A New Type of Presentation: SketchKeynote

I’ve designed a new style for my presentations. I’m calling it the “sketchkeynote style”.


What could be the result when you want to radically change (and hopefully improve) the visual part of your presentations? Well, maybe something like this:

I was happy with my previous presentations, Let’s Help Melly and Blueprint for a Tribal Business. They look fine, and they are appreciated by my audiences. But step-by-step improvement (Kaizen) didn’t seem to work for me anymore. I felt I needed something radically different (Kaikaku). I was stuck on a local peak in the fitness landscape, and I wanted to discover new territory.

This is what I came up with:

  1. From now on, everything on my slides is hand-made. No textboxes, no line art, no Windows TrueType fonts. Only hand-drawn illustrations and hand-written texts.
  2. I make an exception for photos that I want to show, but the photos are integrated in the illustrations, being part of the overall structure.
  3. Multiple slides together form a complete sketchnote which visualizes one short “story”. The narrative builds up the sketchnote as if it is flowing over the page.
  4. The whole drawing is visible (but dimmed) right from the start, and yet the sketchnote becomes more visible as the narrative moves forward.
  5. While the story moves all over the sketchnote, only the part I’m talking about is highlighted in color and then reverts to black when I’m done.
  6. The entire presentation consists of many sketchnotes, which build up in a similar way. A one hour presentation can easily be 300 individual slides.

That’s why I call this style sketchkeynote. It is a keynote made up from sketchnotes.

Presentation Experiment

I tested my new format for the first time on Tuesday at an AgileHolland session, and the next morning at the WorldPay [Re]Think event for which I was invited to give a keynote. The response I got was great:

  • “Wow!”
  • “Awesome visual style”
  • “The drawings make it vivid”
  • “Hand-drawn rocks, as do the color changes.”
  • “Great flow”
  • “Seeing the whole sketchnote kept my attention.”
  • “Your drawing skills are remarkable”

And my favorite:

  • “Like a shark hi-fiving a gorilla in front of an explosion.”

I don't know what the last one means, but it sounds good! 🙂

I also received plenty of suggestions for small changes, for which I am very grateful. Do more of this, do less of that, stop doing this, and start doing that. All comments were good and useful. But they were about minor improvements, of the Kaizen-type. For me the most important thing this week was to validate the effect of a radical Kaikaku-type change: a new presentation style as a series of sketchnotes that all unfold as stories.

I believe the experiment was successful. 🙂

People said it was remarkable, personal, and effective.

Now I can focus on all the small step-by-step improvements, such as better drawings, better language, better timing, and better jokes. Believe me when I say that both creating and delivering this kind of presentation is quite different from my earlier ones! Many things I learned with earlier slide decks have suddenly become completely useless. The new learning path leads up to an entirely different peak.

Great! I love discovering new creative territories.

Sometimes, when you’re stuck improving things in a step-by-step fashion, consider throwing everything out. Start all over, in a new direction. And enjoy the re-learning.

p.s. I am publishing only a fragment of my first sketchkeynote presentation (two stories) as an example. For now I prefer to keep a sense of exclusivity for customers. 😉  Do you want me to speak at your event? Contact me.

p.p.s. I know other people also draw their slides. But my specific twist to this concept is showing/dimming the whole sketchnote and then only highlighting parts in color.

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  • http://profile.typepad.com/lucianadrian Lucianadrian


    “Like a shark hi-fiving a gorilla in front of an explosion.”
    I don’t know what the last one means, but it sounds good! :-)”
    Jurgen do you remember the last slide @wikispeed had in his closing keynote at #ale13 ? That is a visual representation, only that Joe said it represented “technology hi-fiving mother nature in front of Big Bang..”

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    Ah, yes! I remember. Thanks.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/aldos Aldos

    It would be cool to make a web app that enables this using html canvas. That would be pretty fun to build – you could draw a number of sketches, save them, then drag them into place on a canvas and add metadata like the order, etc. Then you could use something like popcorn.js to add an audio stream that coordinates the visualization effects with the audio…
    If I only had more time…
    I like this approach to presentations Jurgen – it seems like a simpler (and more accessible) version of the moving-hand presentations where the picture is drawn while you watch. I think the moving hand is a distraction and like the approach you’ve taken to letting your story unfold progressively.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    Thanks! Well, I like the moving-hand animations, but it seems they are already becoming somewhat cliché. I tried to be a little bit different. 🙂

  • http://profile.typepad.com/aldos Aldos

    The moving hand gimmick ran its course pretty quickly… it’s the gradual reveal that matters

  • http://fluidcircle.net Michał

    I for one still LOVE the Drive sketch-video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

  • http://profile.typepad.com/vanderpal Linda Van der Pal

    I really love this idea and might adopt it for future presentations. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.growingagile.co.za Karen Greaves

    Cool! We do something similar, but much more low tech. We just draw on paper and scan the slides 🙂
    See some examples here:
    http://growingagile.co.za/2013/08/should-your-company-go-agile/
    http://growingagile.co.za/2013/08/agile-africa-the-agile-testing-mindset/
    The best part – it is so much faster than using any tools. If we want a transition we draw half the picture, scan it, fill it in and scan it again. Then just drag all the scanned images into PPT. Took less than an hour to put together the slides for each presentation above.

  • http://worldacademyonline.com Victoria

    Thank you for the wonderful idea! Will try to use it in my next presentation and measure the effect – as I’m making presentation in tech the only exeption will be graphics – they represent number the best

  • Eduardo

    I’m expecting to see your new presentation on Agile Trends BR 2013.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    That will depend on the organizers. 🙂

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