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Using Digital Writing Tools

Do you use or like the idea of using visual tools in your client engagement to help with communicating your advice?

If so, I’d like to share a little of what I’ve learned from three years of using them and working with advisers who use them.

Each month I get at least 2 or 3 questions from advisers asking about my use of digital writing tools., often coming off the back of one of our webinars or a 1:1 session

I started using an iPad Pro to sketch out notes and concepts live over two years ago. I’ll be honest. At the time, I wasn’t sure about the purchase. For me having an extra-large iPad felt like an indulgent toy, so I was reticent.

However, speaking to another coach talk about how it was one of the best client engagement tools he ever bought tipped me over. So I relented and made my purchase.

I can genuinely say it, coupled with the Apple Pencil, has been one of the best investments I’ve made.

I use it for everything. I use it in coaching meetings when I’m sketching out slide decks, workshop/ webinar plans, providing feedback on webpages, planning almost every facet of the program and the work I do with advice firms.

It’s fundamentally changed my view of the power of removing the need to interface with keyboard-driven software to turn ideas into action, by making it easy to bring an analogue working style to the digital world.

As a communication tool, it takes verbal communication and adds a hugely important visual component. So much research has been done into the benefits of visual communication which I won’t repeat here. The basic idea though is that when you’re using diagrams to illustrate your conversation, you improve comprehension by a factor of three to four.

In speaking to new clients, being able to sketch out your offer, the advice philosophies behind it and how your process works in real-time, like an artist sketches a painting, not only positions you as an expert who has complete clarity over your proposition and how you help, but also makes advice as a whole a far more tangible proposition to understand.

A picture paints a thousand words.

You’re also engaging clients in a creative process, instead of just an “educational” presentation. This is key and an absolute game changer.

For all these reasons and the questions asked, I eventually took all I’d learnt about the “how” of using tablets in this way and put together a white paper spanning both Apple and non-Apple options for those who wanted to know the technical side of things.

If you’d like a copy, feel free to go to this link below and we’ll shoot it through to you.

Using Digital Writing Tools

However, there’s a second part to this, which came through recently from an email I received.

The initial question posed was the standard “what software/ hardware are you using”. However, buried in the inquiry was something equally important and worth sharing.

It was around whether such a tool could replace a laptop.

For me, and I’d suggest most advisers, this is most likely a no.

This isn’t purely because many of the specialist tools we use simply don’t play nicely in the iOS environment (though it is a factor). It’s more than that.

There are instead two main things that I think should stop most advisers from considering something like a tablet as a viable laptop replacement.

Firstly, for the most part, tablets are not creative tools.

What I mean is that the primary function of most tablets is the consumption of media, rather than creation. Sure, they’re great for creating sketches or facilitating simple adviser-to-client conceptual demonstrations free from the barrier of a keyboard, but when it comes to writing, putting together slide decks, editing documents or anything where you need to build from scratch or really work in the fine detail, I find they make things harder rather than simpler.

In other words, the creative benefits of removing the tech barrier from sketching or wireframing are reintroduced for anything more complex (and then some).

It makes it harder.

I’ve tried and each time I find myself reaching for the MacBook.

The second part is the touchscreen element.

Before I fell for the iPad Pro’s wily charms, I was hanging out for a touchscreen laptop. I’m glad I didn’t because a touchscreen on a laptop is simply a bad design idea.

The reason is simple. When you’re trying to use an angled touchscreen, not only is it putting your hand into an unnatural position for any of the functions described above, it also kills fine motor skills.

Drawing on an angle may work on an easel, but tablet screens lack the friction of paper.

The end result is a tool which is entirely unsuited for the kind of conceptual sketching which is the whole point of having it.

In all honesty, I don’t even use the touchpad on my MacBook for the same reason. When you’re editing a document or any type of “small focus” creative task, it’s important to be able to hone in on where you need the cursor to be, or drag and drop with haste and accuracy.

And when it comes to that, you need a mouse.

This may seem like one of those topic blogs that is generalist in nature, and not really relevant to advisers

The truth is though that more and more advisers are looking for ways to better engage clients in the discussion, and good technology is just one of the ways.

It’s nothing that a whiteboard hasn’t been used for previously, albeit the tech offers greater scope for sharing, standardising and capturing for later use, re-use and refinement.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be running a webinar with our program members focused on what comes after the first appointment, after the client has said “Yes”. We’ll be diving into tools, techniques and technology to make it more and more engaging.

I’m also working with a couple of companies who are reimagining the format of the SOA. In other words, they’re not just asking how to create the document faster or with less manual work, but also asking some key questions about the very purpose of it in the first place and how it could, should and can be used to engage clients.

A key part of this is getting insight into the hardware and software options out there, and separating what is useful from that which is not fit for purpose.

In that way, visual tech is no different from any other. There is good tech which can help, and there is bad tech which simply won’t.

Visual writing tools can be a great accompaniment to helping you engage with clients. However, In my mind and my experience, just because tablets can enable this, that doesn’t mean it’s time to abandon your trusty old laptop or desktop.

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