Engaging policy audiences

Visual Note Taking at Conferences

By 06/11/2015

Have you ever sat through a conference and started doodling instead of writing notes? What if someone else did the note taking for you but in visual form?

Visual note taking (or scribing) is a great way to add some extra jazz to conference proceedings. Having a visual representation of a session’s content also helps to capture the key messages in a lasting format which can be sent to participants after the event. Visual notes can be drawn simultaneously alongside a presentation, and they act as a nice point with which to refocus attention for participants who may have become lost within the fine-grained points of a technical talk.

A mix of visual notes and graphics can be a great tool for capturing the key messages of a presentation, particularly for research events that are multilingual. The saying is true: a picture tells a thousand words. Adding hand drawn images gives a certain level of accessibility and imperfection which can improve engagement with what can sometimes be rather long and monotonous research presentations at conferences.

Lastly, visual notes are fun!

There are some great resources that can help you to either take visual notes at conferences, create storyboards for your research or think about commissioning a visual note taker to add some sparkle to your research event.

Here at Research to Action we have collected a few resources as inspiration for you:

  1. This blog by Bethann G Merkle talks about how sketching can improve your conference experience, on her blog CommNatural.
  2. This simple guide by Core77 provides the basics for creating sketched notes.
  3. Here is another basic guide to sketch note taking by UX Mastery.   
  4. This resource list gives some guidance and tips on sketching and beyond, by the ESA page around SciComm.   
  5. Ever thought about using a storyboard to plan your research process? Patrick Dunleavy explains how in this post on the LSE Impact Blog.

The idea for this post was sparked by the giant, and soon to be colourful, visual note banner drawn alongside an event at the University of Manchester’s Policy Week 2015. Photos can be viewed here and the illustrator who created the banner can be found here.

If you have any resources about visual notes or research illustration you would like to share, please comment below or tweet them to @Research2Action.