How to use Mindmaps for speech writing, brainstorming and learning

I have used mindmapping extensively for brainstorming and learning. I created a mindmap to plan my second Toastmasters speech. In this post I will explain the advantages of mindmapping, provide instructions on how to create one, and give examples of where I have used mindmapping to enhance my public speaking.

The problem with Bullet Points

Consider a simple bulleted list. I found this example on Wikipedia’s Logical Fallacies article:

Material Fallacies List

Material Fallacies from Wikipedia

This list has a title and two bullet-points (there were lots more points which I left out). Each bullet-point defines a term which is followed by an example and a list of alternative terms. Everything is laid out in an ordered logical fashion which is easy to read and understand. However the list is designed to be read top to bottom, not to be absorbed at a glance.

I’m guessing you just skipped over the list and didn’t take anything in. That’s fine, it illustrates my point. Let’s examine how the layout of this list prevents easy assimilation:

1. Poor use of space

The title is at the top and serves as the description of what the list contains. Each point is placed below it, and sub-points are placed below each of those. This means that each new point is placed further and further away from the title. If a bullet-point is read in isolation it will not make sense.

The data is not spread out. It is packed in together in a way that might be confusing. Consider the placement of the last sub-point of the first bullet point: It is actually closer to the second bullet point. There is no space in between them, the only indication they are separate is the arbitrary rule that lists grow downwards.

2. Limited use of colour

The list is presented in black and white, with blue hyperlinks. Different points are presented in the same colour.

3. Logical interconnections are not made clear

The two points are presented as distinct “Material Fallacies”, but the descriptions indicate they are both cases poor generalisations. Nothing has been done to indicate a logical connection between them.

Mindmaps

Mindmapping is a method of presenting information in a way that emphasises the logical connections between data, through the use of: connecting lines, colours and images.

Mindmaps are ideal for quickly processing information. Mind maps are far superior to bulleted lists or plain text for brainstorming or for creating easily revisable notes.

Mindmapping throws out the arbitrary rules that govern writing and in order to produce notes that can be understood and memorised in the fastest possible time.

Here is the beginnings of a mindmap to represent the bulleted list we saw earlier.

mindmap

I began by drawing an image in the centre of a landscape page. This is the “title”, a representation of the fundamental concept that everything in the mindmap is connected to. The image should be meaningful to you. In this case I have drawn a bad pun of “Material Fallacies”: the upside down “T” is a logical operator for “false” (in some notations) and I attempted to give it a Pringle pattern to indicate “Material”.

A series of branches grow out of the central image. Each branch represents a major point. It will be drawn in a unique colour and a single word representing the point will be written above it. Second-level branches will be connected to these major branches to represent sub-points. Second level branches are drawn in the same colour as the major branch the connect to.

In this case I have drawn a green “generalisations” branch. The two points in the list are drawn as sub-branches of the generalisations branch, showing how they are related.

I drew a couple of simple pictures next to the text. Pictures provide an immediate indication of what subject that part of the page relates to. If everything was in text it would be considerably slower to review.

I’ve drawn the pink and the purple branches to indicate where other major points would be placed.

Here is useful video I found on YouTube showing you how to create a mindmap using Tony Buzan’s original rules:

Using Mindmaps

I would like to show you some examples of three mindmaps that I have created and used myself.

Learning Material

This mindmap contains all of the information for one of the modules I present when I’m doing technical training with work. I spent a long time creating a good quality mindmap with colour and diagrams. Having the information presented in such a logical way allows me to quickly revise all of the information and see how it all fits together, astonishingly fast.

OSI Mindmap

Writing a Structured Speech

I drew this mindmap to plan my second toastmasters speech. It contains all the points I wanted to make in my Introduction, Conclusion and the anecdotes in between. I created it quickly to help me write my speech and is therefore very rough and only has one colour.

Structuring Speech no.2

Brainstorming

After receiving an interesting evaluation suggesting I needed to “Relax into myself” my mentor and I brainstormed some ideas to achieve this. We did this quickly in the bar and produced this mindmap. The great thing about using mindmaps for brainstorming is that you can jump around ideas constantly noting things down, and still have a structured set of notes at the end, rather than a mass of inaccessible text.

Brainstorming relaxation techniques

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