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All images and photography ©2018 Rebecca Osborne

  • Rebecca Osborne

It is big...and it is clever!

When I was first asked to draw live at an event, I didn't know that it had a name, I didn't know it was an actual job, I hadn't even seen it done before.

Our Christmas shopping list - illustrated by me!

Drawing notes live was something I had done though - through every lecture, talk and seminar in my education (and even for shopping lists!). Some of those drawings and doodles were to help me explain what the speaker meant, some were just absent-minded squiggles...but either way, by looking back at both the written notes and the drawings I could remember what had been said (I could actually remember more - the feel of the talk, sometimes other things from that day)!

So when I discovered that this was an actual thing, a thing which was happening live at events all around the world and had a name, or names...GRAPHIC RECORDING...VISUAL NOTE-TAKING...LIVE EVENT ARTIST...SKETCHNOTING... something clicked into place.

Since then, I have been drawing live at events all over the place, some are little more than 1 to 1 sessions (but even then it works sooo well!), some are massive rooms full of people, all listening to the amazing speakers - and watching me!

Drawing live at TED Norwich

I am usually at the front of the room, to the side of the speaker...but sometimes I am on the stage too! And sometimes I do a bit of speaking myself.

One of the common questions I get is.....


The answer is simple, I am listening. I compare it to the circular breathing that a didgeridoo player has to learn, only in my role it is CIRCULAR THINKING! I have to be able to listen, comprehend, hold a thought in my head (whilst drawing) and continue to listen.

It is an incredible feat - it is amazing to watch (I have seen some fantastic people do it) and it works brilliantly as an engagement tool and to support understanding.

And I literally do have NO IDEA what is going to be said. I receive an agenda perhaps, a list of the titles and sometimes I might get the slides of the speaker, but actually having only this small amount of info is the best way. It means I listen more effectively and truly capture what the speakers have actually said.

The way to become better at it like so many other things, is to practice. It is a collaboration with the speakers - and I have been fortunate to capture the talks of so many incredible speakers (not just the well-known ones...also young people who have important ideas to share and do it so eloquently).

One of my favourite moments was capturing Dave Whitaker's talk at the Inspiring Leaders conference

My favourite speakers fill the space on the page perfectly and when the magic happens I feel the electricity!

The work I produce will draw a crowd at every break - delegates taking photos of their favourite bits - their take-away messages, and posting them on social media, complete with hashtags, to share with colleagues and friends. My work which is so low-fi works seamlessly with today's tech! Some people want photos of the speakers next to their words as a memento of the day.

I sometimes have a speaker walk over to the board mid-talk and use my work to re-cap the key messages of the day...this is a #proudbecca moment!

I am not very good at shouting about my work, not many people are, but I do know that this strange thing that I do works...and people at every event "get it"...instead of looking out of the window, texting on their phones or writing notes on a piece of paper, the audience are listening to the words of the speaker and watching me draw those ideas. There has been research into to multi-sensory learning which indicates that the more senses used in experiencing an event, the greater the recall. And at the end of the event the audience take a photo or a video and they will share it and look at it again (unlike perhaps the typed minutes).

So basically what I am trying to say is that this thing I am lucky enough to do...it is BIG...and it is CLEVER....and it does WORK.

And I would love to show you too - please get in touch!