I’ve been graphically recording sessions at the California Society of Association Executives’ annual conference. Attendees rush up afterwards to take photos and shower me with compliments, then rush off to their next session. I rarely get a chance to answer two important questions:

  • What happens to these pictures afterwards?
  • How might this work be useful to my association?

Recording keynote presentations, while providing an opportunity for folks to see me in action, isn’t necessarily the highest use of this work. It does provide a visual summary of the session, which is often much more evocative than purely textual notes. Sketchnotes are even MORE useful when you create them yourself, capturing the points that are most useful to YOU. I lead workshops on how you can use visual tools yourself to improve your notetaking, clarify your thinking, and communicate more effectively.

This work REALLY shines when it is incorporated into a group’s actual work. Visioning and strategic planning sessions in particular benefit from these visuals, allowing participants to literally be “on the same page” as they map out their plans. I design interactive activities that get participants up at the drawing wall themselves, wielding markers and sticky notes to capture, arrange, and prioritize their ideas. These charts can get messy – they are working documents rather than finished art pieces.

Visual tools can also be helpful in untangling complicated problems or conflicts. As the participants and I collaboratively map out processes or work flows, it’s easier to see previously undiscovered gaps and redundancies.

Regardless of the setting in which I create these large images, my next step is to render them into a format that is a little easier to handle than an eight-foot long chart. I have them scanned into high resolution digital files; clients get both the paper and the digital images. (Clients with enough wall space may hang the originals in their office.) The images can be incorporated into reports or other documents, or printed in a variety of sizes for distribution or posting.

In my next post, I’ll give some more concrete examples of ways that organizations utilize graphic recordings to enhance their work.