Graphic recording is your speechwriting secret weapon

sam bradd, artist, vancouver, image, visual facilitation, what is graphic recording, what is graphic facilitation, illustration, union, indigenous, knowledge translation, public engagement, vision, innovation in engagement, illustrator, best practice, vector, visualization, visual learners, infographic, graphic design, mind map, mind mapping, visual practitioner, creativity, sketch noters, visual notetaking, facilitator, visual thinking, information architects, visual synthesis, graphic translation, group graphics, and ideation specialists, live drawing, group facilitation, group collaborative work, world cafe, conference, information design, information designers, virtual coaches, educator, non-profit, progressive, environment, sustainability, community, health, indigenous, aboriginal, youth, teens, adult learners, adult education, empowerment, justice, leadership, team building, experiential graphicsRecently, I was graphic recording at a leadership conference for a large private sector company. Fantastic event, and maybe because this company had never experienced graphic recording before, I saw an unexpected benefit of graphic recording.

It is your secret speechwriting weapon.

I hadn’t seen this before, so I thought I’d share.

By the end of day 1, I had created 5 very large posters – that’s almost 175 square feet! of graphic recordings. The organizing team came by to debrief the day, and we decided I should make a summary poster to make info really easy to digest.

So senior staff quickly went through the 5 posters with a stack of post-it notes, and ‘stickied’ the ideas that I would redraw. It was crucial that staff and I collaborate: they know what resonates internally to the organization. Then, I created one poster that night, photographed and edited it, and sent over the image for staff to put into powerpoint, and got ready for Day 2.

I thought this summary poster would just be available for participants to review at their leisure – and indeed that would be fantastic on its own.

But it turns out that graphic recording is a good way to outline a speech.

The next morning, when the president of the company arrived at the event, the organizing team briefed him on the brand new summary image. He got onstage to open the day, and the graphic recording image was put up on the giant screens. I was expecting that part, and I still always feel butterflies in my stomach when I see it (I’m not a sector expert! what if I spelled something wrong!). But I wasn’t expecting this: The president said to the room that he reviewed his notes from yesterday, and the graphic recordings included everything he jotted down … “plus a few extra” things. Whew!

Then, he started his speech –  and used the graphic recording as visual cues. The order that I drew things in the image was the order that he spoke about them. I had given just enough content in the images to be a reminder of yesterdays’ events, without editorializing. Being a senior executive, his public speaking was formidable: the speech flowed from one section to another. He could spin the smallest drawing out into an inspirational message, or condense a section to emphasize what’s salient.

His leadership – and not just the drawings – made the speech engaging, unique, and layered in new insights.

So it was a win on multiple levels. Graphic recordings balanced detail with high-level synthesis as a record of the event. Staff and I collaborated in creating a summary of the very best parts. And, it turns out, is a good way to outline a speech. It kept the focus on the speaker, not on the pictures. Participants could follow along by looking at the screen, and I thought this was a brilliant train-the-trainer moment: people could see how to their president turned the image back into words – for when they wanted to explain concepts to teams they lead back at the office.

So if, like me, you don’t give speeches very often – and you find yourself in the position of needing to recap a conference at some point – you can look to a graphic recorder to be your secret weapon.

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