BBP and the Back of the Napkin (Pt. 1 – Randy’s view)

One of the more interesting and highly acclaimed business books of the year is The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures, by Dan Roam.

The book can help in the visual thinking process when planning your visuals and is loaded with sketching techniques—basic techniques that are easy to learn and fun to use.

But specifically, how does the book apply to BBP?

There is a tendency when planning the visual channel in BBP to want to skip over the sketching of each slide and jump right into looking for the graphics to use. But sketching your ideas is a vital part in planning the visual channel in the BBP process.

Sketching the slides may seem like an extra step and you may think, “I’m not a good drawer” anyhow. But sketching your slides first will usually save time in the long run. Sometimes it’s even easier (and quicker) to draw an idea than to try to find a represented graphic.

Sketching used (when appropriate) within a presentation can be another dimension of engagement between the presenter and audience. Roam says in the book that people like seeing other people’s pictures—hand-drawn.

A concern with live sketching is it could be poorly drawn live and that it could disrupt the flow of the presentation. Avoid this by scanning or taking a picture of the sketch and incorporating it into the presentation. You’ll still have the hand-drawn appeal. You could also insert a picture taken of you beginning to sketch with the scanned sketches.

The visual thinking and sketching ideas in the book are certainly a benefit in the BBP process.

If you’ve read the book what are your impressions of the book; and how are you using, or how do you plan to use Back of The Napkin with BBP? Leave a post and let me know!

(Randy Meyer is a BBP Online member and contributor to the BBP Blog.)

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5 Responses to “BBP and the Back of the Napkin (Pt. 1 – Randy’s view)”

  1. Edward (Ted) Langfield says:

    Yes Randy, I have read the book. It contains some interesting concepts, and the visual thinking and sketching ideas in the book are certainly a benefit in the BBP process.

    I have also downloaded several items from Dan Roam’s website which and make the Visual Thinking Codex the SQVID and the 6X6 Rule as illustrated in his book much easier to interpret and use.



  2. Tom Crawford says:

    I think one of the major benefits of using sketches can be that they feel incomplete or that more needs to be added. For a presentation where you’re looking for feedback, finshed graphics have a way of shutting (or at least slowing) the discussion down. By using sketches especially when contrasted against other more polished pieces can allow the audience to feel like there is still room to contribute.

  3. That is a fantastic book. I learned a great deal from reading it. I think the lessons from the Visual Thinking Codex can be applied to PooerPoint as well. I have done it myself in several preetnatiosn (and one screencast) and the response was very favorable.

    I watched a video of a 1 hour presentation Dan gave at Microsot Mix. I highly recommend it.

  4. Pingback: The BBP Blog by Cliff Atkinson » BBP and the Back of the Napkin (Pt. 2 - Meryl’s View)

  5. Randy Meyer says:


    Excellent point Tom when looking for audience feedback and an incomplete sketched slide. It really does engage the audience in ways completed slides do not.

    Additionally, an incomplete sketched slide encourages participation in the BBP process itself. Presentations are enhanced with a collaborative effort and an incomplete sketched slide welcomes input from others to add to the slide and presentation.

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