Graphic recorders are becoming more and more commonplace at conferences large and small across the country. Some of the benefits of including a graphic recorder are:
- Helping attendees remember and reflect upon highlights of presentations or breakout sessions
- Supporting attendees in seeing connections and themes across multiple presentations or days of content
- Making it easy for breakout groups to share what they talked about with other conference attendees
- Creating social media buzz around the conference as people Tweet pictures of the charts with your event’s hash tag
- Having a detailed and visually engaging record of what happened at the event
I’ve recorded at a number of large conferences, often with a group of 2-5 other graphic recorders, and sometimes the graphic recording works beautifully to support the objectives of the event, and sometimes the organizer just doesn’t get the most out of the investment. Here are my top tips for successfully integrating graphic recording into your large event.
1. Make sure people can see. I’ve recorded in huge ballrooms where only the 30 people closest to the board could see what I was doing. Believe me, this really bugs some people. You can solve this challenge by having multiple recorders in the room or by having a camera next to the recorder to project the work onto large screens that everyone in the room can see.
In some cases, you might not have the room or inclination to have the recorder in the front of the room near the speaker (maybe your room is very cramped or your speaker doesn’t want a graphic recorder working while they’re talking). If you still want the content recorded, consider having the recorder sit in the back of the room and record the session on an iPad. Once the session is over he or she can then immediately send you the images or post them on Flickr or Twitter for you.
2. Explain what’s going on. A confused attendee is not a focused or engaged attendee, so start the conference by introducing your graphic recorder and why he or she is in the room with all those pens.
3. Display the work. Post charts on meeting room walls or build a cube out of boards and display the charts on the sides of the cube in the middle of a huge conference venue. Aside from making your event look great, the charts create a visual record of what’s been happening at the conference, so late arrivers can quickly get up to speed. The charts can also be great conversation starters during coffee breaks or evening receptions. My colleague Lisa Arora and I created more than 18 charts in two days for a Canadian conference we attended last year:
4. Use the charts to further dialogue and learning during the event. Work with your facilitators and graphic recorders to think of creative ways to use the charts during the conference to foster learning. For example, you could have attendees do a gallery at the end of the first day and then check in with other attendees about their key takeaways at their table groups. Or you could have one breakout group present to another group using the chart that was created for or by them in their breakout session. You could also ask people to take a picture of a key idea and Tweet it out for others to respond to. There are dozens of creative ways to get the most from the charts that are being created for you.
5. Get attendees in on the action. This isn’t right for every group, but if your event objective involves collaboration or creating something together (a vision or a new strategy for example), then consider including a session that gets the attendees drawing and sharing ideas visually. Your facilitator and recorder can help design a session that won’t be intimidating for attendees and that can create tremendous levels of engagement.
6. Use the charts to create continuity after the event. Images of charts can be posted on your event website or turned into an e-book or physical handbook to be distributed to people after the event. The books can be simple stapled affairs with color copies of the charts, or beautiful bound photo books of the charts that also include photos of attendees. For conferences that make money selling content from the event to people who couldn’t attend, the charts would make a great addition to the packet of materials.
Graphic recording is a fantastic way to create engagement, learning and energy at a conference. Working with your recorders to create a plan for putting the charts to work will help you get the most out of your investment.
Lane Change Consulting is a consultancy based in San Francisco specializing in graphic facilitation and team effectiveness. We design and facilitate strategic, collaborative conversations that create clarity, focus and engagement in organizations. We can be reached at email@example.com.