I’ve recently just made it back home from a conference. While I was there, I mind mapped the keynotes – something I have done at previous events. I received some really nice feedback on these and thought it would be nice to write up a quick guide of how to do it!
The first thing you need to do is decide on a medium. While you can hand draw them, you generally need a very big sheet of paper – so unless you’ve got a wall to hand, software if your best bet. There are LOADS of mind mapping tools, both free and paid for. Biggerplate has a ranked list of mind mapping software on their website. I personally use iMindMap. While most software has a broadly similar feature set, I feel iMindMap has a couple of unique modes. Most importantly, I think the maps it produces are the most aesthetically pleasing. If you’re going to do this – it may as well by pretty!
If you go digital, you’ll probably find it faster if you have access to a keyboard. This can either be a laptop, or a tablet with keyboard cover or bluetooth keyboard.
Practice the method
No matter what tool you are using, paper or software – you must practice. You need to be very confident with the process of creating a mindmap, especially when you are doing this for a keynote or lecture. This is because you need to be fast. If you’re not used to the software or the process, your notes will be slow and the mindmap will hinder your notes – not help them.
I think mind mapping from existing notes or book chapters is an excellent place to start. If you are using software, it will help you with the map format. If you are going hand-drawn, the iMindMap website has a great page on the technique and a fully detailed PDF guide that goes into the science. Still – I recommend the software!
At some point you need to practice mind mapping a live event. It’s best to do this for something recorded or something that doesn’t really matter. As this is your first event based map – you may miss some points or not be as quick as you need. Don’t rely on this approach until you’re confident with it!
Practice with the software is particularly important. They all tend to be pretty intuitive, but it is best to practice capturing at speed.
Mind mapping a live event
This bit assumes you are confident with mapping:
When you are mind mapping an event, you need to focus on getting everything down. You should try and make sure you get things into the correct hierarchy and tree – but don’t worry if you don’t quite manage this. The beauty of software is that you can copy/paste/move things around easily. If you decide to go for a paper map, you may need to make a tidier version once you’ve finished.
Don’t worry too much about the overall structure. As your map grows through the event you will get a better idea of the more important elements. Then you can begin to re-order things as you go. If your software supports multiple ‘central ideas’, or concept mapping, it may be easier to split/move your tree around afterwards.
Whatever you do – do not focus on branch shaping and location. Let your map be messy! At the end of the event you can reshape everything and move it to where it needs to be. Do not let this distract you from capture as you can only do that in the event. Smartening things up is a job for later.
You will find most software has an automatic structuring feature, snapping feature or ‘clean up’ feature. This will keep everything in some form of order as you go. The software I use, iMindMap has a really good clean up feature that tidies things up and makes sure everything is legible and in its own space. If you’re working from a single central idea, it also has a special capture mode that explicitly lets you focus on getting things down – and not on structure.
If you want to include images or photos in your mindmap, these can be done afterward – or as you go along. It tends to be easier to do this afterwards, but if you’re quick, it is nice to capture as you go along to ensure images are in the correct place. I do this a lot when capturing slides that I embed inside my map. As I have an iPhone and a MacBook Pro this is an easy process. I use Microsoft Office Lens to capture board pictures and then use AirDrop to send it to the MacBook and then into the software. That sounds like a fair process – but it is quite quick with practice!
As an example, here is an initial screenshot from the capture and another towards the end:
This final version is finished after the event. I spend time tweaking the branches and central ideas so everything fits. Sometimes I add in a few more links, reflections or questions to further reflect my thinking. Checking spelling and grammar comes at this point too, as does the inclusion of additional images.