you could use for contrast and to stand out.


When drawing, pay attention to the pens you use. It is important to differentiate between pens for a flipchart and pens for a whiteboard. Wipeable pens also write on the flipchart but they are not as strong or bright as pens for flipcharts. There are also pens with pointed or round tips to consider. With pointed ones you can draw thicker lines and write more neatly. The letters are easier to recognize and can also been seen well from a distance. However, a flip chart is only recommended if the room is not too large. Otherwise you have to write really large, and this is not the point. To prepare flipcharts and produce roadmaps or quotes with backgrounds use wax crayon blocks. This allows you to better and more quickly color in large surfaces, and to shade better by applying different pressure.


You can achieve a lot by drawing. There is more variety and liveliness when presenting with a flipchart and a pen instead of just a projector. Think about how to make abstract terms more accessible. What do you associate with the term? What is easiest to draw? Also remember that less is more, you only need to draw components that are essential for recognition. Use colors to make the meaning clear or to create something new. Make it easier by having the right materials and coloring large surfaces with wax crayon block. Your imagination is the limit!

Susanne Lorenz is a communication trainer specializing in non-violent communication in the tradition of Marshall Rosenberg. She is also a goal determination coach. Using her linguistics degree, her many years of experience as a business leader and her training as a coach, she gives numerous seminars and workshops to empower people with leadership skills.

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