Graphic facilitation is a tool for meetings or group projects that uses visual representation of ideas to get people communicating and collaborating effectively. A graphic facilitator uses visual tools – most often large pieces of chart paper and colored markers – to capture and record the themes being talked about by the meeting participants.
Since a majority of North Americans have a strong preference for learning visually, adding a visual component to meetings or workshops can help participants grasp concepts more easily, remember them better, and focus their attention more effectively. Visual tools help to focus and guide a discussion so that meeting outcomes are fulfilled in a comfortable, organic way within a carefully designed agenda.
Benefits of Graphic Facilitation
Graphic facilitation allows meeting participants to see what is being discussed in real-time. This has various effects:
- People see that they are being listened to and their thoughts are being recorded faithfully as they speak.
- Discussions can happen in a non-linear format, picking up one thread and working on understanding and building commitment and then moving onto another related topic – without the need to follow a left-to-right, top-down recording format.
- Visual learners can grasp concepts and respond with other ideas within the meeting, whereas previously they may have felt left behind by rapid-fire dialogue.
- By prompting people visually and through simple drawings and colors, graphic facilitation engages the “right side of the mind” and allows people to think more “out of the box.”
- The graphic that gets created can serve as minutes of the meeting – much more fun to read and, as they say, a picture’s worth a thousand words.
Is it a PowerPoint Substitute?
Graphic facilitation can tap into the creativity of people working in a group, but it’s not necessarily a presentation tool. (See Prezi.com if you’re looking for an alternative to Powerpoint). It’s possible to use large-scale graphic charts, created in the same style/scale as graphic facilitation outputs, as visual aids for making a presentation, much as people did in the days before projectors & laptops. You can work with a graphic facilitator/recorder to define what you want to have on the charts and prepare them before an event instead of having the charts made during the event itself.
Terms of the Trade: What is Graphic Facilitation and Graphic Recording?
The focus in both genres is strongly on the content of the session. The pictures created are secondary, although very pleasing!
In graphic facilitation, the facilitator of the meeting is actively wielding the pen, and encouraging meeting attendees to engage with the graphics as they’re created in real-time. The graphics become an interactive part of the session. Some suggested applications:
- planning sessions where diverse views need to be integrated
- strategy sessions for marketing or business expansion
- project management kick-off meetings, where scope and objectives need to be agreed upon and milestones set with full buy-in.
A graphic facilitator is skilled in designing a discussion process that will use the graphics as an active aid to dialogue. After the session, the charts will act as a visual reminder for meeting participants, and can be used as a prompter to “tell the story” of the meeting.
In graphic recording, somebody is facilitating or leading the session (or possibly delivering a keynote talk) and the graphic recorder acts as a “silent scribe” to capture the essence of the program. Some suggested applications:
- capturing the essence of keynote speakers,
- supporting meetings that already have a facilitator/leader,
- focus groups
- conference workshops
- world cafes
- open spaces.. etc.
In graphic recording, the focus is strongly on objective portrayal of the key points of the discussion or talk, and the recorder is supporting the real-time discussion or delivery of the content.
Directis is pleased to partner with accomplished graphic recorder Leah Howard. Leah has a diverse background in policy and program planning, project management, and facilitation having worked in both public and private sectors, as well as doing extensive volunteer work for non-profit organizations. One of Leah’s greatest assets is her ability to translate complex and abstract concepts into material that is easily understood by all audiences. Her sense of humour helps to convey the messages in a unique manner and this is often apparent in her graphic style.
Leah’s graphic recording work is on display in the [intlink id="1144" type="page"]Graphic Recording Portfolio[/intlink].
What can I expect after the session?
Each graphic facilitator works a little differently, but generally we all provide the graphic output to be used by the client in a variety of ways. Depending on your event, you may get the graphics rolled into a broader report of the event or you may agree that just the graphics are all you need from your facilitator/recorder.
Graphics can be provided in digital format (usually .jpgs or .pdfs) as well as the original mural-sized product. Digital production takes from one day to two weeks depending on the complexity of the event and how the graphics fit into the overall design of the event.
How can I get this for my meeting or event?
Send a message telling us about your meeting. We’ll call or email you to talk about how the “visual channel” might be used to connect with your meeting participants. Not all group processes need graphic facilitation or recording to be effective. It’s one of many tools in a facilitator’s toolbox.
We can provide input into process design from the get-go, or you can simply ask for our involvement at the event as a graphic recorder. There are many ways we can work together depending on your needs.
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