How the World’s Top Event Planners Use Conference Sketch Artists to Stand Out

Event planners Rebecca Grinnals & Kathryn Arce of Engage! Summits are always looking for new and innovative ways to make their events stand out. Since 2008, they’ve been producing events for the top event planners in the world in the luxury wedding and event industry. As Rebecca herself says, “You can imagine there’s pressure on us to come up with new and innovative ways to engage our attendees!”


A conference sketch artist draws live

Photos Courtesy of Engage! Summits


Ink Factory has worked with Engage! on several of their conferences, creating high-impact visual notes for their speakers and attendees. Engage’s events have featured everyone from Barbara Corcoran to Marcy Blum, with hundreds of attendees. They’ve been named to the “500 Most Influential People in Events” List and one of the “15 Most Innovative Meetings” by BIZBASH.

“Visual note-taking is one of our favorite, favorite elements of our events. If we could, we’d have you at every one of them.”

Rebecca Grinnals, Engage! Summits


Rebecca and Kathryn are experts in event planning, and through working with us, they’ve learned how to incorporate visual notes into events to create an exciting experience for attendees. They understand the challenges that event planners face, including how to ensure that attendees absorb the information being shared despite constant distractions. “We want to make sure we’re delivering above and beyond expectations of what a conference is. To have a visual summary of the concepts in real-time is such an incredible gift for the attendees.”


Visual notes drawn by a conference sketch artist

Take a little extra time to prepare

In the event planning world, things move fast at the last minute. The better you plan, the more targeted and useful your notes will be, making the best use of your artist’s skills. And, the more return you’ll get out of your investment in the visual notes.

“Visual notes are a big investment, but there’s no question there’s a return on that on so many levels. Every board is powerful–so really think about what will make the biggest impact.”

Rebecca Grinnals, Engage! Summits


At Ink Factory, our project managers work with you to prepare your artist, finding areas of your agenda that can be turned into notes. Visual notes can be more than just a tool to draw attention; they can bridge a connection from the beginning to the end of the content you are sharing.

For conferences with breakout sessions, you can opt to hire multiple artists for each session, or, with some planning, we can arrange for your team to capture top takeaways from each breakout and hand them off to your artist to visualize. Engage! had 18 breakout sessions at their event, so instead of hiring 18 artists, their session facilitators provided our artist with 3-4 takeaways per breakout, and we created a board with the Top Takeaways from Day 3. “When attendees get to breakout day, they’re only hearing 3 out of 18 breakouts that day. It was a great way to utilize our artist since she was already there, and our attendees didn’t have to miss any key content,” says Rebecca.


Display created by conference sketch artists


Placement, timing, and messaging are key

Engagement boards are a great way to involve attendees and capture their ideas. We suggest placing engagement boards in a highly visible area during a time of high traffic for maximum participation. During registration at one of Engage’s Summits, attendees were prompted to answer the questions: “What is it that you hope to get out of the event?” and “What does Engage! mean to you?” They collected post-its with the answers, and our artist spent the first day illustrating the answers.


Attendees stand in front of visual notes


“These visuals were so powerful for us, because we had people in their own words evangelizing about our event.”

Kathryn Arce, Engage! Summits


Planning for the engagement board at registration on the first day was a great way to touch each attendee with the visual notes, so they were more familiar with them when the second and third days came around.


A conference sketch artist captures visual notes live while a speaker presents


On the second day of their event, Engage! had our artist draw live visual notes to capture their featured speaker’s sessions. To position visual notes at your event, we recommend a place that is highly visible yet off to the side of your speaker.

“You could see what she was doing but it wasn’t a distraction–it was really cool to see her working off to the side.”

Kathryn Arce, Engage! Summits


When the artist was finished, the notes were displayed in the hallway in another high-traffic area so attendees could review the visuals in between sessions.


Artists can help you engage attendees with a workshop at your conference


Take advantage of our workshop offering

You can also give attendees the opportunity to learn how to create visual notes themselves. Once they see the impact of visual notes, you can take advantage of Ink Factory’s workshop offerings to create a one-of-a-kind experience for attendees.

“A lot of our attendees are now familiar with visual notes. I think the visual note-taking workshops are a great way for us to provide an additional level of value for them so they can take those skills back home with them.”

Rebecca Grinnals, Engage! Summits


Visual notes created by an artist


Think about how you’ll use your visual notes post-event

Visual notes can be utilized in various ways after the event, such as on social media and in post-event content like blogs and newsletters. Definitely don’t miss out on the chance to remind your attendees of how great your event was with a follow-up recap email. “We loved being able to send the notes as a PDF in our final wrap-up email to attendees.”

Beyond the digital assets, don’t forget that you’ll have the physical visual note boards after your event. Engage! arranged to ship each speaker their visual note boards as a surprise afterward.

“I think it’s a thrill for many speakers to see their hard work represented visually. It’s an added benefit of the notes.”

Rebecca Grinnals, Engage! Summits


Next time we work together, Engage! wants to plan more video content with the visual notes: “We have a lot of people watch our event on social. I think we could do some really creative time-lapses and reel content with the visual notes. Because they’re so visual, they lend themselves to social media impact,” says Rebecca.


And lastly, trust the experts!

The event experts at Engage! Summits agree–If you’re unsure how to get the most out of your visual notes, don’t hesitate to consult with Ink Factory for guidance and resources: “If you’re not sure what you need, ask Ink Factory for examples. Once we saw how your artist worked, we understood the value and how we could get more ROI by optimizing how we work together.”

Ready to turn your conferences and events up to the next level? Our artist team is here to help. Send us a message to schedule a call. We can’t wait to create something awesome together!

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