I love my job.
The excitement of learning and drawing and new faces all wrapped up into a scary adventure with markers. Every event brings it's own set of quirks, extra services and fun environments. I often recount these experiences in preliminary conversations with new and prospective clients to give them a flavor of my flexibility, ideas, and new ways to wow event attendees.
Technicians and Engineers, a Live Illustration Love Story
I participated in a corporate event full of technicians and engineers. The purpose of the event was to disseminate the strategic focus of their business lines. I was provided (under NDA) a 40 page document outlining their strategic plan. I read through and planned out a graphic through several hours of reading, connecting various components, and creating a compelling visual story to match with the strategic plan that would be shared.
On the day of the event at an off-site location, the team's portable projector broke. That 40 page Power Point presentation was left only shared on phones, small tablets, and a few print outs. My graphics became the visual centerpiece of the room! (I stood near the front and off to the side) I know it is silly, but it felt nice to be the hero.
Various speakers spoke, shared, and delivered their components, and I drew the whole time. One of my final components was the addition of a large serviceman in their industry with his tool box. I drew a heart on his chest and had written words associated with the company culture and a 'can't we all get along' type message. It was a small component, but I thought it was important in light of the day's talking points.
At the end of the event, my customer contact asked all 40 technicians and engineers to check out the graphic recording up close, and to sign their name next to the component that most resonated with them. Several men and women put their name next that heart. i was surprised! This was a room of technology teams - and the most human components of what I drew resonated with them. Coming from an electrical engineering background myself, and knowing the culture, it lightened my heart and made my day.
Pay no attention to the man in the corner with the markers
I acted as a live illustrator for several sessions of a multi-denominational religious conference. There was a lack of communication between my contact and the various conference room hosts-- no one knew who I was! I set myself up at the front of the room, as agreed.
My illustrations went over very well, and participants in the room noticed some heads and glances bouncing between me and the speakers, comically even like a tennis match. My effort in the rooms (100 individuals on average) were successful, but slightly competitive, apparently!
For this reason, I like to give my clients the option of where I should stand. Front, side, rear or right on stage. To me I don't mind any specific location. The only opinion that I give in regards to placement is that of access after the speaking event. How will individuals approach the boards for photos? Will there be room for many people? Does the board need to be rushed OUT to a common area? I like to deliver on whatever the intentions of my client are- be it entertainment, visual recollection, or future photos- so quick access by event attendees is important.
You can't spell geek without a double E
Yes, my degree is in electrical engineering. I fought through classes in circuit design, thermodynamics, and engineering economics. But some of my best lessons for myself in school were those around the presentation of my work. A good looking project, no matter how technically deep, resonates with your professor. Presentation is everything- not the typical college lesson that an engineering student takes away from 4 years of school.
Sorry, I was reminiscing there. Anyway I acted as the graphic recorder / live illustrator for InterWire 2019 day 1 conference sessions. This was a show that one of my previous employer's exhibited in, so I felt pretty darn cool to share that information with them. I had little information about the contents of the presentations, keynote addresses, and panel discussions that I would draw for until I was in each room setting up my easel.
As the only graphic recorder with an electrical engineering degree (that I know of), I was uniquely qualified for this event.
Few projects that I am involved in require the geeky engineering know how that I claim to have from my schooling, but all benefit from my knowledge that presentation is everything!
Divvy up the Work, and... Quoted!
I led a team of graphic recorders at a STEM event for teachers. This multi- concurrent session event had the three of us very busy.
Over the course of three days, the three of us drew for keynote and plenary sessions as live illustrators. But for the concurrent sessions, the three of us split ourselves across across the five disciplinary tracks, sometimes just 15 minutes per workshop, to collect notes on the topics being discussed.
At the end of the ~30 separate workshops, we gathered our notes together, and crafted 5 different boards that were reflective of the entirety of the event. The paper panels were mounted on foam core and presented on easels in a long common hallway. There was plenty of time and space for photographs by event attendees.
At that event, I learned that presenters love to be quoted! I had build a set of graphics related to a discussed topic and the woman that was presenting was choked up from excitement, just seeing that I thought enough to highlight her talk. This was my job, of course, however for her it was more than that.
For this reason, I try to capture quotes from events as much as possible. I also suggest, if there is time, the creation of quote walls to gather 'words heard in the space' of an event. These can be done in a variety of ways, and in either panel discussions, on an exhibit floor, or in coordination with social media feeds.
A Charette too Fast
I acted as a graphic recorder for a charette - a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions. The charette was part of a larger program and had a small window of time scheduled, about 1 hour. I was tasked to use three small boards that I scattered around the room and jump from area to area to gather the topics of discussion and transpose them into graphics. The idea was sound, but I knew I'd be bumping through a crowded room, so I had some small concerns.
Unfortunately, the scheduled time went from 1 hour to under 20 minutes, and I was forced to run from corner to corner and gather as much as I could! The timing was tough, and I continued to fill in graphics during the 'recap and review' portion of the event.
I have had other experiences of rushing from corner to corner, and still other events with a short window of time. Those are always the toughest. The opposite which I have also experienced is so much better: slow conversations heard by all, a schedule that is underplanned, and time not only to draw, but time to hear and be heard. These allow the best in graphic recordings.
Behind the curtain, but who is he?
I haven't spent much time on stage since performing as the Captain in "Anything Goes" in high school. But a night in Warren, Ohio changed that. I participated in a panel discussion regarding the future of the Youngstown area and the play for energy storage in the area's economy.
Initially in the back of the room, and then in the front below the stage, I was escorted by the stage hands behind the curtain. My contact-handler had directed the effort, but I wasn't exactly sure how to appear! Will I be introduced? Do I act as a set piece? Without a speaking role, it was a good question.
I was summarily introduced and had some light interaction with the on stage panel as individuals specifically directed me to draw various objects. It was a unique experience and one with photos that I like to reuse ( in other blog posts).
It is important to know when and how I will appear, and who, if anyone will introduce me.
"You are the balm, B-A-L-M, for this event"
The National Council of State Legislators had me draw for a day of legalese and law for their redistricting conference.
My job was to be a little lighthearted in this room - half the room was red, and the other half was blue. I was told to 'be the balm'. Interesting phrase.
Over the course of the day, besides learning way too much about how the US Census affects district lines for legislative and congressional offices, I learned that hyperbole could go a long way. While being informative, I poked fun at the more subjective topics of the day, and how contentious things could get.
If hyperbole and lightheartedness is important for your event, let me know ahead of time, and I will plan to add a little extra goofiness, accordingly.
Post Event Image Cleanup of Graphic Recordings
A final deliverable at the completion of nearly every event is that of cleaned up image files. I photograph every illustration in the best light possible (sometimes I carry boards around into sunlight) and I bring those back for editing. I've been using Adobe Photoshop since 2002, when I first started working in the wall mural business. Editing image files is a lot of work, but a great reminder of every single event.
A contact recently asked me to see a before and after version of an image. So, here is a recent example! I am not sure if this is exactly the original photo (I usually take several) but it is exemplary of the work done, colors and logos added, and general cleanup.
A sister to the above image, the above original paper "We Must END Demand" image on human trafficking was framed and mounted, seen at a organization open house.