Reflections on Sketchnoting PechaKuchaCMH 18

Tonight I went to the 18th Pecha Kucha here in good ole Columbus town. It was my fourth time attending and I went to be enlightened, empowered, and inspired. Of course I went with my sketchbook and pens in tow, but, having sketchnoted other Pecha Kucha events, I experimented with my process.


Like other events I’ve attended where I planned to sketchnote, I arrived early to stake out a good spot. Because the event was outside, I had to bring my own chair. To make it easier to carry everything, I brought two black pens and no color markers. I grabbed a program at the entrance and sat my chair at the edge of the crowd.

Setting Up

After sitting, I looked over the program. Ten speakers, two musical guests. Excellent. I drew the Pecha Kucha logo in the corner with the date, and decided to do something I’ve never done before: draw a grid on my paper.

The thing is, with Pecha Kucha, speakers get 20 secs for each of their 20 slides which progress automatically. That gives them 6:40min to say whatever point they want to make… and sketchnoting that can get crazy difficult because you never know what will be super inspiring. I tend to run out of space for the last speakers, which is frustrating, to say the least.

Ergo the grid. By blocking off ten equal (roughly) areas on the page, I was guaranteed to have enough space to cover every speaker. I labeled each block at the top with the speaker’s name and affiliation while it was still light out to ensure I wouldn’t mess up in between speakers. The transition time is less than a minute between speakers anyway, and I’ve had trouble keeping up in the past.

The Talks

I underestimated the grid, completely. I’ve never enjoyed a Pecha Kucha event more! I didn’t have to worry about spacing, keeping up, or anything. It was almost like my page was split into ten mini-pages where I had to capture the one or two main points of the talk as I understood it. I brought my thicker marker (Micron 08) to make sure I didn’t focus on drawing super detailed. I knew I wouldn’t have the time.

Only drawing with black pen felt like going back to my roots. When I began sketchnoting in earnest, I refused to use any color. I wanted to explore the high contrast of black pen on white-ish paper; I wasn’t ready for color yet. I did go back and throw some colored pencil on top of my drawings, only because it seemed difficult to separate the talks even with (or because of) the grid.

Parting Thoughts

All in all, experimenting with an explicit grid and labeling the sections half an hour before the talks even began was worth it. The constraints were exactly what I needed to make the sketchnoting experience less stressful and more fun.

The final sketch, shown below, is also on Flickr.