Hatching Free Range Ideas

Lesson 5, How to sketchnote a lecture or presentation

In Sketchnoting on June 10, 2014 at 9:14 pm

Technology!!!! Sigh.

I had scheduled these posts to publish every Monday and trusted that that was exactly what was happening. Ah well! So here is the next lesson, one right after another. But, the great thing is that you are working at your own pace so you can complete the lessons when you want to.  What have you drawn already today?

Here are some ways to set up your sketchnotes so that they make sense all the way through. As you read this lesson, think about what kinds of images you might create if you were listening to it. Each sketchnoting experience adds to your visual vocabulary.


How to Listen

Deep listening is like moving deeply into a pool. Think about what happens to outside sounds when you sat on the bottom of the swimming pool as a child, how they were damped and far away and you were totally with yourself.

Listening as an immersive experience. You’ll find that if you have really listened to a speaker, you’re tired afterward. Real listening is active. You are actively connecting new information to what you know; what is already familiar.

I’m going to cover 12 points on how to listen. The first three are about uncovering the form or structure of what you’re about to experience. The next five are about presence and the final four are practical tricks for quick payback.

What did I just do?


Don’t miss the introduction. There are clues in it about what is going to happen. The introduction gives you a great opportunity to map out a framework on your page.

Begin to pay attention to common structures –People who present often follow a defined structure. Learn to recognize structures. Here are four pretty common ones.

Form A How tos

The structure of these lectures are all how to. They’re assembly instructions, like how to put together a bicycle.

Form B Tell em, tell em, tell em

This one’s easy

Tell ‘em what you’re gonn’a tell ‘em, tell ‘em, tell ‘em what you told ‘em has three parts, with plenty of time to catch up

  • An upfront summary with three-four points
  • Expansion of those points
  • Conclusion that references the three-four points again

Form C A story in three acts

  • Act 1 setting the stage, the status quo
  • Act 2 Rising action and the climax
  • Act 3 Resolution

Form D The quest or transformation

  • The status quo and the call to adventure
  • The adventure itself
  • The change that the journey wrought

idea clusterPresence

Listen for clusters of ideas. A speaker may present all of the main ideas upfront and then add detail to each one, or they will present a main idea and then details followed by the next idea and details. When you hear clusters, you know where to collect relationships of ideas.




think bubble clockProcess in real time — We are always looking for places to make more sense out of what we already know. Think, all the while drawing, about what the speaker is saying that changes, expands, improves on what you know, about this topic or in other domains. For example, you might know something about knitting that becomes increasingly clear during the beginner’s presentation on string theory. Well, you know what I mean.
Be curious – If you’ve bothered to attend, you believed that the speaker would say something that was important to you. Listen without judgment. If you can’t manage that, channel your inner alien the way you do to get through holidays with your family. Well, you know what I mean. Don’t start the internal argument of why he or she is wrong. Quiet the voice in your head.
Look at the speaker periodically while you sketchote. It will help you focus as well as give you clues
Focus your attention on the content and not on the presentation style.



listening distractionsTune out distractions – and while you’re at it, quiet the voice or voices of the persons sitting beside you. If the conversation next to you is interesting enough to pursue, trade business cards for later. Or leave. Sometimes those next seat conversations really are more interesting. But that’s not the reason you’re there. Or is it?








Don’t capture what’s obvious to you unless you need it to complete the picture. Or unless you’re bored. Sketching is a great way to get value out of an experience that becomes less than optimum.



quote blockUse punchline quotes to capture the spirit. There are always one or two or three quote phrases that capture the Ahas! As well as conveying the sense of the presentation. Capture them. Set them off in their own spaces with large quote marks to call attention to them.







hijack visuals

Hijack the speaker’s visuals If the speech is accompanied by a Powerpoint slideshow, and these days which aren’t, consider which images from slides you might want to recreate for your own sketchnotes. Thumbnails are enough.

clotheslineRepurpose your rubber stamp images. Use the collection. A light bulb can be used to designate any idea. Just add a label. The circle slash? A box, a funnel, etc.

Debrief – 5 minutes

?   What rules really resonated with you?

?   What rule seemed to be missing?

?   What would you add to your notes now? Add it.

Practice lecture

This is a great YouTube video on graphic facilitation, which is sketchnoting to capture what is going on with a group. The principles apply to individual sketchnoting as well. Bring it up and sketchnote along.


  1. I know something about knitting. 🙂 And now I know something about visual notetaking. Great series, Kate. I appreciate the work that went into this.

    This written sign language has so many applications. I like to take notes on nonfiction books I read, so this could work for that. It could also work for personal journaling, or taking notes during phone convos, or when you’re exchanging notes with your spy contact at the corner of State and Main.

    • Brilliant!! There are a million applications. The big hurdle is getting from I can’t’ draw to how much fun it is to draw, which I saw you had already leaped with your colored pencil drawings of your knitting design. The rest of you want to see it? You can see it here.

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