Saturday, September 15, 2018

TestBash Germany 2018 - My First Attempt In Sketchnoting

Why write down again what had already been written down by someone else? Therefore, here's the condensed form what the second edition of TestBash Germany was like. At least, what it was like for me. ;-)

This year I was not speaking but only attending the conference, so I had time to focus on having conversations with great people and enjoying the talks. Too easy? Well, that cries out for an experiment! Or two.

Experiment #1: Sketchnoting

Seeing all the masterpieces online, I also wanted to give sketchnoting a try. I mean, a real try - not giving up the first minutes into the talk when I saw my notes will never ever fit one page only. The evening before the event these thoughts kept buzzing in my head so my brain kept me awake until I finally resolved upon actually sketchnoting at TestBash Germany.

The following two persons inspired me heavily when it comes to sketchnoting: Marianne Duijst with her awesome collection of sketchnotes and constant encouragement to try it; and Ekaterina Budnikov who lately shared great advice how to get started. Now, I always did take notes on conferences before. I wrote everything down in great detail without thinking about it, and later on at home I transferred my messy scribbled notes into a readable and structured digital form. Doing so cost lots of time. As I'm now going to more than one conference per year I wanted to see whether I could reduce that time investment while still having proper notes for later reference.
The result: I really did it! It was quite exhausting, but I learned a bunch.
  • It was good that I brought some pens with me already: black, blue, green and red were the colors of my choice. I used a simple squared notebook.
  • I quickly noticed that the black pen was dry, so I had to switch to blue. At least this is only visible in my first sketchnote. The other colors stayed usable until the end.
  • The different colors were really helpful for additional structure elements, like marking section headers, as well as navigational elements, like linking different areas of the sketchnote. In the end, two colors were sufficient, blue and green.
  • I did not take notes on a separate sheet for adding them later to the sketchnote, but I did take photos of content-heavy slides so I could look up what I missed in case the speaker was faster than me.
  • Most of the time I focused on text, but over time I realized when there was time to add some small images as well. Doing so, I noticed which image vocabulary I already had learned for preparing workshop posters so I could quickly express ideas visually, and which images were not already accessible so I had to think about them, taking more time.
  • Some talks were way easier to sketchnote than others. Surprisingly, there was one talk without slides - but it was one of the easiest to sketchnote due to the storytelling.
  • In the end, I did manage to fit everything on one DIN A5 page for each talk. For some talks that was really, really hard. I did not yet bother how to fill the page's whitespace in a visually nice way when I did not take up all of it. Most times, I had the challenge what to leave out instead, as I tend to write down everything and therefore run out of space. Also, at times I lost some space I would have needed just because I started not on the very top of the page or had some useless gaps in between.
  • My hands got all blue from the main pen, and I happened to blurr some notes. Couldn't help it, so I kept going.
  • I'm so much in awe for those great sketchnoters out there who manage to extract the essence of what they hear in a split second and record it in a visual and informative way. At least, I would say I got better over the day, but judge for yourself.
Most sketchnoters make a photo right after the talk and instantly tweet it. I did not dare to do that, and also felt I lack the time. So I postponed this decision for after the conference, and then got inspired to just give it a try and shared them. The feedback I received was indeed heavily encouraging, I think there's going to be another round of sketchnotes coming! But next time I'll get me some proper pens. ;-)

Experiment #2: Tweeting Continuously

To follow the same theme of reducing my time investment after the conference, I wanted to go through the Twitter stream of the conference's hashtag continuously throughout the day in small pieces, to stay up to date. I decided to do this directly after each talk. I succeeded, however, also missed some great questions and answers by doing so. An accepted trade-off for this experiment. Also, I decided not to live tweet myself as I had tried that already at another conference and it would have clashed with the sketchnoting experiment, but merely retweet great live tweets of other attendees.

The result: Tweeting rather "just in time" was a quick and easy way for me to share content without having to do it in my free time. It was also nice to get instant feedback from those who could not attend the conference, they really appreciated to experience it from afar this way. However, this might only have been feasible because it had been a one track conference with only a few live tweeters, so the amount of tweets I went through after each talk were not too many. I can imagine this might not work out for conferences with multiple tracks and / or more live tweeters. Also, doing this right after each talk meant that I joined the breaks later than others and had less time for socializing in the real world. Another trade-off to consider.

This Was TestBash Germany 2018

Here's the list of talks, linking to the awesome live blog posts from Alex Schladebeck - I can only add my sketchnotes to that! Just like last year, TestBash Germany offered meetups the day before, as well as on the evening right after the conference day. Yet again I really enjoyed these additional opportunities to have great conversations with great people. Unfortunately, however, the open space tomorrow will take place without me this year. All in all, it was once again a great conference. Thanks to everybody!

No comments:

Post a Comment