Skip to main content

Visual Notetaking: A Beginner's Guide to Sketchnotes

Lesson 12 of 15

Learn to Listen for Major Themes

Giselle Chow

Visual Notetaking: A Beginner's Guide to Sketchnotes

Giselle Chow

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

12. Learn to Listen for Major Themes

Lesson Info

Learn to Listen for Major Themes

Now we're going to turn toward listening and things to be aware of when you are listening for this kind of information so when you think about sketch noting and really what you're doing I mentioned this earlier but really you are you know they're several components to what you're you're accomplishing great you're listening to what's being said you're pulling out those big ideas as major themes in order to do that I have to synthesize everything that you're hearing you select what to represent and then you draw on represented so all those things are happening as we're producing these beautiful sketch notes that you see and in front of you so we're gonna talk a little bit about listening break it down and then we will have some time to practice some listening with sketch noting and without whatever you prefer but we will end up working altogether and doing some sketchy knitting together again using the alex bloomberg workshop that we listen to earlier today okay, so um in terms of listen...

ing and practicing and bring it all together um we're going to learn to listen for those major themes and those really big ideas I'm going to talk about how to use it meditation for listening or meditative awareness or practice around building a listening practice or some overlaps there that are really nice self awareness is also really key they're well disapprove pissing around what you hear okay, so you'll do some practice of choosing those components, and then we will talk about, um, how to take the work forward. So after we've spent some time applying the skills sketch noting in real time, what is your next step? Right? What do you want to focus on? Maybe you recognize from earlier? Oh, yeah, you know, lettering is really my thing like that's, actually where I really want to focus or maybe realized, you know what? I have a hard time actually figuring out what the main point is, I need to produce more of that work, so we'll also have spent some time thinking about the next steps for that. Okay? So in terms of, of, um, listening for the major themes and the big ideas, a few tips around that one is listening for the key ideas that really sum up what a speaker is trying to say. So this gets easier with practice, and one of the ways to practice is actually start to listen to the people in your lives that well, always listen to the people in your lives, but try to listen to them keeping this in mind, you'll find that different speakers speak differently, right, some people will talk, and they will. They will say the big idea first and then they will give supporting information some people will give all the details and then we'll come up with a big idea some people will tell a story if you're not really sure how it relates to the thing you asked them but eventually does right so different speakers speak differently so getting to that chunk of info will take different kinds of awareness okay um right and three to seven word phrases so don't worry about writing down everything you here that's not the goal three to seven words is great okay so focus on that idea um write down what people say and avoid paraphrasing so sometimes especially people are talking about something that's really meaningful may be difficult um maybe you're in a content contentious situation people might not say something I might not come out is elegantly um as they might have wished or you are you know as the third party standing there you might think there's a quote unquote better way to say this or more concise way to say this I would say avoid paraphrasing there a few messages we sent when you paraphrase one is I you know I think if when I paraphrase the fire to paraphrase someone's comment an indirect message I might be sending is I can actually say this better than you said it right so you're laboring over your sense of meaning over someone else's words also we really want people to recognize what they say in your work. So if you paraphrase the point where people can't look at your work and think that's what I said then we failed along the way everyone should be able to recognize their contribution okay? A speaker should be able to say yeah that's what I said all right, so right down people say it really builds ownership it really build a different kind of engagement when you write down exactly what people say okay um also if it's helpful used what I call the viewfinder metaphor so if you think about what people say is just a big like a big sea of text you can actually think about it as a transcription or text on a page your job is to take a viewfinder so a small little viewfinder rectangle that's just big enough for seven words to fit in that viewfinder and your job is to scan over all that text and stop and highlight and pull out those nuggets or those chunks of info that you think are really relevant. Okay, so think of yourself as that do you find her or that highlighter pen? Right? Maybe recall you know, when we were in school when you first learned about a highlighter and you got one you like highlighted everything right just to use the highlighter so resist that urge and really think about highlighting those really relevant pieces of information so the next pieces around cultivating listening skills as if it were a meditation. So some things to think about resist the urge to attack the task is something to be won or like a battle? Um, it won't necessarily serve you well. So, um, a great piece of advice I got early on was don't write down the first words you hear, wait a bit, stand back a bit, get a larger shape of actually what you're listening to and then decide what you want to write down. So for those of you who might find as I'm speaking, a lot of you are taking notes as I obtained sketch note it's a zoo I'm speaking if you find that you're someone who can write down a lot of information and capture in text really quickly, this might be particularly useful for you, right? Hold back a bit, sit back and wait see what emerges you don't need to write down the first thing you hear uh also staying mentally and physically relaxed and grounded, whatever that means for you so you might find yourself in an environment that is very formal, very staid. You don't have to nestle match that with your energy, I'm not saying it wouldn't be like super crazy, but you khun you could be in charge of your own energy level but you do have to match what the group is doing. The other side is true as well. Sometimes I've been in meetings where people are really like they're really they're laughing really hard there, super energy that they obviously love each other, and they're having tons of fun with speakers really entertaining if I get wrapped up in that I'm actually not doing my job as well as I could be, right? So self regulate your own sense of where you are mentally in that space, like you get to define that you don't need toe kind of absorb that from from the group. Uh, it also means, um being well rested, very basic stuff like sleeping eating, having enough water. This is the kind of job that really is an all encompassing kind of all body task, and if you're tired, it tends to show in your work, so just take care of yourselves in that way. Um, no, your personal successfactors. So what are the things that you're that? What are the waves that you will know? You've done an awesome job? Right, so what are the things that need to be in place for you to feel really prepared and really successful? So be maybe, you know, for me, it's arriving early like I'm an early arrival, like, ridiculously early, like I don't sometimes I know I bum people out because I say, like, I want to be there like hour and twenty minutes early and they're like, because that means I'm telling someone else to be there early, I'm like, doesn't matter like I'll sit in the lobby, I just really want to be there early to me, that's what I need to be prepared, so just start to get a sense of of what that means for you. Okay, uh also before that, um, before that, before we talk about house speaker speak, I talked about already a bit, but another personal success factor is have a specific learning goal in mind, so every time you do a new sketch note, every time you're in a new situation, decide for yourself like today, I'm really going to work on producing a really engaging, wonderful title that's what I want to dio like that's my specific learning goal or you know I'm realizing I'm having a hard time doing consistent bullet points that kind of all over the place they're not really making sense I'm really going to focus on that so have a specific learning goal every time you you work that's the really wonderful thing about doing this work is you could be doing your work and you can also be doing your personal professional development work at the same time which is great so we talked about um house speaker speak how people kind of wind their ways around ideas differently um you'll get a sense of that and then also finally let the group drive your design decisions so you're doing this as if you were doing it publicly you're doing this is a service toe other people if you're doing it for yourself that's a little bit different but show emphasis if you're doing this in a public setting show the emphasis where the group shows it you know so the group might rally around an idea or something that they feel really strongly about and internally that might be something that you're like really that's your big breakthrough idea but your job is to represent the energy of the group so follow the group um listen to what the group wants and let that helped drive some of your design decisions okay? So what we're gonna do is I'm gonna give you some time to practice and we're going to jump into a listening exercise but before we did that I was wondering if you had any questions around anything we've done so far surround format around building blocks anything that's come up for you in the break that I can help with that comes to yeah I was wondering do you ever go back and redo the er visualization that you've done? I it depends on what the goal is so I would say typically I do not because the work that I dio is meant for the people there in the room at the time of the engagement so if I go back and I changed a lot of what you see I might change it so much then in three weeks we talked about the three week rule like how you know will you still remember? Will you still be transported back to this place in three weeks when you look at that chart by change it too much you won't remember it won't be recognizable to you because I will have changed your memory of of the work so you you're all forming memories around the content based on what you see and what we created together in real time if I go back and change it that I'm disrupting that that memory of yours so I tend not to because it's supposed to represent what we did in this space at this time if it is something that is meant to be communicated out externally to people um and and that's the goal then sometimes people will say, hey, will you create something that has all of like for instance, you know we'll have created maybe three or four different displays that you've seen they might say, can you put all of that on one page? Can you do like a high level something and do it on one page so I might do that but then there's an awareness that that is no longer what happened in the room it's for external communication purposes such little bit friend no yeah, diane to your question is that ok? Yeah, so are you do you sometimes do these large format sketching and sometimes do you when you referred to sitting in the middle of the room? Was that sometimes do you do small for yeah, so I do both usually when I am sitting in the middle of the road and doing the sketching, I'm usually doing it digitally, so I'm usually working on a tablet and that time capturing information using after some kind sketchbook pro paper um and capturing digitally that way I don't usually do it on paper just personally I'm not called to do it on paper with pens I do it for myself, you know, for fun, but usually when I'm working it's digital and then what I am up in front of people is just like this with the big sheets of paper. Yeah, and when you're up in front, is it because they want you to be part of the event? Yeah. Hearted the exciting yeah. So when it's yeah, exactly. So they want the experience people want to experience. I'm watching it unfold in real time and there is something different, you know, that happens between watching it unfold in real time and and having a schedule that's completed and then gets sent out to people they just served there's not one that's better than the other. They just serve different purposes. They do different things, you know? Thank you. Yeah, about ownership of the final product. Yes. Does that belong to the client? Are you able to use that image as a selling point for other clients? What happens to you when you when you're done with this? Yeah. So usually the work that I do, that all the images that I create are are the clients, so they're theirs. So if I do things on big pieces of paper when I leave, I rolled them out, I take photos of everything, I rolled them up and I leave them there, and the clients take him home there, there there's, um I will sometimes ask if I can use them for my own purposes can I can I share these? Is it okay if I put them on my website? Are you going to share them? I will ask but I always ask so because sometimes you were you were captured information that you don't want to be public, you know, but it's always good to ask, especially if you're building a portfolio of your work, you know? And you want to track your own share it that way so always ask, yeah, for sure, especially if you do stuff pro bono know really, if you'd do stuff pro bono and that's a great way, you know, we're gonna talk about how to move forward and howto had a practice, but if there is a community group, if there is, you know, an issue, something that you really feel passionately about and they want you to do a lot of work for them and you're happy to do it, maybe somethingto ask for is and can I can I share these guys share this? Yeah, that would really help me out if I could put this in my portfolio, you know, was there another hand with a question? Yeah, stephanie, um, how when you're doing since shooting, how do you leave room for visuals? Do you like is it something that's in your mind that you're like? I'm going to put this here or do you make maybe make like a little line of show the the graphic if I can't do it on the fly and I know I want to put something there I will leave a space for it so I think there was this example over here on the power your podcast where where um alice monberg was asking the think the ceo or someone in male chimp like how did you come up with a name the mail ship name and I want to draw a chimp but I got stuck because I actually don't know how to draw a chimp like in my brain I think of chimp I don't really get a good image right? So I left a space to go back later and fill it in that's usually what I do if I can't do it quickly in real time so I do this or calculus of can I do it? Will it not take it? We'll take you know, a little bit of time will I be able to keep up with the conversation so yeah uh another question over here it was samir melissa had something question about um your layout choices um say if thie conversation gets derailed or like sidetracked to a large extent it changes um it's not like the layout that you had envisioned do you just have any like general tips to like bring it back into a cohesive layout or like what do you do when that happened? Yeah so my first reaction I have that question which is a great question it happens all the time um is I feel it so my job is to serve the group so if the conversation moves outside the format that I pre concocted that I think is going to be the best fit I let the group it's that point about laying the group to dictate your decisions so if the form that's not working I go to my plan b are my plan c so that could be abandoning the structure moving over and starting something new maybe it's a list maybe it's putting ideas in, you know, in shapes right? Maybe I'm not sure of the order but I'm just gonna track it and maybe a ce format will become clear to me maybe it's not even working on that you know, on a piece of paper maybe it's like working on the facing page you know, maybe you're kind of starting it on a different um plane right? So those are a few things I would probably dio as opposed to trying to bring bring the group back to fit into that if I were working I'm thinking about the conversation with russell right where we're in conversation that was more of a facilitated moment you know that might be a question where I might say hey looks like we're going outside the structure that we originally anticipated was going to be helpful is that okay with you can we do that she would do something else you know but if I were you you know alone listening I'm like well that's not working I'm gonna try something else so okay one more question anything else? I was thinking that something we talked about earlier as well but um when you are drawing something on your also gauging how much time and investment you're going to put into that drawing versus what's how the conversations carry getting carried out how do you stay focused on the conversations that's happening on still continue to be able to draw because for me sometimes I get stuck on drawing the icon and then you're continuing to talk and I think I may have lost you for a sentence or two yeah that if that happens it really is again um I think for me it goes back to being grounded and just reminding myself like oh hey like noticing what's happening and being like that's okay it'll be like hey, I'm getting hung up on drawing this icon I should stop now I'm gonna stop not gonna feel like instead of being kind of paralyzed so it's it's less about to me what happens when you get stuck because I know I'm going to get stuck. I know I'm gonna have those moments where I get stuck, but it's more about how I want to behave when I get stuck. Like, what am I going to say to myself when I'm going to do what are some strategies I have? I think for me, I you know, if you miss it, you miss it, it's not coming back, just like you jump back on the horse, keep going and don't miss moore. You don't. I mean, um, it'll be okay. It's not gonna be perfect, it's it's, a practice that builds so yeah, be forgiving. You're doing a lot at the same time, you know, it's, a very unique skill set that you're bringing all together at the same time in real time, so it's a lot.

Class Description

Graphic facilitation uses attention-grabbing images, colors, and words to represent ideas shared during meetings, conferences, and events. Learn how it is done in Visual Notetaking: A Beginner's Guide to Sketchnotes with Giselle Chow.

In this beginner-friendly class, you’ll learn how to actively listen and illustrate ideas in a whole new way. 

Giselle will teach you how to: 

  • Listen for relevant information
  • Represent ideas in text and graphics
  • Build an icon bank 
  • Use color and size for emphasis

Giselle is a consultant with The Grove and in this class, she’ll teach you how to make ideas leap off a page. Giselle will cover everything from preparation to execution and you’ll learn how to make a visual compendium of an event that can be shared with attendees and social audiences.

You’ll also learn about drawing connections in a way that makes information easier to retain and helps visual thinkers grasp new concepts and ideas.

If you want to add an exciting new skills to your design repertoire and learn how to make engaging, share-worthy visual notes, don’t miss Visual Notetaking: A Beginner's Guide to Sketchnotes with Giselle Chow. 



Wonderful overview of sketch noting with tons of opportunities to practice, learn, and refine skills! Appreciated the side benefits of recognizing sketchnoting involves active listening and the opportunity to practice that too. Thank you! 110% recommend this course.

Tran Phuong

Great fundamental skills for effective notetaking! I love Gisele and all her lessons! They are super easy to follow and understand. Would recommend it of course!

Lisa Houghton

I really enjoyed this class. I am a beginner sketchnoter and found it very helpful. Great pace and delivery by instructor. Every minute was worth it. Thank you!