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Posted by on Jan 24, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

How to Rock Visual Notetaking – It’s Conference Season!

You know how you’ve taken notes at conference in the past, like, words on paper?  Well, there’s a new way in town called visual notetaking (or sketch notes).  You basically draw pictures to document session highlights, quotes and connections. If a picture tells a thousand words, visual note-taking, in theory, can help you take home a lot more of the conference.

My first encounter with artists-as-session recorders kinda sucked. The artist had no clue as to the subject matter (equitable development), and ended up picking up on the most inane quotes and draw-ables. Since then I’ve seen good ones, so the trick is knowing how to harness drawings to record more (and more meaningful) content. Here’s a little backgrounder on how you can do awesome notes.

Dave Grey

Dave Grey

What is Your Purpose for Sketching?  Think about how you will use the visual notes. If you think you might remember content better with images, this is a good reason.  The second is if you intend to share content with clients and co-workers not in attendance. Finally, if you are in the content business (i.g. communications director, blogger), sketch notes are critical for building influence on image-based channels like Pinterest, SlideShare and even Instagram.

What are Advantages? Sketching lends itself to several types of content: quotes, charts, presentation flow, mind mapping and visual connections. The disadvantages are keeping up with material as it is presented, and getting caught up sketching material that is easy to draw rather than most relevant.

Live Versus Later? – Because we are processing information and drawing, I prefer sketching in a small book as material is presented and do the fancy work later. I also like to use larger pads of drawing paper for finished sketches.

Skethcnote 3

Tools?  At a minimum, blank paper (book or steno pad), pencils and pens are tools of the trade.  The pros use upscale notebooks like Moleskin and great black pens with thick and thin points. Colored pencils and pens add a nice touch, but if using Sharpies, make sure the ink doesn’t bleed through. Bring a highlighter to highlight main points (some tools are timeless!) Also bring along post it notes (3×3 will do) to augment information or record your ideas on what’s being said. Materials can get expensive, so use coupons from Michael’s and other craft stores (Sunday paper or on smart phones) to get good materials for a great price.

Also — don’t forget your phone and apps for taking photos and arranging information.  You might find photos + sketch notes best capture information.  Look for apps that let you craft collages of different images.

Preparation?  There are several things to do pre-conference:

  1. Study the conference program ahead of time to get a sense of material. This will be important if you think you will need to link material among various sessions
  2. Practice your lettering and icons you plan to use (people, arrows, banners, charts)
  3. Study various layout options like the ones below
  4. Search “visual notetaking”  and “sketch notes” on Pinterest for inspiration.
  5. For more, Austin Kleon has a great page on how to draw for Viznotes

    Example from open journalism session in the UK : Afroditi

    Example from open journalism session in the UK : Afroditi

sketchnotes template

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