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I recently appeared before the New Orleans City Council to argue that food truck vendors should be allowed to operate in the city, addressing various issues such as health concerns, regulatory oversight, parking, zoning, etc. I could have used Powerpoint slides, but instead I decided to use a mindmap. I presented my mindmap using an iPad Mini and an $9.99 app called iThoughtsHD. The presentation went extremely well, and I’m now convinced that presenting from a mindmap on an iPad is a powerful tool for lawyers. My presentation is here and embedded below (the yellow haze is due to technical issues at City Hall). The full Committee meeting is was online, but no longer is.

Here’s why I’m pleased with this new way of presenting. First, and most surprisingly, it was easier to create and edit my presentation using iThoughtsHD on an iPad than it would have been to create a traditional PowerPoint or Keynote presentation on a computer.

More importantly, however, using the mindmap helped me develop a better, more persuasive argument. Why do I say that?

Well, first off, a mind map lets you organize thoughts in a non-linear fashion, but still retain the ability to move through arguments in an orderly way. In other words, it has structure and flexibility.

When I started developing my argument using the mindmap app I didn’t have to worry about the order of my arguments or the precise structure. I was able to externalize my first thoughts quickly, without worrying about details until the end of the process. In short mindmaps are great for brainstorming, and making sure you’ve covered all the possible bases.

The key to mindmaps is finding a program that’s simple so that the brainstorming isn’t inhibited by technical complexity. iThoughtsHD fits the bill perfectly, and using an iPad also helps make things easy.

Although the app has many powerful features, it’s easy to figure out how to use the simple ones you need most. One powerful feature that’s worth figuring out is how to add images. I used images in my presentation at various points, not just for the novelty, but to make key points that were best conveyed with pictures. For example, I showed images of happy people in line next to a food truck to reinforce the argument that the public likes the convenience of food trucks. Adding images to a mindmap in iThoughtsHD is dead simple.

The big surprise for me about mindmaps was how it helped me make my argument more effectively. People have been trained to dread powerpoint slides with bullet points, but a mindmap is brain friendly for the presenter and the audience. It allowed me to move through my arguments with the council constantly seeing the roadmap of my points. I wasn’t interrupted at all, and I think that since they could see all the main points I was going cover they weren’t worried that I was not going to address some concern that they had.

And although I followed my map in a clock-like order, I think it’s important to note that I did not have to. If I had had to skip around, it would’ve been much easier using a mind map rather than a linear presentation. And the mindmap lets me open up branches as I needed to get into them and then collapse them easily when I moved on to the next major point.

All in all, I believe iThoughtsHD is a great app and I’ll definitely be using it more often. Still, I have two minor complaints: First, there is no way to make an image full-screen. I had to pinch to zoom to make images bigger. I would have liked to make some of my images full screen. I asked the developer about this, and he noted that it is a limitation that he would like to overcome.

The second complaint is with sharing the mind map. Obviously, you can’t expect the Council members to have iThoughtsHD and an iPad. But you probably can expect them to ask you for the presentation, as they did with me. In my case, I had to export the presentation to Word and email it to their staff members (this is where it’s good to have the cellular option for your iPad). iThoughtsHD produced a 16 page Word document, which isn’t as good as a mindmap, but it works and made the council staff happy.

Next time I have to give a presentation, I am definitely using my iPad mini and iThoughtsHD. If you have an iPad you should check this out too. Perhaps you’ll feel the same way I do.

Video of City Council Hearing

iThoughtsHD Presentation by Andrew Legrand from PaperlessChase on Vimeo.

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