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ET Project \ Podcasts

ET-068: Sketchnoting to Communicate and Engage more Effectively

With Ms. Ashton Rodenhiser

ET-068: A conversation with Ms. Ashton Rodenhiser

and your host Wayne Brown on October 10, 2023

Episode notes: A conversation with Ms. Ashton Rodenhiser

Hello and welcome to the ET Project. I’m your host, Wayne Brown, and as usual, we’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET.

Today we are back in the air and we’re traveling to Canada, in fact, heading to a somewhat famous location, Nova Scotia. And we are visiting our guest, Ms. Ashton Rodenhiser, who is a local resident in this wonderful part of the world.

Ms. Rodenhiser is a graphic recorder and visual strategist who is passionate about lifting the creative spirit in everyone that she meets. She’s followed her passion for helping people communicate their ideas and combine that with creativity by founding Mind’s Eye Creative Consulting, you’ll often find her with markers in hand as she is helping bring ideas to life through graphic recording and graphic facilitation practices.

Here is an extract from our conversation as we start to get into it…

“So terms are a funny thing, like I said earlier, but when I was introduced into it, it was really around graphic facilitation. Graphic recording is just another term you could call it, you can use it in a different way, but I’ll just talk about graphic facilitation for a minute because of that’s sort of my journey. So if you think about facilitation and when you’re in a room helping a group of people move through the strategic planning or brainstorming or visioning it’s really about the voices on the room. So when you’re doing graphic facilitation, instead of solely feeding back in words, now you’re feeding back in pictures. So when I’m in the room, it’s a gigantic piece of paper, usually on a wall, four feet by 8, 10, 12, 16 feet long. And with my big fancy markers, I’m illustrating what I’m hearing in that meeting.”

Today’s Guest: MS. ASHTON RODENHISER

Ashton has worked with diverse groups from nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies, and it may appear as if she is a silent illustrator in the room, while in fact, she is helping to break down complex concepts into an easily understandable visual language for better learning retention.

Over the years, Ashton has brought over 2500 presentations and conversations to life, either on paper or digitally. She is now on a mission to teach students on how to use doodling and drawing as their best thinking and learning tools.

During our conversation you’ll hear Ashton explaining the terms and speaking about Graphic Facilitating. This is something I wish I had the patience for as it is such a powerful tool to have at your disposal. Have you ever had the opportunity to sit in a meeting, workshop, or training and be mesmerized by the art unfolding before your eyes. Truly incredible and as leaders this is something that we all have the capacity to learn and embody.

If you want to stand out, create impact and leave a lasting impression then learn this skill.

Final words from Ashton:

“I just wanna comment on like the leader part. So whatever you wanna call it. You know, you can learn the basic drawing elements to help you. So if you’re facilitating a meeting or you’re the one in the front of the room, you can use the sketchnoting principles on a flip chart or on a whiteboard.

And it’s really about basic drawing skills. In the first thing, after talking about some lettering and writing words ’cause that’s pretty important in the book. The first drawing element that I introduce is a line. And you can use a line to do many things, to connect ideas, to show flow of information, to separate information, to highlight information.

So if you just learn these basic and practice drawing some lines, and then turn that line into an arrow and turn that line into a square, you can actually create very nice looking visuals that aren’t just nice looking, but are very impactful in that meeting to help elevate that information…”

0:00:07.0 Wayne Brown: Hello, I’m your host, Wayne Brown, and welcome to the ET Project. We’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world, whom we’re affectionately referring to as team ET. Today we are back in the air and we’re traveling to Canada, in fact, heading to a somewhat famous location, Nova Scotia. And we are visiting our guest, Ms. Ashton Rodenhiser, who is a local resident in this wonderful part of the world. Ms. Rodenhiser is a graphic recorder and visual strategist who is passionate about lifting the creative spirit in everyone that she meets. She’s followed her passion for helping people communicate their ideas and combine that with creativity By founding Mind’s Eye Creative Consulting, you’ll often find her with markers in hand as she is helping bring ideas to life through graphic recording and graphic facilitation practices. She’s worked with diverse groups from nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies, and it may appear as if she is a silent illustrator in the room, while in fact, she is helping to break down complex concepts into an easily understandable visual language for better learning retention.

0:01:15.2 WB: Over the years, Ashton has brought over 2500 presentations and conversations to life, either on paper or digitally. She is now on a mission to teach students on how to use doodling and drawing as their best thinking and learning tools. So team ET this is a great conversation on a topic that has the potential to really amplify the impact you’re creating with your team, with your colleagues, and even in your career. So I’m really excited to bring this discussion to you and welcome our guest, Ms. Ashton Rodenhiser. As we look at what it takes to become a design facilitator and sketchnoting guru to achieve that newfound level of success.

0:02:01.2 Speaker 2: Welcome to the ET project, a podcast for those executive talents determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor Wayne Brown as we unpack an exciting future together.

0:02:17.3 WB: Alright, well, welcome team ET. Thank you for joining us. And as you’ve heard from me in the intro for today’s podcast, we’ve teleported all the way across to Canada, and we are joined by our guest, Ms. Ashton Rodenhiser. So Ashton, welcome to the show.

0:02:36.7 Ashton Rodenhiser: No, I’m so happy to be with you here, Wayne, today. I’ve been really looking forward to this chat.

0:02:40.0 WB: Thank you. You call yourself a graphic recorder. Before we get into any of that, we’ve gotta go to where you are. So you are sitting in the Canadian province called Nova Scotia. [laughter] Where is Nova Scotia? Where are you right now?

0:02:58.8 AR: Yeah, so it is in the far east of Canada. It’s considered to be one of the Atlantic provinces and also makes up one of three provinces that’s called the Maritimes. You don’t have to drive more than an hour to hit the ocean. We’re completely surrounded in water. I grew up about 15 minutes from the ocean. Now I live about 30 minutes from the ocean. If you picture a lot of US seaside TV shows and films are actually filmed in a lot of the communities around here because we have the very… It’s by the ocean. We have the boats and then like the bright, colorful houses. So it’s a very beautiful place to live. It has kind of like little bit of everything and different, depending on where you go in the province. There’s different things. Like there’s big hills on one side. We have the highest tides in the world on the other side. Yeah, it’s a really fascinating place to live. If you love nature, we’ve got lots of that. We kind of joke when I had a friend visit years ago from Africa, and we just joked because we just have so many trees. [laughter] just, oh look, some more trees. Oh look, some more trees. So lots of fresh air here. That’s for sure.

0:04:18.7 WB: So you’ve lived there all your life. That’s quite incredible. What do you do in your leisure time in Nova Scotia?

0:04:24.9 AR: Yeah, we spend a lot of time in nature as a family. We even do the thousand hours outside challenge, which challenge us, us to get a thousand hours outside. It is what it says, [laughter] we might actually hit it this year. We’ve done, this is our third year and we haven’t hit it yet. So we were 50 hours away last year from hitting it. And yeah. So we spend in the summertime we just live five minutes from a public lake swimming area. So we spend a lot of our time. The kids love to swim there it doesn’t, it’s cold here in the winter time, but there’s really only a few weeks out of the year that you can’t, you have to kind of stay inside and not really go anywhere. But yeah, no, it, for people that do boating, we’re not boating people. But that’s a pretty common thing for folks to do here. We have like a pretty incredible live music scene. We have a pretty good art scene.

0:05:24.5 WB: Let’s look a little bit at your career journey as such and try and understand where did it all start for you? Did you start where you are today? Or did you, were you doing something different?

0:05:37.0 AR: Yeah, so I’ll go back to high school days. So I really struggled in high school trying to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. And time was of the essence. It was getting close to graduation and I still had no idea. I just knew that I was probably gonna do something in like, the social sciences. I didn’t do well in physics and chemistry. I just did enough of those science credits to graduate, but no more. But I was very smart. I actually just found my, I was cleaning up stuff and I found my high school transcript the other day and I was like, whoa. [laughter] And I had very high marks at kind of top of the class when I came to that, but I just had no idea what I wanted to do.

0:06:20.2 AR: But I had always worked with children. I decided that I wanted to be a mother and that wasn’t very popular. That wasn’t a popular path. [laughter] Well, everybody is deciding what universities they wanna go to. I’m like, yeah, I’ll be cool to be a mom. That would be a pretty cool job because I had to pay for all of my own schooling and I didn’t wanna get into a ton of debt. I decided to enroll in the local community college, which was a bit… It was a bit of a hard decision because there is… I hope it’s better now, but at the time there was a lot of stigma around community college. Like the not smart kids go to community college. And I had people tell me to my face, oh, you’re so smart for someone who goes to community college. But I thought I was, because I thought I was smart making that decision because I wasn’t gonna go and do a bunch of schooling when I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

0:07:19.7 AR: So I decided to enroll in early childhood education ’cause I figured I’d always worked with kids. I wanna be a mom someday. This will be a useful skill to have. So when I… It was a two year program and I decided that one thing that I did consider over the years was to be a sign language interpreter, actually. So in order to get into that program, you have to take a couple prerequisite classes. So I had to go to night school for six months to even get into sign language school. So I decided to move to this city, and when I got there and signed up for these classes, I ended up getting a job at a nonprofit family resource center. When I was there, I worked with kids, I worked families. But the last two years I was there, I started doing a lot of facilitation work and I absolutely fell in love with facilitation.

0:08:12.1 AR: I love how you can have a group of people in a room and you’re just creating that safe space. You’re asking the questions, you’re feeding back what you’re hearing and helping them come to their own ideas and conclusions and goals and stuff. So I was like, this facilitation thing is really cool. I wonder if I can figure out a way to kind of do this more. I wanted to move back home. City living isn’t for me. It’s still a very small city, but it’s still not for me. So I wanted to move back home. So I had to leave that job, decided not to pursue sign language because I wanted to move back home and kind of see if I could figure out this facilitation thing. And a friend of mine who I met when I went back home, he’s a facilitator and he told me about this one day workshop on graphic facilitation. And I was like, that sounds interesting. And that was 10 years ago. And the rest is history, as cliche as it sounds, [laughter]

0:09:06.0 WB: And so now you are literally the graphic recorder. Maybe we unpack, what does that mean? What is a graphic recorder?

0:09:15.4 AR: Yeah. So terms are a funny thing, like I said earlier, but when I was introduced into it, it was really around graphic facilitation. Graphic recording is just another term you could call it, you can use it in a different way, but I’ll just talk about graphic facilitation for a minute because of that’s sort of my journey. So if you think about facilitation and when you’re in a room helping a group of people move through the strategic planning or brainstorming or visioning it’s really about the voices on the room. So when you’re doing graphic facilitation, instead of solely feeding back in words, now you’re feeding back in pictures. So when I’m in the room, it’s a gigantic piece of paper, usually on a wall, four feet by 8, 10, 12, 16 feet long. And with my big fancy markers, I’m illustrating what I’m hearing in that meeting.

0:10:06.0 AR: Someone says something, then someone else says something else. And then I can tie ideas together and represent them in a visual way. Graphic recording is just more of a common… It’s a bit more common of a term than graphic facilitation, I would say. And I like to use that word when I’m describing, when I do like conferences and presentations and things like that, where I’m not involved in a process, like a facilitated process. I’m more of like a fly on a wall kind of thing. So yeah. Those are kind of mostly the two worlds. And I’ve another kind of common terms, because we’re just talking about terms here. Is a live illustration I see as kind of an umbrella term that is a bit more of a friendly one that is like less complex to explain to people. It’s a little bit more like Google friendly live illustration.

0:11:01.3 WB: While we’re on the terms then, let’s jump into the term that you’ve really popularized, I guess sketchnoting. What is sketchnoting as a deviation from graphic recording? Graphic facilitation? Or is it [laughter] somehow a subset?

0:11:18.3 AR: It is a bit of a subset. It’s used more commonly for people who want to do personal note taking. For me anyways, the way that I teach it and the way I work, it’s all relatively the same skillset. It’s listening, it’s making sense of what you’re hearing and it’s capturing. But when I’m doing it professionally for organizations and businesses and conferences, I’m listening as a whole. I’m really trying to take out bias. I’m really trying to be present with like everything that’s happening. I’m trying to reflect for people where sketchnoting is more, I’m reflecting for myself. It’s for my own personal learning. Yeah. And I didn’t coin the term sketchnoting a guy didn’t named Mike Roddy back in 2006. But the concept of sketchnoting has been around for a very long time, just us in our funny terms. The other way I like to also describe it is visual note taking. But I feel like that doesn’t always fully describe what it is. So I think Sketchnoting is a nice happy medium that people, and sometimes people call me a sketch noter when I’m working professionally, and that’s okay. I’m not gonna… I don’t have the opportunity to go into all of the details, but if that’s how they relate to me as a professional, I’m like, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s okay. [laughter]

0:12:37.5 WB: Yeah. But I think that distinction is quite nice. So one is more holistic. That’s the graphic recording or the graphic facilitation. Then one is something you do yourself. Which then would lead to another term that I’m guessing some people may confuse between sketchnoting and doodling.

0:12:56.4 AR: Yeah. So doodling, I feel is this can be a very beautiful stepping stone into sketchnoting. Because doodling, as a… Doodling does what people think the opposite. Like, how do I say this? It’s the opposite of what people think. So folks think that doodling is a distraction. You’re not paying attention. Where it’s actually doing the opposite. Sunni Brown, the author of the Doodle Revolution, has this beautiful Ted Talk. It’s like, she’s like talks a mile a minute. It’s only like eight minutes long or something. She talks about redefining what a doodle means and how it’s meaningless marks to help yourself think. And I really love that kind of new definition around it. And it can help you remember up to 29% more information. So the doodle can be a very powerful tool to help us focus and learn even though people think it’s doing the opposite.

0:13:58.1 AR: So the way that I see doodling is that it can be this beautiful stepping stone to sketchnoting where you can take your doodles and make them more purposeful. Make them like, work for you a little bit more. So if you’re gonna be doodling anyways, then why not incorporate some just real basic drawing elements and sketchnoting principles to help use those doodles in a way that is related to the content. Whereas most of the time when people doodle, it doesn’t really have anything to do with what’s actually happening or what’s actually being said. You’re gonna be doodling anyway, so might as well just add that into a sketchnoting type type vibe. Yeah.

0:14:46.7 WB: That’s a great clarification, and I’m clear now. I’m hope, hopefully our listeners are clear as well. But if you are now coming to a potential client, how do you position yourself? How do you describe the service that you offer?

0:15:01.3 AR: Yeah, so the work is an experienced good, and which makes the sales process a little bit extra challenging. Most people know they need a website or most people know they need to feed their family. Like, there’s not a hard sell of like, things you need to buy sometimes in the world. But the way that graphic recording all of this works is people really need to understand and experience the value of it. To understand the value, So it does make that sales process a little bit more challenging because I can show graphics… I’ve got thousands at this point of examples that I could show you all day long. We could talk about it all day long. But until you’re in the room and you say something and that is drawn on the wall with a picture and you go, oh, I feel heard. Oh, I see how those are connected now. Oh. Like your learning is deepened there. You’re understanding the clarity, it’s hard to describe on a sales call. [laughter]

0:16:09.3 WB: Absolutely.

0:16:11.5 AR: What that feels like, you know? So most of the time the people that I tend to work with have experienced it either for myself or someone else. They’re like, oh, I didn’t know what that was called, but now I know and like, let’s work together. So it is a bit of a funny thing because of that experience that if, if it’s missing, people certainly have hired me, but I do feel like they thought they were taking a risk. It’s a little risky. They’re like, oh, we’re gonna hire this like artist girl. She’s gonna like draw a picture. I don’t know what she is gonna do, but she is gonna do a thing and like, let’s throw some money at it. See what happens. You don’t find as many people who are willing to take that risk. And I, in my early days, I had a couple people do that, and I am like so incredibly grateful to them for doing that and taking that risk.

0:17:01.9 AR: But it definitely is leaning in on the cliche of a pitcher’s worth a thousand words. Like, if they can see it and experience the value for themselves, it makes my job as a salesperson [laughter] way easier. Because then I can just talk about, even if they can’t describe what they loved about it, then now that I know that they have experienced it, I can, oh, you, maybe it was because of this, or this is the way people think, or this is how people feel, or this is the accessibility piece. And I can kind of lean in on some things to help them articulate. But it is very funny when I get on calls, they’re like, oh my gosh, it’s so cool. That’s usually when I get like, oh my gosh, what you do is so cool.

0:17:49.1 AR: And I’m like, it is cool. It is very fascinating to see someone be drawing live in real time in front of your eyes. Exactly what’s being said. There is the cool factor and I understand that, but I make it very clear to people who want to work with me that I am not the entertainment. It is entertaining. Sure. I get it like it is. And when people say, oh, I watched you the whole time, I’m like, that’s great because you’re still paying attention, you’re still learning. It’s not about the entertainment at all. It’s really about do you want people to feel heard and seen? Do you wanna elevate your message? Do you want to have something to help people engage in the moment and then have this thing that you can have afterwards to do whatever you want with I’ve been really talking about the neurodiverse aspect of it lately, where we have such a high expectation on people to sit there for eight hours.

0:18:46.0 AR: And if you can’t physically or mentally sit there for eight hours, you are gonna miss out on the content. And that’s not cool. So how can you add in this element where it does have a nice visual aspect to it. Now you have like a gallery that you have in your conference. But it’s really about that learning. So I am a bit particular in who I work with because I find the people who just want to work with me for the entertainment factor, they’re treating me not as a communication expert, which is what I am. I’m there to help people learn and engage. And sometimes that means the picture isn’t pretty, because if you are in a meeting and the conversation is messy. Sometimes the drawing is a little messy. You know what, usually it’s pretty decent. But sometimes, like it’s not this big polished, beautiful illustration. And people have to be okay with that because it has to serve the group. And if I focus on the aesthetics, sometimes in meetings that are extremely complicated and complex, it’s not actually gonna serve the group if I just focus on making sure it looks pretty all the time. If that makes sense.

0:20:06.3 AR: You’ve opened up so many questions in my mind. [laughter]

0:20:09.7 AR: Okay. I’ll stop talking for a minute.

0:20:13.0 WB: There’s about 10,000 I gotta write down. The first thing is when I was listening to you you’re primarily doing in person drawing, like in the event itself, or are you also doing virtual?

0:20:27.2 AR: Great question. So I have a pre-Covid and post-Covid life, that’s for sure. Pre-Covid, I was 100% in person. Now I am more like 85% digital, maybe even higher, maybe 90%. So I really had to pivot very quickly, figure out how am I gonna continue my business through this ’cause I do feed my family on this work, so it’s pretty important to keep going. And I couldn’t let a little thing called a pandemic slow me down. [laughter] So it’s like, okay, let’s figure this out. So luckily I have a lot of client base in tech, and they kept me like those first few months through the pandemic, they really kept me going. Without them it would’ve been pretty rough. A lot of people were just happy for me to be like, instead of a Zoom screen and seeing me here, you’d see my, it’s… In the beginning it’s just a big white space.

0:21:32.4 AR: And then you get to see, you see every little mistake I make. Every little word I spell wrong, I have to fix you get to see it all. So it was a really nice, beautiful way to be able to work with more clients in a way that also is accessible to people. So I do have some people that even though they’re back in person, they’re still keeping a virtual element because they realized with the pandemic how important it is. And the virtual people get to see the drawing, and then they take my screen and project it on a screen in the room. So it’s just as good as me being there, if not better. Like, there’s pros and cons to paper versus digital. The paper is like beautiful ’cause it’s like very tactile and just so different and unique. But you can only make it so big.

0:22:27.8 AR: So when people project it in the room, they can project it on any size they want. So that’s kind of a nice thing. And I’ll usually get like DMs when I’m working and they’re like, are you here? Where are you? Are you at the conference? What’s happening? [laughter] It doesn’t mean I have to be there necessarily as long as we have the tech set up. So yeah, that’s more so for like conferences and that kind of stuff. But I’m mostly in person when it comes to these more facilitated things. I have done some online over the last couple of years, but usually when I’m doing these more conversations where people are contributing, it’s a little bit more difficult to do it on a Zoom call. Like I said, though, I did in those early days of COVID. Because people didn’t necessarily have a choice. But it definitely is impactful to be there in person in those situations. So and I do, I tend to do those a little bit more, more locally these days.

0:23:36.0 WB: I guess it opened the world to you essentially through the virtual application. So now you got a broader audience, a potentially broader customer base. As a facilitator myself, I’m really very conscious of the power of the visual graphic that you’re talking about, what that offers. But I’m curious, what sort of feedback do you get from your clients or the participants at the end of an event? Like they’ve seen it, they’ve witnessed it, they’ve experienced it themself. Is there any sort of short expression that you could share or you received that sort of summarizes the value that they see in what you’re doing.

0:24:23.6 AR: Well, the first thing that came to my head was, wow. That’s what I tend to get. Wow. They’re like, I know we watched you create it, but look it’s this funny thing. They watch it being created, but then at the end they’re like, oh my gosh, you just created that. And I’m like, yeah, I know. You were here. Don’t you remember. So I think at the end, people, it is really… It’s so fascinating to me because there’s the impact in the moment, and then there’s the after. So the impact in the moment that I’m just getting feedback throughout. And when I am in a room with people, I like to engage people in the process as much as possible. I usually introduce at the beginning and I say there’s always one of you in every room that likes to correct people’s spelling.

0:25:15.2 AR: You can do that. You can tell me if I spell something wrong just more as a joke. But I want people to come up and say, oh, can you add this in? Can you add that in? Like, I did one back a few months ago. It was a big project. It was three days long. And they wanted… It was indigenous communities from all across of Canada. So they all speak different languages, So they wanted some of their own language in it. So they would write on a sticky note a translation of something, and then I would put that in. So in those situations, it shouldn’t necessarily be about me and what I’m doing. I want people to interact with me. So there’s that in the moment.

0:26:01.4 AR: But I think at the end, other than, Wow, it’s amazing. What I usually get, I think, is those wheels are starting to turn a little bit for people. It’s like, now what? ‘Cause at the end of the meeting, usually that’s where you should be moving towards. Okay, this work doesn’t stop here. Now what? Now what are we gonna do? And so I really try to… Do provide like a document to my clients of, over the years, I’ve just collected different ways that people tell me how they used it after an event. And I feel like my clients weren’t potentially using it to it’s ability. Like I sometimes I get it. After an event, you’re exhausted and you’re like, that’s over. [laughter] Let’s move on. And it’s like, no, make sure you share these graphics out, put them on your social media, put them on your website as long as it’s not confidential.

0:26:52.5 AR: Stick the original or print a copy, stick it in your office, give copies to them. Give people postcards. There’s not just the marketing aspect of it. You know, if it’s a conference, show it to your sponsors, show them to people who might wanna come next year. There’s all of that. But then there’s the accountability piece. So when you’re in the… Especially when you’re in those facilitated tape sessions, it’s, Hey, this is what we said we were gonna do. We’re gonna post it in the break room, or we’re gonna have everybody… We’re gonna look at it at the beginning of our next meeting, or we’re gonna start every meeting by looking at this graphic and be like, all right, we said this was our vision and mission, or we said these were our values. How are we expressing those? Or these were the action items we said we were gonna do. How are we doing with those?

0:27:41.7 AR: Because the alternative most of the time is a written report that gets, like, put in a drawer, oftentimes never to be seen again. Whereas the visual ’cause now keep the conversation moving. And I’ve even had clients tell me that they use it to tell people when they’re not going to do something. Because in that meeting they said, oh, we’re gonna do this thing. And then after the meeting, they went back and did their research and like, actually we can’t do that thing. But it gives this conduit in this soft place to have a conversation instead of just sending a mass email and saying, we can’t do that thing. In the next meeting you have the graphic and you point at it and you’re like, we actually researched this, it’s not gonna happen. This is why.

0:28:31.7 AR: Because oftentimes when people, especially if you’re an employee and you’re giving feedback, it’s just going into the abyss and you’re like, did they even hear me? Like maybe they did research it and you can’t do it. But there’s not always the best communication channel to be able to tell that employee. Oh yeah, that idea you had, we can’t do it. But if it’s represented on a graphic that now you can bring back and it’s like constant reminder of those ideas.

0:29:06.1 WB: You’ve got a great YouTube channel. I just wanna give a shout out to anyone listening. If anyone wants to… Has an interest in going down this path and learning how to do this visual graphic as leaders, as facilitators of workshops, events, check out Ashton’s YouTube channel. It’s not under your name. It’s under your company’s name.

0:29:30.2 AR: I actually just changed it maybe since you checked, but everything sketchnoting related is under Sketchnote School. So I actually changed my YouTube channel to Sketchnote School. [laughter]

0:29:44.9 WB: If I put myself in your position. Now, I’m thinking as a leader, I want to get into this graphic recording as you call it apart from where do I start to learn how to do this, the actual presence of knowing I have a blank canvas. You’re gonna start talking about a topic. Where do I start? Where do I put the pen on the canvas that’s going to be relevant by the time this whole session is finished.

0:30:11.4 AR: All I know going into it is maybe the title of a presentation or the theme of the theme of the meeting and maybe who’s there. So for conferences, it’s very, I know nothing, absolutely nothing. Like all I know is the title and the name of the person who’s talking, that’s it. And the theme, is it cybersecurity? Is it medical? I don’t know, whatever. So, but in graphic facilitation, ideally I’m involved in the process of the agenda. At least like in a perfect world scenario, I at least have one meeting under my belt before the actual meeting that I can add in some of my own. My own thoughts. I can contribute. I like to play a more active role, as much of an active role as I can. So I’m a part of the team and I find when I’m not a part of the team, I don’t feel as connected and it’s harder for me to do my job.

0:31:14.0 AR: When things have to change at lunch break. Like, oh, the direction’s going this way, we’re gonna change the agenda. I’d like to know that. [laughter] I’d like to know, I like to be in those little side meetings are kind of important. And I’ve been in situations where people didn’t invite me to that side meeting and I’m like, I should be there. I’m part of the team. So I don’t like being an add-on in those situations. There has to be a very specific reason why I am there. There everyone knows it. And I’m part of trying to help you get to that goal. So as earlier on in the process, I can be involved the better. And sometimes, a lot of times, to be honest with you, it’s very like, oh crap, we forgot to invite the graphic facilitator, try to find one.

0:32:06.0 AR: And then I get this email like, can you come on Thursday? And I’m like, maybe, no, I don’t know. So that does help answer that question a little bit. If I know, if I’m in a graphic facilitation setting, if I have a concept of what are the activities, how are the questions gonna be asked? What is the flow? If it’s a half a day, let’s say, and there’s three main things, I’m like, okay, three main things. Don’t use the whole paper in the first third. [laughter] Or make sure you got extra, you can throw some extra on a wall. I have to think about my setup. Can I throw extra paper on a wall? Usually I just bring my own walls, just like boards and stands and I can just throw up a wall on a lunch break or at a little break.

0:32:56.3 AR: So I have to take some of those things like the setup has to be considered and how much. Sometimes I won’t even really worry about the space I’m using ’cause I know I can just add a bunch of paper. Because I don’t wanna stifle and not capture things because I don’t have as much of a canvas space as I would like. So you kind of have to navigate your physical space when you’re in the room and what the agenda looks like and things like that. So it can give you some clues into how to capture what, what to capture, where to start and things like that. Whereas a conference presentation, a lot of times, like there are usually no more than an hour and you have an hour. And now I’ve done it so long, you kind of get this general sense of how to use your space.

0:33:49.2 AR: But maybe they’re supposed to talk for an hour and they only talk for 25 minutes. That’s happened lots of times. And I usually don’t capture Q&As because it’s not the presentation, which is what they wanted. So then I’m like, if from doing digitally, it’s great. ‘Cause I’m like, I’ll just add in an extra drawing here and I’ll just make this bigger. It’s like, do, do, do. I’ll just change some things around and see but the organizers know, the person ended early. I can only do what I can do. You know what I mean? Like, if it’s half empty, it’s half empty. It is what it is.

0:34:25.3 WB: Let’s move a little bit into the area. Let’s say that I’m a leader on listening to this conversation and I’m interested in introducing this into my arsenal, my toolkit of impact, if you like, to try and create more impact, influence as a leader. When I’m running meetings, running events, workshops, you’ve recently released a book, which is called Beginner’s Guide to Sketchnoting is what it says. I guess it’s a beginner’s guide for people to learn the art of how to do this better. That’s one side. You’ve got your YouTube channel, which is very educational and useful on the other side. I can imagine some people like myself prefer the live engagement. So I’m wondering, do you offer anything… Do you have a program or a training that you’re currently offering? Or is there something in the pipeline perhaps?

0:35:32.5 AR: Yeah, so I am a bit of a minimalist, so I try to take that concept into my business as well. And I did have a course for a while called Sketchnote All the Things. But I decided back in the spring when I was getting ready to release the book that I really missed working with people to help them with develop these skills. So I decided to put everything under the umbrella of the Sketchnote School. And I have an online community. So it’s a membership community, you can sign up for month or six months or whatever you want. And that is the safe space where people can just share their not so nice sketchnotes. [laughter] People are always like, it’s not good, but here it is. And for feedback and for support and for cheerleading.

0:36:26.1 AR: So it’s this beautiful space where people can kind of share what they’re working on and ask the questions and get answers from me and from other people in the community. And we have like live calls. I do workshops in there. I have guest in speakers, I have guest interviews. We did a guest interview this week. And those are particular people who are a bit more new in their sketchnoting journey. ‘Cause oftentimes what I was struggling with is that people would see my work or other people who’ve been doing it for a really long time and it’s so far away. There’s the beginner’s gap, it’s so far on the other end, they go, oh, well I can never like draw like Ashton, so I’m not even gonna try.

0:37:13.5 AR: So the guest interviews that I have are people that are a bit more early on. I have someone coming up in a couple weeks and he literally just started two months ago. So be like, what have I learned in those first two months that would be helpful to another beginner? So it’s really trying to support people and provide an opportunity where they get access to me and my knowledge, but then also the support from a community. And it’s been quite a learning opportunity to kind of be building this thing as it goes. And I’ve got courses in there. I have a new course coming out next week in the community. So everything kind of just like lives in there.

0:37:56.6 WB: That sounds extremely useful. Is there anything that we haven’t covered in our conversation that you really wanna share?

0:38:06.8 AR: Yeah, well I just wanna comment on like the leader part. So whatever you wanna call it. You know, you can learn the basic drawing elements to help you. So if you’re facilitating a meeting or you’re the one in the front of the room, you can use the sketchnoting principles on a flip chart or on a whiteboard. And it’s really about basic drawing skills. In the first thing, after talking about some lettering and writing words ’cause that’s pretty important in the book. The first drawing element that I introduce is a line. And you can use a line to do many things, to connect ideas, to show flow of information, to separate information, to highlight information. So if you just learn these basic and practice drawing some lines, and then turn that line into an arrow and turn that line into a square, you can actually create very nice looking visuals that aren’t just nice looking, but are very impactful in that meeting to help elevate that information.

0:39:16.4 AR: So like lines and arrows and squares, it’s like not rocket science. And the skillset, one of the reasons why I really wanted to put the book together was to try to make entry into this as like non-threatening, low barrier to entry as possible. Because it is not complicated. And it’s not about… Yes, you can elevate and expand into actual drawings and icons and I touch on that at the very end of the book. But the first part is really like building your foundation to just have these really simple drawing elements and redefining what drawing is and what sketch noting is, which is just to help you communicate, to help you think. It’s not about trying to create a beautiful piece of art. So when you’re facilitating a meeting or you’re at the front of the room, you’re on a Zoom call and you pull up a whiteboard or a piece of paper.

0:40:14.9 AR: Just having that like in your toolbox, like you said earlier of like, oh, I can draw a line. I’ve drawn a line before and I know I can draw a line to help connect these two ideas. Boom. Done. Like so it’s not… And I think when I have these types of conversations with someone, I’m never really surprised when people says, oh yeah, I was in meeting 10 years ago and the CEO drew a picture. People remember these things. It makes it so incredibly memorable. And it’s not complicated to learn as a leader you don’t have to be like, oh, now I have to spend all this time learning this skill. I designed the book in a way and like you could do all the exercises if you’re speedy, I guess, like fairly speedy. Like you could read the whole book and do the exercises and draw your first sketchnote in like an hour or two. It doesn’t have to be complicated. And it doesn’t have to be. We’re not looking to create beautiful pieces of artwork. We’re drawing things to help people communicate and help people engage and help clarify information and deepen that conversation.

0:41:25.0 WB: Where can people go and connect with you if they have an interest to pursue this further?

0:41:32.5 AR: So if all things sketchnoting related, like wanna learn how to sketchnote, that’s Sketchnote.school. Pretty easy. I’ve got some free stuff on there, my book’s on there, all the good things. And then my graphic recording business, it’s mindseyecreative.ca. So if you wanna see portfolio examples of my work, you wanna talk about a conference or a meeting you have coming up.

0:41:52.9 WB: We’ll make sure we link to all that in the show notes. Ashton, thank you very much for being on the ET project. Great to have the opportunity to connect and I really hope that some listeners reach out and take up the fantastic service that you’re bringing to the world.

0:42:09.5 AR: Thank you.

0:42:10.2 Speaker 2: Thank you for joining us on the ET project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time, check out our site for free videos, eBooks, webinars and blogs at coachingforcompanies.com.

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