I’ll tell you a little secret. I’m a bit of a public speaking nerd. I spent most of high school years on the representative debating team (see proof to the right) and the only assignments I had done earlier than the night before they were due were the speeches (or Shakespearean soliloquies). I even spent half a decade during my 20s (my TWENTIES!!) as a very active member of a Toastmasters club in Brisbane.

I love love LOVE a good speech. And do you know what I get to do a lot of as a graphic recorder? I get to hear a lot of speeches.

Some are not so great… A couple of years ago in Sydney I was at the wall at a conference when a speaker delivered a 45 minute keynote about the brain. It was entertaining, but it was also confusing. The speaker wandered around the stage, and wandered from idea to idea with very little segue. My canvas reflected this completely. There was no connection between points. There was no hierarchy.

Some though… (kisses fingers like an italian nonno) At another conference back in Melbourne I captured a keynote where the speaker told the audience he was going to cover 3 important points. He covered those points, and he closed with a bang. The capture was beautiful, and easy to reflect upon. It all makes a really big difference.

So – speakers – if you want to be a graphic recorder’s BEST FRIEND, here’s my thoughts.

Debbie Wood capturing a keynote



There’s always a lot to be said about structure, and the Toastmasters rule was always first, tell em what you’re gonna tell em. Next, tell em. Then, tell em what you’ve told em. I love it. Reiterating your message and fleshing it out in the middle will always leave an audience with a clear understanding of what you’re about.

Paint me a picture

We graphic recorders love a visual metaphor… especially if that metaphor can be built up and carried through a story in a powerful and relevant way. Don’t ever go snapping your square story into a round metaphorical hole though – and certainly don’t overuse – because that’s when you lose your power. If one minute you’re describing a mountainous journey and the next minute you’re all on a ship confronted with an iceberg I’d say maybe your Google Maps is playing up.

Bring it home

Save your super important bit for the end. Having a cracking finale will always leave your audience thinking long after you’ve left the stage. Your graphic recorder is listening hard for the wrap and is generally saving a special place on the canvas for your final point (well, this graphic recorder is, anyway!).

One of the most thrilling things for me is capturing a killer keynote. It lights me up. Most importantly, a beautiful, well-structured keynote will always lead to a beautiful, well-structured graphic recording. When you’ve got these two things happening at your next conference, your audience will be walking away inspired, excited and ready to take on the world in their field of work.

Debbie Wood 3rd speaker for the negative

You know you’re a big deal when you feature in the 50 year Anniversary book from your high school… or you were… 30 years ago.