There’s the age old story of the blindfolded people trying to describe an elephant. Each one touches a different part of the elephant and offers a vastly different description: a thin tail, a big trunk, or the broad, solid side of the elephant. It’s hard to visualize the elephant based on each individual’s description. That’s where a visual can break through any confusion and offer instant clarity.

Whether it’s a quick whiteboard drawing during a Zoom call or the classic napkin sketch, visuals provide understanding and speed up communication. Even if you can’t draw. Good visuals confirm our ideas and validate that others get it. 

Connecting in a Meeting

Years ago I had an on-site meeting in Berkeley to confirm a set of business and integration processes with the goal of managing them within Salesforce. I came prepared, but still didn’t expect the giant conference room table and the more than 20 people gathered around it. There were even more people who wanted to attend but couldn’t. 

How do you manage a crowd like that so everyone can give input, you accomplish what you need, and have a productive meeting? No technical certification can help you out of this pickle.

The Challenge

You’re there to lead the meeting, so it’s your responsibility to ensure the quality and quantity of detail as this project moves forward. 

  • Don’t assume everyone has come prepared and reviewed all the meeting materials ahead of time. 
  • There are often all kinds of issues lurking between attendees that determine who will speak up about what—whether it’s education, status, relationship, budget, etc.
  • Finally, don’t assume the client has worked out all their own internal issues before the meeting. You likely need to help them sort through their own goals, plans, etc., before you can move on to what you actually need.

The most critical goal is to get everyone to participate, contribute, and align.

Notice I didn’t say “agree.”

Agreement is not required. People can have differing opinions, but they’ll commit when they are listened to and respected (see The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni).

The Solution

The best way to align everyone is to offer something they can point to and say “yes” or “no.” Give them a visual. This removes any ambiguity caused by jargon, vernacular, or preconceived ideas. 

I came prepared to my meeting with over 100 visuals—all different process flow mockups showing multiple systems talking to each other, triggering events, and how the data is flowing. Better yet, I worked with a few client team members ahead of time to make sure my imagery was on point and wasn’t brand new to everyone in the room. For a meeting like this, I like to start with a modified version of the customer journey/service blueprint. 

In today’s world of remote meetings, visuals are even more important to speed understanding and hold people’s attention. 

Tip: Visualization tools such as Miro and Lightning Mockup Components can help you create imagery both within and outside of Salesforce quickly and easily.

Instant Clarity

Despite a bigger crowd than I expected, I was able to use those visuals to clearly communicate and avoid any confusion. We aligned the team around the central idea, we gathered and documented potential changes, and everyone felt empowered and encouraged by a productive meeting – even those who couldn’t be there now had something they could comment on. How often do meetings feel like that? 

Tip: For productive meetings, start with momentum, revisit the current milestone, and finish with some material to prove what you accomplished. This makes it easier to loop in those who couldn’t attend, plus in a few weeks when you reconvene, the visuals are a quick way to refresh everyone’s memory. Try doing that with only words.

Don’t try to describe the elephant’s strong, flexible trunk, it’s thin, wispy tail, or it’s broad, solid side. Show a picture of the elephant so everyone instantly understands what you’re talking about.

Need Help?

I’d love to help you share more insider tools, techniques, and tips on visualizing Salesforce at your next webinar or digital event.

I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Jon roughly 3 years ago. Even though it’s been only a short time, I have seen him provide incredible sales/delivery value to every client he comes in contact with and have witnessed first hand the thoughtful dedication to growth of his team. Jon’s unique gift of of insight and passion to serve others leaves no surprise why he strives for the best holistic solution for his clients, and why everyone loves to work with him

Michael Patchen

Salesforce Senior Consultant | Project Manager | Administrator | Developer