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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.



Lesson 4, the first sketchnote lecture practice

In Sketchnoting on June 9, 2014 at 9:13 pm

You’re going to start to apply your new symbollary in this lesson. First a few ideas to focus you. There are 9 ideas here. You should adopt some version of these as your personal sketchnoting rules. You will develop your own methods and your own styles. And they WILL BE INCREDIBLE!!! AND YOU WILL LOVE THEM. But they require practice. Okay, your first set of rules:


child drawing1. Draw like a child, not only simply but with abandon and joy. This is fun stuff! If it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right.Draw over and through. Don’t worry about overlapping lines.

2. Pick out key words.  Sometimes illustrate key words and phrases is enough for memory. Try pulling some out from this mini-lecture.

key words


connectors and dividers3. Use connectors and dividers to configure your space and your ideas on the fly. Make them interesting shapes and patterns. Build your library of these line types. These are the easiest ways to add interest and emphasis to your sketchnotes.





bicycle4. Draw the essence. This is true of both subject matter and illustration. You might not need the entire bicycle if the handlebars will convey the idea. If the talk is about world hunger, capturing a startling fact by a bite out of a globe with a percentage might be all you need for that point.




pen5. Focus on recognition and not resemblance. You’re really creating symbols for meaning; you’re not creating a court scene for broadcast. Simplicity counts, especially if it’s elegant. Aim for elegant simplicity. Settle for something much less. And settle quickly.








clothesline6. Rubber stamp images – very quickly you will develop (or maybe you already have) a set of symbols that you use all the time. These are symbols that have become so simple for you to create that you almost rubber stamp them on the page. Grow your stamp collection.






Label7. Use text labels if you need something fast and you can’t come up with an image. Learn to create simple block letters or script that looks good and can be read easily. Then build your hand drawn letter sets. Try italics or bold. Mix it up on the page to make it interesting. Heck, mix it up in the sentence.







information highway8. Adopt visual metaphors — Our language is full of visual metaphor. Go ahead. Adopt them. Or some version of them. How might you sketch the Information Highway? How about customer centered? Or mapping an approach to a problem? Across the board? Throw the baby out with the bath water?







Ready for your first lecture? This will be familiar to those of you who took the Hendricks 3-Day Essentials course. The nice thing about practicing with lectures online is that you can go back through.

  1. Shake your hands out to loosen them up.
  2. Get your sketchbook.
  3. Go to this link.
  4. Ready. . . Set. . . Draw!


Lesson 3, Your visual vocabulary

In Sketchnoting on June 2, 2014 at 8:00 am

Learning to sketchnote is a lot like learning to read. Remember how each new word added to your ability to read more quickly and more deeply? The same is true with sketchnoting. Each image that you add to your symbollary will allow you to sketchnote more proficiently.

Let’s start now building a beginning library. Do not spend more than 30 seconds to a minute creating an image for each word or phrase.

Round 1, Childhood symbols, 5-10 minuteschild drawing

Draw the way you did as a child to represent the following words

  1. House
  2. Mouse
  3. Mouth
  4. Happy
  5. Sad
  6. Flower
  7. Love
  8. Dog
  9. Family
  10. Party


Round 2, Adding to your symbollary, 10-20 minutes

Do not spend more than 30 seconds to a minute creating an image for each word or phrase. Move through the entire list. Think about what you drew as a child. Those images are great symbols.umbrella

  1. Move from here to there
  2. Afraid
  3. React
  4. Energy
  5. Melody or Tune
  6. Join
  7. Drop in
  8. Conflict
  9. Flowing water
  10. Conflict
  11. Run away
  12. Cold
  13. Home
  14. Drain
  15. Liquid
  16. Grounded
  17. Welcome
  18. Present
  19. Cycle
  20. Joy

Round 3, Simplify, 20 minutes

After you have drawn a symbol for each word or phrase, go back and look at what parts of your drawing make up the ESSENCE of each symbol. What is the simplest way to represent the concept behind the word? Draw each of your NEW symbols now.bicycle

Lesson 2, Warm up exercises, part 2

In Sketchnoting, Visual Thinking on May 29, 2014 at 10:40 am

Time for the next set of warm up exercises. Are these lessons arriving too slowly?

circlesExercise 1, 9 circles

Go back to your 9 circles page or start a new one following the stir circles process.

Now for the next 5 minutes, make something out of each of those circles. Draw anything. Draw the first thing that comes into your head.

Exercise 2, 9 squares

Use your vertical and horizontal line throwing technique to make 3 rows of 3 squares about the same size. Throw the top and bottom. Pull the sides.

For the next 5 minutes, make something out of each of those squares.


?   Whasquarest did you draw?

?   How many did you draw before you had to stop and think?

?   What about that was hard?

?   What was your drawing speed like? Did you feel rushed? Did you have enough time?

?   Did you find new images, ones that you either hadn’t drawn for a long time?

?   When did one idea lead to another idea?

?   What did you learn as you created your images? What surprised you?

Exercise 3, Assigning meaning

Look at each of your images. What concepts could each of those images represent for you?

For example, my tire circle could represent movement, or being out of control. My balloon might represent a feeling of lightness, or childhood or celebration if I draw a bunch of them.

The box can be a container for something or unpacking.

Go ahead and label each drawing with at least one concept.


You have formally begun your visual vocabulary!!!!

Lesson 2, Warm up exercises, part 1

In Sketchnoting, Uncategorized on May 24, 2014 at 3:32 pm

We’re going to warm up.

Exercise 1, The pacewalking man

When you are beginning to sketchnote, you’ll be tempted to sketch as rapidly as you possibly can. You’ll worry you’ll miss something important. Don’t. Draw as you would breathe normally, not too quickly, not too slowly. Let’s get a feel for how much time that might be. Find a clock  with a second hand. You’ll do this part for 15 seconds.

Start now by just moving your pen in easy, slow circles and squiggles on a page in your sketchbook for 15 seconds. Let your hand and your pen fl o-o-o-o-o-w across the page. Breathe.

This will both loosen up your hand and give you a feel for how long 15 seconds really is. Remember, we’re aiming for a civilized walking pace. Not strolling in New Orleans or late for a meeting in Manhattan.  Maybe like you’re meeting a friend for a drink at The Driskill and you have an interesting story you’re looking forward to telling.

Okay, move your pen.

How did that feel?

These next two exercises will allow you to use your body wisdom, the wisdom of your fine motor skills.

Stand up and shake out your body. Really shake it. Roll your head around. Now shake out your hands. Be loose.

Exercise 2, Stir Circles

We’ll start with sitr circles.

Hold hand above your sketchbook page and make a circle about 1/3 the width of your sketchbook page, as if you were stirring a small cup of tea. Now put your pen down and draw that circle, keeping that same stirring motion.

Now put your pen down and draw a row of three circles across the page, keeping that stirring motion.

Draw two more rows below. Fill the page. You’ll have three rows of three circles each. We’re going to come back to these in the next lesson so you can either create a new page of circles just for practice or move on to a fresh page.

Exercise 3, Throw lines

throw linesStart again on a new page.

1. Make two dots, one on the left hand side of your page and one on the far right hand side. They should represent two points of a straight line.
2. Now place your pen on the left hand dot and look at the right hand dot. Don’t look at your pen; look where you are going. There’s a great quote that says something like, “You don’t need to look behind you. 3. That’s not where you’re going.” Who said that?
4. Throw the line, just like you would throw a ball, keeping your eye on your destination. Use your whole arm. It knows what to do.

?   How are those lines?

1. Now make a dot at the top of your page and a dot at the bottom. Make them close to vertical. Do the same thing.
2. Place your pen on the top dot, focus your eye on the destination dot and let gravity work to pull the line.

You can do this at any scale. Now you can easily draw tables in your sketchbook,on a flip chart, on a white board.

Now let’s put both of these skills together.

Exercise 4, Facial expressions

Use your throw lines to draw a 4 x 4 grid. Leave a little room on your page at the top of your grid and a little room on the left hand margin. You are going to use these. If you like, you may draw a 5 x 5 grid to make sure that you save the space.

Fill the 4 x 4 grid with stir circles.

Add the following information to the left hand margin and the top of your grid. Like this:

experssion grid

All of the human face happens on the lower half of the head.

The key components of expression, remember we’re all about capturing essence, are the brows, the eyes and the mouth. Let’s do a bit of practice. This is an adaptation of a great demonstration that Austin Kleon does when he talks about simple expressions.

  1. Draw four rows of circles with four circles in each row. Leave a bit of space below each row.
  2. On the first row, add only straight brows. Two straight lines.
  3. On the second row, add two diagonal brows, slanting down in the middle.
  4. On the third row, add two diagonal brows, slanting down on the outside.
  5. On the fourth row, add two arcs for brows. You choose, up arcs or down arcs.
  6. Now add the eyes below the brows. Put in simple eyes. Dots.
  7. Now noses. Put in several different noses. Noses point the face, so they show the direction that the face is looking. Point your noses in different directions.
  8. Now on the mouth line, on the first column, add a straight mouth all the way down the column.
  9. For the second column, make the mouth frowny. These can be either close lipped frowns or open mouth anger if you like.
  10. On the third column make the mouth smiley. Same deal open or closed.
  11. For the fourth column, make the mouth jagged. Same deal again, open or closed.

Let’s see how much information you can capture with a few simple lines.

Show your journal page to someone else.  See if they can label the expressions for each face.

Swap back. Read the labels. See if you agree or if you’d add a different label.

See what simple but eloquent expressions you created using only brows and the mouth?

Lesson 1, Part 2, Get your mind right

In Sketchnoting on May 23, 2014 at 12:53 pm

In the last lesson, you learned some improvisation rules to keep in mind. As you read these short lessons, try making a symbol for each of the key points. You can see some of mine embedded in this post. Once again, try this process to continue to build your vocabulary.

  1. Read the article.
  2. Highlight key words from the article.
  3. Create an image that reflects the key points.
  4. Try for one small image for each of the points.
  5. Use some kind of “fancy” connector for those points that seem to be closely related to each other.
  6. Make note of the images that you created that you can use in other places.

Now let’s talk about the practical part of getting your mind right. This is a beginning list. What’s exciting about this class is that the officialness of the practice of Sketchnoting is so new that no one has written the rules down. That means you are free to write the book, to move beyond the confines of rules defined by others.

Here are five to get your started.

pen1. Draw over and through. Redo your pen line if you don’t like the first one but do it immediately. You will then also see your path toward that image. Free your hand to continuously improve. And move on. Always move on.horse


2. Use a pen. As a way to accept your own burgeoning Sketchnoting skill, try Sketchnoting with a pen rather than a pencil. A pen forces you to move forward. Pencils, and  erasers, allow for a lot more editing, moving you out of the moment and into the world of perfection.





don't be fussy3. Don’t be fussy. Sketchnoting is thinking made visual and thinking is messy. Sketchnoting is also innovation, not process improvement. Push yourself to record new images, new metaphors. Repeat after me, “don’t be fussy.”





4. Draw at a civilized walking speed. Don’t get in too much of a hurry when you Sketchnote. While you don’t have time to capture every detail, you do have time to capture what’s important to you. Most speakers spend a lot of time explaining what they mean by . . . . Use the time you are given. And pictures are faster than words. You only need one for each 1000, remember?

walking man



5. Do whatever you can to set up your environment. Come early to get a good seat for sketchnoting. You can use the extra time like Mike Rohde does, to put a fancy title on the page. After all, you already know that. But that’s all you know, remember paying attention over preparation.fancy title

Lesson 1, Part 1, Get your mind right

In Sketchnoting on May 20, 2014 at 1:17 pm

This talk is about establishing a solid, safe, exploratory environment for Sketchnoting. There are two parts. Part 1 talks about gaining an improvisational mindset. Part 2 is a list of principles for holding that mindset open. This is part 1. 


  1. Read the article.
  2. Highlight key words from the article.
  3. Create an image that reflects the key points.
  4. Try for one small image for each of the points.
  5. Use some kind of “fancy” connector for those points that seem to be closely related to each other.
  6. Make note of the images that you created that you can use in other places.

gear brainSketchnoting is innovation – finding new meaning and new learning in listening and drawing. We’re bypassing our verbal editor, that part of ourselves that Natalie Goldberg explains is the Monkey Mind editor who inhibits our writing as well as our drawing.

The Monkey Mind is a Zen concept that Goldberg uses to name the incessant voice of the inner critic, that running commentary on the not good enoughness of our work. Often the voice is dressed in rational words and phrases. The Monkey Mind represents the safety of the status quo.monkey mind Drawing and sketchnoting seek to move beyond the status quo, to surface that which we don’t know we know. Often we reach that place by acting without thinking, by improvising.

Sketchnoting  is. . . improvisational drawing. Let’s start with some improvisation rules from Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson.

There are 7 that apply to Sketchnoting.

  1. Say yes – Madson describes the act of saying yes as an act of acceptance of what is offered. Its opposite is to block, by suggesting there might be a better idea. Take your first idea and move forward.
  2. Don’t prepare; pay attention –Substitute attention for anticipation. That way you’re open to surprise. Sketchnotes learnings are often surprises because you are processing in real time.
  3. Focus your attention by practicing total listening. When your mind wanders, notice the tangent and then quickly bring it back. Find a beacon of interest in all things by paying attention to points with personal resonance. The more attention you pay, the less you will notice your own drawing and the more you will fall into the work itself. Stephen King describes it as “falling through the hole in the paper.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi [Me Hi  Cheek sent ma hi ee] calls it FLOW.

fall through paper

  • 4. Just show up. Start anywhere and be average– Accept what is offered. The phrase “Lower your standards” has its history in acceptance. When two opposing forces wanted to parley, to signal parley the standard bearer lowered the standard. When you block an idea, you deny the muse entry. Lower your standard and invite parley. Saying yes is about acceptance so that you can begin a practice, whether you think you’re an artist or not.

lower standard5. Accept your insecurity. We’ve all got it. Find what you love about your work. It’s there.
Ignore how you are feeling and focus on your purpose. Why are you here? What are you learning? That’s what you want to capture. This is about personal value, not about what someone else might take away from your experience.

6. Risk making mistakes. Embrace the risk. Circus clowns, when they flub a routine, raise their arms high in the air and address the audience with a deep bow as if this was a normal part of the routine. Mistakes are. If you’re not making mistakes, if you’re not working outside your comfort zone, you’re not really trying.

  • clown bow

Take care of each other. Enjoy the work. Share the discovery. “Look at each other with encouraging eyes.”


Sketchnoting 101, Before you begin

In Sketchnoting on May 19, 2014 at 3:27 pm

I can flyI have had a lot of requests from people who see my sketchnotes to learn the process. Well, okay, I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Man, those are cool. I couldn’t ever do that!” But that’s not true because I used to see sketchnotes and think that it would take forever to learn to do that. It does take time but mostly what it takes is a commitment.

For those of you who said you wanted to learn, I’m going to start a series of sketchnote lessons here.


Here’s what you’ll need:

1. A nice sketchbook.

Choose one with nice paper. I prefer a really smooth surface and the classic Moleskin provides a great, thick, non-bleed paper that’s a delight to run a pen across. But you should choose whatever you like. Just pick a size that you are willing to carry around. I use an 8.5 x 11 at home and carry the smaller 8 x 5.5 with me.

2. 1-2 nice black ink pens.

I prefer a gel roller ball pen. Depending on my mood, it’s either a Uniball Signo .38 or a 207. One is very, very fine, the other a bit bolder. Both pens allow the ink to flow smoothly, although the .38 is a bit scratchy, which I like.

If you prefer a felt tip, Micron pens are really popular and come in a variety of widths. I like the .01, which is very fine (but not nearly as fine as they come). The tips on these fine felt tip pens are fragile, so if you have a hard touch, you’re probably better off with a gel roller.

3. Finally, you will need 1-2 pale translucent brush tip markers, one warm color, one cool. Like one turquoise and one pink, for example.

  • ​The Pitt Big Brush markers come in a million colors. They run about $6-7 a piece and last forever.
  • Tombow ABT brush pens are MUCH cheaper and also come in a million colors. But they won’t last as long. However, they seem much more portable to me.

We’re going to start out with black pen. No pencils. We will be adding color strategically, later, but for now, it will only be a distraction. So get your color pens, now where they are and set them aside.

The first real lesson will come tomorrow. Promise!


Another visual curriculum map and a quick lesson on buying learning online

In ART!, design, drawings, Visual Thinking on April 18, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Just in case you’re still interested in visual thinking, here’s another curriculum map.

First, an update on the course I was taking on Graphic Facilitation. For me, it was a bust. It was a course taught by a seasoned professional who didn’t have the heart of an educator.

Educators are generous with their knowledge and with their audience. This guy wasn’t. Most learner requests or suggestions were answered with a quick “No, we’re not doing that.” Often the response was that we were the test group so we were half price and shouldn’t feel as if we would get the full package. Or that they were really busy right now with their business and family and couldn’t really do more. Sorry. A variety of “No” answers.

I quit halfway through. I have to admit that I probably knew from the first paid course I took from this same group that this wasn’t going to be a great experience. However, I hoped I was wrong ’cause this was a more expensive offer. It wasn’t. Yeah, I fell twice. And now, NEVER AGAIN.

I am now taking a different paid online course, called Butts in Seats by Daphne Bosquet. It’s about how to market a workshop. . . to the right audience.

Here’s the lesson. It’s about buying decision making and it’s a bit of a “Duh.”

If you are going to spend a significant amount of money on an online learning product, do your research. If there is a free offering, check it out. If the free one doesn’t share BIG value with you, don’t sign up for the paid one. This is also true for white papers and research. If they don’t offer big value as a trial, they’re not going to offer big value. Period.

I tried Daphne out by taking her free one hour webinar where she shares 5 marketing tips for filling a workshop.  It was BRILLIANT!!! There were at least three tips that I walked away with that had BIG value. Two I might have come up with on my own, but the one was a mind blower. And it was practical. 1. Do this, 2.go here to do it 3. here’s what it will cost 4. here’s what you do once you have it.

The result of her generosity is that I have since signed up and paid for her Butts in Seats workshop and I’ve attended the first session. Again, she delivers value beyond the cost, from the first encounter.

My buying lesson is, if it’s not great from the start, it’s likely not going to get better. If there isn’t a free sample offered that blows you away, the chance that it will blow you away once you pay for it is slim. My selling lesson is, if you sell an online course (or any kind of course) based on your expertise, you have opened a window into the value of a relationship with you. Deliver big value or risk your reputation.

Okay, enough. That map. I put these up here so that you can steal any metaphor images you like and add them to your collection.

Doodle Power Tic-Tac-Toe

In Sketchnoting, Visual Thinking on September 30, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Here’s my sketchnote from Sunni Brown’s Doodle TED talk. I loosely used the tic-tac-toe format but it seems way too open and empty to me. Needs something to bring it together. What is that thing?

What did you draw?

Oh, and if the images aren’t appearing for you, just click the title of the post. Not sure why that’s happening.