You’ve probably been to at least one event with a so called “graphic recorder”. Also known as a scribe or skethchnote artist. Graphic recording can be an engaging way to capture key ideas, insights and debates at events, meetings or workshops. But sometimes the content isn’t quite what you wanted. Or the drawings don’t get used effectively. Did you for example know that scribing content can have a life span of many years?!

Here are my and my colleague Veronica’s tips on how to get the most out of graphic recording at your event. (To see examples of our event work check out our graphic recording gallery).

1)  Entertain, summarise or facilitate? (Or a combination?)

The first question to ask yourself is why you need a graphic recorder.

Do you want to entertain the audience? Or is it more important to have a summary you can share with the participants AFTER the event? Or is there a need to share content via social media throughout the day? Or will the graphic recorder facilitate a meeting or a workshop? Or perhaps a combination?

If the focus on entertainment then it’s important that the audience sees the content as it develops. So we need to think about logistics: are we going to use a big screen behind the speaker perhaps? Or use a big sheet of paper? If so, where should it go? That sort of stuff.

If a summary is more important than putting up a show then the artist(s) can put a bit more effort into listening and analysing what is being said. They can sit quietly at the back with their iPads or pieces of paper and capture stuff that they might not be able to capture if they were drawing in front of an audience.

If social media content is important then it’s better that the artist does sketchnoting at the back with an iPad (or a sketchbook). That way they can produce individual content pieces throughout the day (one artist can usually produce 10-30 sketchnotes a day). I define a sketchnote as a drawing that has only ONE theme on it. It isn’t complex – it only captures one point or idea. These are easier to share via social media than a big complex poster. Who knows, they can even help get your event hashtag trending :). (After the event the sketchnotes can be put together into an infographic, booklet, PowerPoint presentation or a poster).

Twitter reaction to a cartoon infographic from an event. Check out the summary piece to see what kind of event content spreads well online.

Graphic facilitation on the other hand is less about creating stunning visuals, and more about helping people think. The drawings tend to be more schematic and less funny – the drawing should not steal the show.

2) What kind of summary piece?


A summary poster from an event on chemical engineering and the science of sustainability

You’ve probably seen scribing posters that have a lot of information in them. See example above. They are great if the audience have the time to look at them. They look nice when printed out on a wall.

But what if you share the content in a mass email to your staff who weren’t at the event? It really needs to make sense to them right away – a poster with a lot of info can be a bit too much for someone in a hurry!

Then you need something that breaks the content into more digestible bits – and perhaps has a bit of a narrative to it. An infographic summary or a PowerPoint slideshare with a narrative twist can be a better option. See an example of a keynote as a narrative infographic. Pieces with a narrative take a bit longer to produce: it’s editorial work that needs a bit more thinking.

3) Channels?

How is the content going to be shared? Email? Social media? Printed handouts? Carrier pigeons? All these inform our choice of format.

4) One or several scribes?

If your event has breakout sessions or parallel tracks at at conference you might need more than one graphic recorder (we haven’t figured out how to be in multiple places at once!). Alternatively: if you are recording all the talks one scribe could capture some sessions after the event.

5) Do you need the content right away or is after the event ok?

We produce our best summaries after the event. We’ve had time to digest all the info, see which bits belong together etc. We also have more time to add colour and generally make the piece prettier. If you want a piece to hang on the wall or something that needs to make sense to an audience who weren’t at the event (i.e. it needs to have a narrative of some sort) then I would recommend giving us a day or two after the event to produce a better looking and/or more coherent piece.

6) Is it OK to capture conflict?

If this is an internal event: is it ok to visualise debates where people have different opinions? Where ideas are challenged? Let us know.

Confused?

A good graphic recorder will ask you questions to determine what approach works for your goals. Also, it’s not like you have to choose between different formats. We can for example do both sketchnotes and a summary poster and a PowerPoint presentation.

As a communications professional I want to create content that has impact. That’s why I like to talk to clients about what they would like to achieve. Or help them define their goals if they are a bit hazy about what they want. It’s totally ok not to know what your goal is by the way. You might intuitively know that a visual might help, you’re just not sure how exactly.

If you want to chat about graphic recording just drop us a line at info(at)businessillustrator.com

Virpi
@voinonen