Picture Perfect: Take your Meeting Notes to the Next Level

Illustration of engage, comprehend and remember

You know the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”? Well, it turns out that there is a growing amount of scientific evidence to support that notion. 

According to experts, we only remember about 10% of what we hear in a meeting. That’s great because you get the key take-aways, but what if we could do better? When we connect what we hear with our own visual representation, we will remember up to 65% (over six times more!). We are also 80% more likely to remember something that we draw or see drawn over just hearing or reading it.

Enter the practices of strategic Illustration and graphic recording, active listening and facilitation techniques that can help you learn, plan, teach, retain information and creatively problem-solve.

Strategic illustration example

This illustration by Rachel Smith captures best-selling author and visual strategist Dan Roam’s views on how images can add impact to any instance where we want to tell a story, persuade someone to think or believe a certain way, solve a problem, or simply remember important information.

What is graphic recording

"What is Graphic Recording?" Illustration: vidigami.com

But I Can’t Draw (Spoiler Alert: You Don’t Need To)

By the time many of us graduate from high school, we have been conditioned to think that we are incapable of drawing. But graphic illustrators and strategists are quick to point out that, actually, we don’t need to be great artists to be effective visual communicators. In the video below, Creative Catalyst Guest Artist, bestselling author and strategic illustrator Christine Chopyak explains why it is easy for anyone to incorporate drawing into their business strategy.

Like Chris explains, the images don’t have to be complicated – stick figures along with basic shapes and bright colors used to group information goes a long way! Keep reading for more tips below.

Trust the Science

According to Psychology Today, “A large body of research indicates that visual cues help us to better retrieve and remember information. The research outcomes on visual learning make complete sense when you consider that our brain is mainly an image processor (much of our sensory cortex is devoted to vision), not a word processor.”  

These techniques work to:

If you need more proof that this practice is good for you, your business or your team, remember that anytime you can add a visual to content you want to remember and ruminate over, you are connecting your left and right brains. This is helpful for retention as well as creative problem-solving.

Most of the time people only use one hemisphere of their brains in a meeting (like kids in school). Imagine weight lifting on only one side of your body. How would you feel? How effective would you be? How healthy would your body be? It is the same with the brain. If one side isn’t engaged, it won’t be as effective in helping a person dream and achieve the goals they have set forth for themselves and their business/career. Inserting creativity (art) also fosters a brain that examines many perspectives, multiple facets of a problem and allows for more creative problem-solving.

How To Do It?

Here are some suggestions for how to put these great techniques into action, but don’t make this your gospel — adapt and adjust to come up with notetaking strategies that work for you!

Visual Notetaking (Sketchnotes) and Graphic Recording

  1. A larger piece of paper works the best if you are the facilitator or recorder for a meeting, but don’t fret; if you just want to add pictures to your own notes, any notebook or sketchbook will do just fine! 
  2. Colorful pens or pencils will give you the ability to use color to differentiate concepts or sections of the meeting — and can also make simple sketches easier to distinguish (for example, green for the leaves on a tree and brown for the tree trunk).
  3. Active listening is critical. Listen for key ideas and statistics that will be important for later recall. Add whatever image comes to your head as you gather new information — simple is better. If someone talks about improving ticket sales, you could draw a simple ticket with an up arrow, instead of trying to make a complex chart or detailed ticket.   
  4. Sketch! If you are a facilitator, remind those in your group who don’t think that they are artistic to not focus so much on the quality of the image but how the image connects with the ideas and key takeaways. 
  5. After the meeting, finish sketching. In college, many students are taught to go over their notes shortly after class to help solidify and remember key concepts. By going back and sketching images that help you revisit important ideas, you are more likely to store that data in your brain for later use. 
  6. Even if you never look at these notes again, the fact that you created visual images will help you to recall the content much better than just listening and just writing.



Get more tips about how drawing can help you focus in this webinar hosted by Chris Chopyak: Picture Your Passion: Design Your Future Focus. You can also learn more about ways to put your creativity to work in the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts’ Creative Catalyst Online Certificate Program.