Try This! Sketch Your Conference Notes

by Natalie Sopinka—AFS Contributing Writer [email protected]Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 12.30.47 AM With the Annual Meeting only a month away, it’s time to start preparing. T-shirt with fish pattern packed, check. Presentation saved to a USB stick, check. Pad of blank paper, a black Sharpie, and a favorite colored pencil to sketch symposium talks, check! This year, why not try sketching your conference notes? But I Can’t Draw! Science and natural history illustrator Bethann Merkle (commnatural. com; @CommNatural on Twitter) begs to differ. “You can draw,” she says. Sketching, like pipetting, fly-fishing, and coding in R, requires practice, but we all have the capacity to do it. Professional science scribe Perrin Ireland’s (@experrinment) favorite rule for sketching, “is that it has very little to do with whether you can draw.” Conference sketching does, however, involve adjusting the way we listen and how we mentally store what we heard and what we are hearing. What happens when a speaker has transitioned to the study results while you’re still sketching the methods? Ireland has developed a strategy of placing talk content in “holding spots in [her] brain.” While sketching what you heard, try visualizing sketches of what is being said. Real-time conference sketching is an adventure in creativity. You may miss a speckle or fin while sketching a trout, but as Merkle explains, sketching is “never perfect for anyone.” You’ll Thank Yourself Later Drawings help with memorization. “I had a hard time recalling talks looking back at my scribbled notebooks,” said Shayle Matsuda (@wrong_whale). A graduate student at California Academy of Sciences, Matsuda now sketches symposium presentations in watercolor to create “a visual story.” Transforming what he heard into a sketch gave Matsuda “a deeper understanding of the material and helped [him] remember.” Visual representations of scientific conferences are also appreciated by the research community as a whole; both Merkle and Ireland now host sketching workshops at conferences. Pro Tips for Conference Sketching

This content is for members only. Please login.