The bullet, the point, the mind, and the map

I'll be giving a presentation at the Critical Issues for the Preservation of Datasets in Uppsala, Sweden later this month. And since returning from SXSW Interactive I've been thinking a good deal about how to both present to, and interact with, an audience. Nancy White moderated the "Us and Them: A blog conversation survival guide" SWSW panel, and used mind maps to manage and summarize the discussion. I like these pictures; they're easy to browse, and generative when looked at closely. I was already tiring of the power-pointalism of many business and scientific presentations. Nancy's wizardry with the circles and lines have pushed me into mind-mapping my next presentation. I have no idea what I'm actually doing, but I'm hoping it's as easy to do as it looks. But, hey, that's an empirical question.

So now I need to make up my mind about mind mapping software. Nancy uses MindManager by Mindjet, and it looks good. I've also come across NovaMind, and it also looks good. The Mindjet website led me to The Mind Mapping Software Weblog that contains some useful resource links. So it looks like I have some work cut out for me. I need to find the software, map my mind (er, my talk), and still be able to make some points. This will be different and different is good (usually). If you have any tips or anything to share regarding the maps as well as the mapping, please leave a note.

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Well, the MindManager trial-period is extremely short (not really long enough for a tool like this) and a salesman will call, which suggests this is a high-transaction-cost purchase.

My second concerns were the mishandling of the Microsoft SOAP redistribution license and the failure to notify me of the PDFExchange license (which has some pretty strict terms).

Finally, they didn't have a patched zlib to handle the latest security exploits against that software and the uninstall left junk buttons on my system.

Other than that, everyone I know raves about it. For me it was an "ick," a beautifully-packaged ick.

Oh, and I liked the idea that MindManager works with the TabletPC.

I didn't like the idea that they don't use a standard interchange format for mind maps, or else I couldn't tell if they did or not. There seems to be some turmoil in that area at this point.

Hey Bill, one thing to consider is if you have access to a tablet PC, some of the mind mapping software can be really sweet on a tablet. So you can sketch out, literally, your nodes, then switch to typing to fill in the text.

Whatever you choose, do some trial runs. You can use a mind map as a presentation tool, but it feels and operates differently enough that I had to adjust myself a bit. The first time I did it I thought I had a handle on it. I did not. Experimenting with how much detail and resolution is critical.

I took raw notes at SXSW, then edited them down significantly. I was feeling ill that day, so I could not synthesize well on the fly. I also did not do it in a way that was easy for people to see on the screen. You really have to watch the detail level when doing it on screen in public.

What I have seen is that mind maps are very useful when your conversation or presentation has a lot of bits to it. The mind map allows us to see patterns, connect bits together and avoid overwelm. It is a great summary tool too (which we did not do at SXSW but if I had manged the time better, it would have been fun. )

As it is, I've gotten a lot of comments on the usefulness of the "maps as notes" -- and I've found this consistent with feedback on other map sets.

By the way, there is also an open source mind mapping tool but my mind can't seem to recall it right now!

I'd be happy to provide you with a copy of MindManager Pro 6 and give you a quick online demo if you want to see for yourself if it will work for your presentation. I'm at