The Great Pivot: How a Live Event Sketching & Video Animation Company Navigated the Pandemic & Successfully Transformed Their Business Model

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At a time when many businesses were forced to close their doors in the wake of COVID-19, The Sketch Effect successfully navigated massive changes to their business model as a result of the pandemic. Things were touch and go for a short while as they were with nearly the entire globe, however, the live event sketching and video animation team pulled it off with innovation, dedication, and a willingness to think outside the box.

The Sketch Effect Year Over Year Growth Chart

A Quiet Evening Foreshadows Pandemic Challenges

In March 2020, The Sketch Effect's Founder and CEO William Warren went for an afternoon run, noticing that it was unusually quiet when Atlanta’s highways would normally be choked with traffic. The weight of the coming pandemic was starting to settle in and The Sketch Effect began to see the first of many blows to the company.

The state of Georgia issued a shelter-in-place order and in just a few days, the company lost 100% of its corporate live event sketching business. As every single event, meeting, tradeshow and conference was cancelled, The Sketch Effect’s “gig” calendar simply vanished. Moreover, almost all the company's large, reliable video clients canceled their engagements with The Sketch Effect due to the staggering economic uncertainty. In short, revenue dropped by 80% nearly overnight.

By all accounts, it looked like The Sketch Effect was going to end up like so many other businesses who had to shut their doors as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and policies of economic shutdown.

Launching RemoteNotes

Although The Sketch Effect was facing extreme adversity, they decided to rise to the occasion rather than back down. Instead of slowing down, they sped up. Instead of wearing out, they energized. And instead of getting bitter, they got better.
In 2019, the company had begun to invest in digital tools and technology to serve clients in new and innovative ways. Thankfully, this investment paid off in a big way: a lot of the work was already done and the team was poised to work completely remote and serve clients virtually.

The Sketch Effect first took action to roll out a new virtual live sketching product that allows a live artist to join a virtual meeting or event remotely and provide a similar live sketching experience for the virtual audience. In essence, a live sketch artist would log into a meeting, connect his or her digital sketching device to the platform, actively listen to the content, and create virtual visual notes in real time. Whether it was a team meeting, a webinar, a virtual leadership conference, or a workshop, The Sketch Effect team could document this content in a compelling, visual and creative way.

The company also rolled out an all-new landing page and marketing video to promote this innovative new form of visual note taking and share the service to all of their existing live (in-person) sketch clients.

This pivot would pay off, as nearly half of all revenue in 2020 was generated by this new virtual live sketching product.

Innovative New Video Styles

The Sketch Effect also created a new video style that could be done remotely and help budget-strapped clients communicate their messages during uncertain economic times. In short, an animated hand was integrated into the team’s “2D animation style” to create a compelling new look and feel when it comes to animation. The style could also be done totally remotely and at a more affordable price point.

One of the company’s largest contracts of the spring and summer of 2020 was for this new style of video and brought in a crucial source of revenue when The Sketch Effect needed it most. This style has since become a popular option for several Sketch Effect video animation clients.

Brainstorming New Ideas & Bringing In New Team Members

As The Sketch Effect weathered the unpredictable roller coaster of a year, they took the initiative to invest time, effort, and training into their team. The company hosted “Inspiration Lunches” with the team, where staff were encouraged to share any new ideas they have for products, services, customer relations, or to streamline internal processes and increase productivity.

During this time, the company also implemented over forty (40) new innovations aimed at improving the animated video service, and also introduced several new members to the team. The Sketch Effect took the opportunity the downtime from the pandemic provided to improve their hiring and onboarding processes, including the creation of a totally online LMS training platform.

Creating Sustainability

The next objective for The Sketch Effect was to carve out a modicum of sustainability in a tumultuous business climate. Using their new service offerings of remote live sketching and animated hand videos, the company developed new logistical processes and enhanced customer support to provide an overall better experience for the consumer.

The Sketch Effect continued to modify their services to cater to the changing needs of businesses after COVID-19 and educate the market around trends and virtual events best practices. As part of this effort, the team hosted a 4-part webinar series to help educate companies on how remote live note taking and animated explainer videos can benefit their bottom line, build their culture, and inspire their audiences.

Arguably, all of these efforts helped keep The Sketch Effect business above water during a time when so many companies were scrambling to carve out a new place in a constantly disrupted marketplace.

Investing in Company Culture

The Sketch Effect has always been proud to have a hard working, fun-loving, and casual company culture where team members feel empowered to become their best while giving their best. However, this culture had to be cultivated differently and intentionally during a season of mostly remote work.

During lockdown, The Sketch Effect planned and executed their very first virtual “Sketch Summit”, where team members were able to interact digitally, listen to keynote speeches, engage with team-specific breakout speakers for the first time, and have fun interacting with games and creative experiences. The result was a strong investment and deposit towards continuing the uplifting company culture The Sketch Effect is known for.

Building Loyalty

After The Sketch Effect’s redirected product and service efforts, an improvement in customer relationships and satisfaction naturally followed. The company implemented a “Surprise and Delight” initiative with the goal of going over and beyond the call of duty to not only satisfy clients, but delight them. They also provided enhanced technical and troubleshooting support to many clients who were hosting their very first virtual events. In summary, The Sketch Effect team considered themselves partners with their customers, working together to make the most of this strange and unpredictable season of virtual meetings and events.

Smashing Goals

Despite the coronavirus pandemic posing a unique number of challenges for The Sketch Effect, the company managed to smash multiple goals and continue their mission of making ideas understandable and actionable through awesome visual communication, and to create an uplifting environment where people become their best while giving their best.

Year Over Year Revenue Growth

Like many businesses, The Sketch Effect faced extreme adversity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and policies of economic shutdown in early 2020. However, the company leveraged this crisis as an opportunity, using this unique season to learn, grow, and emerge a better company. With a strong team of artists, animators, operators, administrative professionals and more, The Sketch Effect is poised to become one of the top visual communication providers of 2021.

The Sketch Effect can be reached at (404) 458-4926 or via email at for media inquiries.

About The Sketch Effect

The Sketch Effect is a visual communications business based in Atlanta, GA. The company is an industry leader in effective, engaging visual communication tools used by businesses worldwide.
Our mission is simple: To make ideas understandable and actionable through awesome visual communication. In other words, we harness the power of animation, live sketching, infographics and more to help our clients communicate their messages in an effective, enjoyable way. We offer a variety of sketch recording services to meet the changing needs of today’s growing businesses, including virtual graphic recording (aka “RemoteNotes”), live graphic recording (aka “on-site sketching”), animation, explainer videos, infographics and more.

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Andie Knudson
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The Sketch Effect Year Over Year Growth Chart