What do you do as a (Graphic) Facilitator?
When a group needs to accomplish something very important together, such as create a 5-year strategic plan, or plan a big project, or forge a strategic alliance, I am hired to facilitate the process to achieve the desired outcomes. I use large graphical charts to give a framework to the activities and to record the discussions, decisions, plan of action, next steps. With an independent facilitator managing the process, the group can, without distraction, fully participate in the content.
How does the ‘Graphic’ fit in?
With the help of large hand drawn charts, I focus the group, show them the shape of their work and document their accomplishments. The charts are large – about 2 metres wide by 1 metre deep. I will use text and drawings to capture the discussion.
What happens in a workshop?
We would typically kick off together with a chart that details the OARRs – outcomes, agenda, roles and rules. This stays on the wall for the duration of the meeting and also serves as a reminder for everyone of what the meeting was about in the report afterwards.
We continue with an ice-breaking exercise where everyone gets to know who else is in the room and what they need to get out of the session.
Then it really depends on the purpose of the session. For example if the group needs to agree on a shared vision then I’ll use templates and small group activities that help the group imagine an ideal future state and enable it to document and test the thinking. For example I might use a ‘cover story’ vision where the group imagine their success has hit the cover of a newspaper or magazine and they explore the details of the success, quotes from important stakeholders, images, headlines etc. (Link). We might then test this thinking with a ‘press conference’ with the group involved in answering questions from probing ‘journalists’.
Following that, we would probably create a ‘game plan’ – detailing goals, objectives, strategies, resources, actions, and responsibilities.
Nearly always, what we would end up with is a ‘next steps’ chart detailing immediate actions for people in the room.
80% of the power of my work is the process, 20% is the product. This means that my being in the room and managing the energy, holding the space, creating the right environment and recording the output effectively contributes to creating the results. For you it’s the quality of conversation you can have when someone else is managing the process. Watching your conversations become drawings has a powerful effect on the group. Afterwards, the drawings are an artefact of that moment in time and provide terrific ‘aide-memoires’ for ongoing actions.
Is it like mind mapping?
Mind mapping is a specific technique of drawing the output of a discussion. Like graphic facilitation, it does get people’s ideas out of their heads and onto paper with a visual process. Originally developed by Tony Buzan, it has a hub and spoke shape.
Occasionally, my work does take a mind mapping shape where the result is text-based lists connected to a core idea or team.
I’ve worked with graphic recorders before, how are you different?
I am a graphic recorder and a meeting facilitator. A graphic recorder is a silent partner. They will be working on the wall but will rarely engage with the group unless they need to ask a clarifying question. I manage everything about the meeting from creating the agenda, talking to all the participants in advance, setting up the venue, hand drawing charts and templates, framing activities, recording on large charts, injecting humour, pulling everything together to finish on time and creating the report which includes processed photographs of all charts/posters and people. All you need to do is to be really clear about the purpose of the workshop, and what the desired outcomes are, and then get the people in the room on the day. After that relax, you are in very experienced hands.
What about your style?
I’ve got a specific style, as has everyone, mine is probably rather corporate given my 18 years at IBM and Microsoft. I concentrate on getting everyone involved in the conversation and the activities, including handing over the marker pens for involvement and ownership rather than creating beautiful pictures.
My background is in business not art. My qualifications are in Social Science and Business Studies, plus all my training in facilitation techniques and graphic facilitation skills.
Do you provide a report following an event?
Yes, and that’s another benefit of working with Paper Plane. You will receive a report that summarises the event. I will process the photos and have your report to you within two working days, even sooner if you need speed. Your participants can hit the ground running, post-event.
I like the look of what you do, but I’m not sure my senior execs will buy in.
If you haven’t been in a meeting that uses a graphic facilitator, it’s hard to imagine it. Once you’ve experienced it, it makes all the sense in the world. Before that, I welcome questions.
In my experience the more senior the attendee the more they ‘get it’ and are immensely grateful for a fresh and engaging approach. If anyone is likely to be sick of PowerPoint and Excel spread sheets it’s your exec team.
Who do you work with?
Most of my clients are corporate and some governmental agencies, though I’ll be happy to work with anyone. I’ve worked for all sorts of industries: pharmaceutical, consulting, education, finance, IT, dairy, security, banking, and transportation. See a selection of my client testimonials since 2003 here.
I tend to be hired by senior managers for graphic facilitation of strategic planning sessions and by L&D managers, facilitators and consultants for graphic facilitation training.
Is Graphic Facilitation industry specific?
No. In my experience, 90% of meetings are pretty universal in terms of strategy, people and resources. This is especially true for the strategic type of meetings I tend to accommodate. Based on my experience, I can confidently learn and adapt to the 10% that’s specific to your company and objectives.
What sized groups have you worked with?
I’ve worked one on one, and with groups of up to 100 people. I particularly enjoy large groups; it’s amazing how much people can achieve in one room together with the right facilitator.
What do we need to do to engage you for our event?
Firstly let’s talk. If possible I’ll visit you to get a full brief concentrating on the purpose of your session, the goals, resources and issues. We will discuss dates, venues and participants, and I will submit a proposal detailing services, charges, terms and conditions.
Once you have approved the contract you will set a date, raise a purchase order, and book a room for us to work in. The ideal venue has natural light, plenty of smooth unencumbered wall space and flexible seating.
What happens after that?
I will prepare a draft agenda for you to approve and send to all attendees. I will then call all the attendees (or a proportion if we have large numbers). I will design a process, visit the venue if I haven’t worked there before, and prepare the meeting start up chart, poster and any templates. I will typically set up the night before the event and be in the room 2 hours before the meeting is due to start on the day. I will bring all the materials we need during the workshop with me – you don’t need to provide anything but people, an appropriate venue and water.
At the end of the event I take digital pictures of the charts. I clean them up creating an editable jpeg file with a white background like the images in my portfolio. I organise these files in a PowerPoint report and post in a shared Dropbox folder within two working days.
Do you travel?
I’m based in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia but I travel a lot. I am regularly hired in all states of Australia, New Zealand and SE Asia. If you have requirements in the USA or Europe I can put you in touch with my strategic partners, The Grove in the USA or Meeting Magic in the UK.
If I’m travelling, I will arrive the day before the event to acclimatise and set the venue up.
I want to do what you do. Where can I get training?
I particularly enjoy teaching these wonderful skills. I train individuals in my studio and groups predominately in-house. Details.