Conference planners hire Graphic Recorders to illustrate keynote addresses, special speakers, plenary gatherings, workshops, and breakout sessions in real time. Illustration typically takes place on large paper or paper panel boards, or occasionally on screen.
My name is Matt Orley, and I am a graphic recorder working as Big Paper Strategy LLC across the United States.
There is much more that a graphic recorder can bring to a conference – think engagement, discovery, and enjoyment from attendees, speakers, AND sponsors.
Let’s start easy with the bread and butter of the job: capturing presentations and discussions.
Graphic Recording at Event Sessions and Meeting Discussions
Graphic recording of keynotes, panel discussions, breakouts, workshops, and meetings result in unique visual content for event attendees on large boards or paper. Attendees seek out and view a graphic recording (as part of an art walk) and review what they heard, discover what they didn’t, capture images through a photograph, share online, and keep photographs as memory aids.
Graphic recording is larger than life note taking that takes place in real time during your event or meeting- but extends the life of your event far into the future:
So I received a thank you note from a conference attendee this week, it was really intended for you, it said “My boss asked me what I learned at the conference, and I was petrified, but I remembered the photos of the boards I took. So I just looked at each and reviewed. I’ve justified my ticket for next year!” – Conference Organizer Britt P.
A typical conference day for me is running between general session room, and one or two breakout session rooms, drawing up to 6 panels (roughly 100 sqft) per day.
Alternate: A Graphic Recorder can gather notes from multiple sessions to illustrate into a larger illustration to create an even greater impact. This takes some planning, but it is worth it!!
Comment Wall Graphic Recording
A Comment Wall at a conference allows attendees to directly help build an image. A skilled graphic recorder will gather comments via various methods and place each into a themed graphic on a board designated as the comment wall. Collection methods may be verbal, an online form, social media, a small paper form or even simple post-it-notes.
Not only does such a wall beg to be read by event attendees with a fear of missing out, but it also gives your vendors a place to brag. Attendees who are quoted are grateful that their comments are illustrated.
Comment walls can be sponsored by one or more vendors that either
- have their logo drawn by a graphic recorder onto the comment board, or
- find their quotable quote listed in prominence.
Quoted vendors photograph and share this type of comment, showing their constituents and company management that they are valued.
Variations: Comment Walls can be map, segment, or role-based, allowing like-minded concepts, and people, to gather.
Sponsor Logo and Tagline Mega-Wall
Many conference websites list platinum, gold, silver and bronze sponsors. These lists are recreated in print on conference pamphlets and signage next to sponsorable meals, snacks, and charging stations.
There is one way, however, that guarantees attendee photographs of a vendor’s message.
The concept logo and tagline Mega wall is simple – use available hours of a graphic recorder to draw out logos and taglines for sponsoring vendors in marker and oil pastels. A quick rendering of a logo and message can be sized according to the amount of sponsorship for the conference at large or for the mega wall- all blended in with multiple thematic elements.
Such a wall must be sized according to the size of the show. If there are 250 vendors that each sign up for 2 square feet of space, ( or 5, or 10) you can imagine a board that can be 20 feet wide and 8 or more feet high. This type of wall can be high-impact and absolutely used as a photo backdrop.
A lot of planning can go into a logo and tagline wall, but the results can be exciting to see built!
If your event is short on education sessions- this method is a great way to use an under utilized graphic recorder.
Mega Machine or Process Wall
Whether you are a trade show for plastic injection molding, or a conference of those fighting the crime of sex trafficking, vendors and speakers each play a part in the overall holistic view of the industry covered.
With a lot of thought and effort, large scale illustrations drawn by a graphic recorder can show how sponsorable vendors and speakers fit into the manufacturing line, process, or ecosystem of individuals and groups focused on changing the world.
What might be drawn? An entire manufacturing facility, a hospital with medical equipment, a city or state with social services spread across a land mass, or a multi-faceted farm that shows the source of each food for a restaurant show.
Vendors and Sponsors of such a wall can receive prominent placement.
This type of project requires intensive planning, prework, and customer participation.
Event Experience Drawing
Your event brochure or app may have a calendar or event schedule. That’s awesome, but it does not necessarily represent the path an attendee might take through your conference?
Conference attendees may see value in the creation of either a real-time, or an early developed Event Walk illustration crafted by a graphic recorder.
Consisting of the steps a typical user might take through your event- a drawing may consist of footstep patterns between speakers, exhibitors, badge pickup, cafe, outside breaks, vendor meetings and more. While a vendor could possibly SPONSOR a stop on this walk, it may not be necessary. This type of illustration, complete with your event logo, may see many photographing it because it represents the person’s day in one single image.
Attendees, especially ones that may not typically attend events, may like to see typical conference experiences as well- and may serve as reminders for important but overlooked components of your event.
Location Map or Maps
Could you represent the activities and locations of your event as an island? a map for a fantasy realm? or maybe an ocean liner? A map crafted by a graphic recorder can provide a delightful representation of the event experience, and provide a framework for attendee input (see attendee engagement above!)
Stats Reporting by Graphic Recording
A unique way to show that your event is fulfilling its purpose is to keep score and share statistics through a graphic recorder’s illustrations. This novel but not often used method showcases the successes of your event as it happens. Examples for stats on a reporting board?
- 520 attended the keynote address
- 16 registered from Wisconsin
- 27 people from Mexico picked up their badges this morning
- VendorX finished setting up 3 days ago
- VendorY has given out 62 bags of Hershey bars as of Tuesday at 1pm
- VendorZ asked when their presentation is starting FOUR TIMES so far.
Silly stats like this establish a sense of community, and inclusiveness of the event itself.
Sponsorable Scavenger Hunt Boards
There are now a multitude of scavenger hunt apps that are applicable for conferences. A graphic recorder’s illustrations can produce all of or part of the items that an individual armed with a phone and app are looking for.
A graphic recorder can be armed with a number of targeted objects to draw inside of a live illustration. Animals, ideas, buildings, cities, emotions, all can be sought.
Sketchnote or Graphic Recording Challenge
Who said only one person should bring crayons to your conference? Many conferences – especially those in education, include training on how to create sketchnotes. A sketchnote is a graphic recording at a notebook scale.
As a fun addition to a speaker or a workshop or series of workshops, consider holding a sketchnoting challenge and judging at the end of your event to see who is the best artist in the room.
Alternately, consider live graphic recordings from volunteers in the general attendee population- not only might this add levity, but adds a sense of competition. A professional graphic recorder can act as a coach, lead by example, or compete in the competition.
Guest Map (with Vendor Added Pins)
Zoom out! Create a national or world map as a graphic recording. Then, based on your registrations, add a heavy sampling of attendee names (first name, last initial) as highlights as pins or people on the map to show the reach of your conference.
Want to make this sponsorable? Offer spaces for a dozen spaces to also include their corporate headquarters.
Who said humans have to do the drawing?
There are a slew of individuals and hobbyists that create robots… on a wire. These devices look like a small robot holding a pen attached to strings. You can utilize this wonky set up to illustrate anything that you like. With the abrupt beginning of the Artificial Intelligence Era here in the 2020s, the sky is the limit. Ask Big Paper Strategy’s Matt Orley about his favorite tool chain for AI and robot usage for drawing. (Matt’s an electrical engineer, by the way, so it’s kind of his thing)
Social Stream Updates captured by a Graphic Recorder
Sure you can put out a hashtag for your attendees to utilize in social media. Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and others are a great way to allow your attendees to interact. However, the reality is that hashtags often go under-used. Imagine utilizing a graphic recorder to monitor the social feeds and provide a drawing outlet for what’s being talked about.
Send out your hashtag and tell your attendees that some all the social shares will be translated into images on paper to be shared during and after your event.
News releases, signs and announcements get lost in the haze of a conference or show. Consider utilizing a graphic recorder to pick and choose newsworthy items and record them on panels that may be centralized, or distributed around your conference.
This handwritten method is appreciated because the notes are drawn and written by human being. Content is more meaningful as it is curated, and illustrated.
The Being-Present Value of Graphic Recording
The point of all that creativity above, is just to show that the sky is the limit when incorporating graphic recording at your next event.
Big Paper Strategy can help you plan the graphic recording. The combination of concepts is where creativity and excitement flourish. Truth be told, the term graphic recording sounds so…. pretentious, however it is commonly used by many. I choose to be called a live illustrator.