Graphic recording to liven up remote meetings and connection

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, much of our work is being taken to the digital realm. We are spending hours of our day facing computer screens that essentially serve as small digital windows into each other’s lives. It is a gift to be able to continue to connect; however, it can be draining and challenging to stay engaged in online meetings. Typically, when we are struggling with meeting culture and facilitation, turning to Positive and Productive Meetings helps. With being able to only meet remotely, everyone being able to contribute meaningfully and feeling heard are especially challenging. This is something graphics can support with, but it can only work when we are all physically together…right?

It’s so funny how sometimes the best ideas come from places where we think we are stuck but really don’t want to be… and sometimes all it takes is one person to say, “but could it work?”

So, I started to play a bit and experiment with trying to capture remote meeting conversations as I would in the physical world. My laptop has a touch-screen and a stylus, so I knew it was theoretically possible but I just never thought to attempt doodling in front of a virtual audience. I quickly discovered that the whiteboard within the meeting app was pretty bare-bones, but that the Microsoft Whiteboard that came with my laptop was simple but versatile enough to be fun. Pretty soon, I was using it to facilitate remote group conversations and idea-gathering, as well as doing graphics while someone else facilitated.

The good news – it was relatively easy and fun! People reported finding it fun to watch the drawings come to life in front of them, like a little cartoon. Several people said they found it easier to follow what the presenter was saying by watching the pictures and words appear. It gave a nice break from the typical view, and it also resulted in a downloadable image, perfect to share on social media or otherwise. I primarily used the black marker and the highlighter colors for shading, this made nice images that popped well visually. It was helpful to frame out the spaces for the conversation ahead of time, so that I could zoom into sections and record people’s input, then zoom out and show the larger picture. That helped contribute to the cartoon feel as well and made it enjoyable to watch.

The challenges – unstable internet connection and general computer lagging made drawing awkward and frustrating at times. It was slower to do than graphics on paper, as the slick computer surface is more prone to slip-ups and mistakes. Erasing is relatively easy, but it takes concentration to make sure words are legible and images are clean. It is relatively easy to accidentally tap the screen and navigate away, or zoom in or out unintentionally. I am experimenting with wearing a glove to minimize chances of this happening, which also makes for a fun conversation starter.

Using live digital graphic recording is fun and engaging in ways similar to the use of graphics in person. It makes meetings come to life and pairs perfectly with concepts of Positive and Productive Meetings, capturing rounds and including all team members. The image above captures input from a group of youth during the pandemic who were asked for ideas for staying connected while remaining apart. You can find more information about Positive and Productive Meetings here:

How can YOU use graphics to make online meetings more fun and equitable?