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Why You Want Visual Recording at Your Conference

Visual recording is your secret weapon for running a five-star, maximum impact conference. Given the major expense of large-scale, multi-day events, you need to go above and beyond standard techniques in order to get your message across and inspire vital, productive conversations.

Humans are visually wired—images have ruled communication since early civilization—it’s in our DNA.

  • 90% of information sent to the brain is visual.
  • 65% of people are visual learners.
  • Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text.
  • Words are processed by short-term memory (sequential processing); visuals are processed by long-term memory (simultaneous processing).
  • 83% of learning occurs visually.
  • When it comes to retaining information, hearing = 10% retention, reading = 20% retention, and seeing = 80% retention!

The reason you want graphic recording at your conference is because we live in a visual world. As children, we master visual skills before we develop verbal ones, which is why graphics are so effective for getting your message across.

When you use visual recording in your plenary and breakout sessions, you are better able to:

  • Engage & entertain conference attendees
  • Amplify leadership messages & optimize retention of ideas
  • Preserve essential points from breakout discussions
  • Maximize your investment in keynote speakers
  • And so much more!

Recently we mapped the Sparking Solutions Summit for a conservative, more formal audience of experts, and at first, the organizing team was unsure how these researchers, decision-makers, funders, and policy makers would respond.

Visual Report

But, as soon as we started mapping the conversation, people were blown away by the new way of interacting with a discussion. The group enthusiastically took pictures of the graphics and many of the charts were Tweeted mid-meeting.

Afterwards, participants gave lots of feedback to say that this event was way different than anything they’d ever experienced, and that they’d been provoked to think about things in a brand new way. A top researcher even wrote organizers a week later to say her head was still spinning (in a good way)!

“What an innovative way to communicate the ideas from this summit. The graphic recorder was amazing! She captured some of the sessions I would have otherwise missed.”

In our debrief call with organizers, we were thanked for helping them expand their meeting techniques and encouraging them to think and process information in such an engaging and effective method.

You can check out the visual report we created for the Sparkling Solutions Summit here.

Are you ready to use Graphic Recording to make your next meeting the best one ever? Contact us to find out how we can take your message to the next level.

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How Do You Make a Major IT Conversion Successful? …Gamify it Using Visuals!

The Challenge

How can converting to a new banking system and changing the way 500 employees accomplish their work be turned into an engaging, and even fun, activity?

This was the question the team at Valley First Credit Union asked themselves as they considered how to equip staff with the information they would need to make the transition to their new banking system. They knew success depended on employee advocacy and readiness for the new technology, and that tried and true internal communication methods like email and intranet were not going to cut it.

The team challenged themselves to do something entirely different, to keep the focus on the user, and to go the extra mile to be creative.

The Solution 

The Valley First team decided the best way to get everyone on board with the conversion was to make a game out of it. “Quest” was the name of the banking system they were converting to, which made a journey metaphor the perfect framework for gamifying the process.

Get The Picture was brought in to create the Quest Map (see image below) that would serve as the game board employee teams used to track their progress towards a successful banking system conversion. We worked with the project communication team to envision the layout and imagery then created a large-scale custom map, which was scanned to provide a high-quality jpeg file. The maps were reprinted and each branch was given their own copy of the map.

quest map - may 19 2016 resize

The conversion process was broken down into six phases, and each phase was assigned a Quest Guide who was a well-known master or hero from popular movies. On the Quest Map there was a question mark at the beginning of each phase, since the Guide for each successive phase wouldn’t be unveiled until the team was ready to progress.

At the beginning of each phase, every team received a package that included a letter from the Quest Guide outlining the tasks they would need to complete, a sticker of the Quest Guide, a task list to place over the question mark on the map, and a Quest artifact/trinket connected to the Quest Guide. The Quest Map also showed an obstacle and a path to success for each phase. The team only encountered the obstacle if they didn’t follow the advice given by the Quest Guide in the letter. Those who completed all tasks were led along the path of enlightenment to eventual victory.

The Impact 

The response to the Quest game was unlike anything the project team had seen before! The teams in the branches became really involved in the game. Some teams organized theme days, dressed up in costume, and even brought action figures and other memorabilia connected to the Quest characters into their branches. The fresh approach created a high level of awareness throughout the organization about what was happening with the conversion, mainly because people were engaged and actually wanted to receive the messages.

The key benefits of the Quest game were that:

  • A high level of engagement was created with employee teams.
  • Important messages about preparing for the conversion really sunk in.
  • People frequently referred back to the messaging.
  • The staff was clear about where they were in the conversion timeline, and in their particular role.The project team used a variety of different avenues to communicate with the employee teams.
  • Everyone was having FUN!

The Result

Naturally, the banking system conversion was a success! Thanks to the teams’ excitement and engagement with the Quest game, the conversion process happened smoothly over a weekend, with minimal disruption for Valley First Credit Union members. The process was much more collaborative for the team leading the project, the gamification process tapped into each team member’s talents and strengths, and the overall project was a huge win for everyone involved.

Is there a change process or other project happening in your organization that could use some gamification? Challenge yourself to take a unique approach that’s effective and fun. Feel free to reach out to us here if you need ideas about how to gamify your change initiatives.

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From Plain Old Exhibition Booth to Interactive “Thought Incubator”

Recently we partnered with Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions (Brookfield GIS) to create an exhibition booth at the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) Building Lasting Change conference and expo at the Vancouver Convention Center.

The idea was originally hatched at a reception after a session we graphically recorded for Brookfield GIS in January. The team was explaining that they had a booth booked at the upcoming CaGBC expo, but they didn’t want to be another plain old booth with a branded banner and some brochures to hand out … they wanted an “unbooth”. The idea was to create a collaborative experience that would engage people in thinking about the issues being raised at the conference, and give them a venue to share their thoughts about how to create a more sustainable future in the commercial real estate industry.

They were curious about how interactive visuals could be incorporated into their unbooth and used to meet their objectives for the show. A rapid brainstorm ensued and the concept for a “Thought Incubator” that included a collaboration wall was formed!

Throughout the following months we had regular planning calls with the Brookfield GIS team to develop the ideas for the Thought Incubator and to organize all of the logistical details required to implement our idea. We decided to create two collaboration walls where expo goers could stop by and share their ideas.

photo 0The Thought Incubator also included two towers. The first was a more traditional looking building, which displayed key information about Brookfield GIS and the many ways that they are already champions of sustainability. The second tower, designed to represent the move to regenerative design principles, had a plant emerging from the top of the building and included green backlit windows. On this tower we gave people an opportunity to respond (on green, leaf-shaped sticky notes) to the following:

  • We believe it’s feasible to reduce energy, water, waste, and greenhouse gas emissions in commercial office buildings by 20%. Tell us YOUR ideas about how we can get there!

photo 3

The day before the expo, Get The Picture’s Lisa Edwards was onsite with Amanda Kusick from Brookfield GIS to build the towers, set up the collaboration walls and ensure that the Thought Incubator space was ready to receive visitors.

Expo day became a flurry of activity once the doors were opened and people started streaming in. We were delighted to find that our Thought Incubator attracted a diverse range of conference delegates, intrigued by our unique concept and eager to share their insights. The collaboration walls were situated at the back of the booth and Lisa E. was standing by to discuss the questions, and map the responses on the walls. Amanda and a host of other Brookfield GIS team members made new connections, answered questions and engaged in meaningful conversations about the future of sustainability in our buildings and cities. Media, who were curious to learn more about Brookfield GIS and the Thought Incubator concept, also interviewed us.

photo 2

Midway through the show, Brookfield GIS hosted a reception at the booth complete with a mobile bar and bartender, which created a lively party atmosphere, and even more buzz.

At the end of the day as we packed up, we reflected on the value of trying something new in an environment where people expected more of the same. We left the expo energized by the new connections created throughout the day, and by the success of the Thought Incubator experience.

Here are some tips on how to use live graphics to be the most popular booth at a tradeshow exhibition:

Make sure you apply the visuals in meaningful ways.

For example, given that this exhibition was all about “greener buildings” and construction methods, we used foam core boards to construct 2 large building structures. These stood as pillars to the entrance of the booth. Green windows, lit by low energy LED lights from inside, and living plants on the rooftops conveyed event themes obviously and meaningfully. Information about the company and recent awards won were graphically displayed on the walls of the buildings.

Design an interactive component. At the Thought Incubator, we used compelling, effective questions to engage visitors in contributing their ideas. Our graphic recorder mapped visitor input in real-time on a collaboration wall.

Take a “little hat, BIG hat” approach to interactive components. Design one question that provides fruitful information for your organization. We asked, “What experience at CaGBC Building Lasting Change makes you most hopeful and why?” Ask another that collects and reveals useful information for the broader industry community. For instance, “How do we need to shift our thinking to create a sustainable/inspired future?” and “What have you learned about at this exhibition that inspires you most? Causes you anxiety?”

Leverage co-created graphics as an opportunity to follow up. Visitors become awfully curious about what others are saying on the graphically recorded map and they want to see it once it’s finished. This becomes a natural opportunity to collect contact information and follow up with a desired, valuable communication (an electronic version of the maps).

Balance the push and pull of information. Dedicate some of the visual space to communicate what you would like people to know about your organization’s offering (the push). Reserve other visual space for collecting and visually displaying information gathered from visitors to your booth (the pull). We also used used the hashtag #collaborationwall to get information and comments circulating online.

Think of your booth as an experience, not a display. Compared to all other exhibition booths, ours was like a party. Not only was it colorful, eye catching and interactive, we had an entire team of staff enthusiastically welcoming and hosting people to the booth. With many hands on deck, time could be spent building personal relationships while showing people through the space and stewarding them through the interactive activities. There were sticky notes for people to write on and post, graphically displayed information to view, a collaboration wall, and we also rolled up a bar and served mocktinis in electric green glasses. People gathered, stayed, and began enjoying one another in what was an oasis of fun in a desert of the usual.

Distribute the experiences throughout the booth to manage traffic flow and encourage a curiosity to discover the offerings. For example, we pushed or pulled information on every wall of our building structures. This naturally led to people circulating around them to view all sides. As they did so, they were drawn to the rear of the booth where they then became interested in participating in the collaboration wall.

Perhaps the most important tip we have for you is to leave extra time for setting up your booth experience. This is not your average booth after all! Make sure you have the time, and the help, to get it all done.

So, next time you have a tradeshow coming up, don’t build a booth. Let us help you stand out far from the rest by creating an interactive, visual experience!

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Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #10: Strategize on the After to Engage People Throughout the Larger Change Process

In an effort to further the graphic recording field and support our clients in getting the most from their visuals, we present our blog series, Powerful Habits to Maximize the Benefits of Graphic Recording in Meetings. 

The tips we offer are based in context of a scenario where a meeting facilitator is partnered with a graphic recorder to serve a client, and where either the facilitator, the client, or both are new to using graphic recording. We strongly believe that graphic recordings are meant to be a thinking tool, not just a recording device 

Working visually is both a process and a product. We also believe that optimizing the use of graphic recording rests largely upon 2 factors: 1) the quality of the partnership between the facilitator and the graphic recorder and 2) their collective repertoire of strategies for engaging participants to interact with the graphic recordings in a way that produces new insights. Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #9 speaks largely to the latter.

Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #10: Strategize on the After to Engage People Throughout the Larger Change Process

In our final Powerful Graphic Recording Habit, we come full circle to blog #1 where we emphasized giving some forethought to ways to use and get value from the charts once the meeting is over. To make that happen, the “after” of the meeting process must be designed and led every bit as much as the “during”. 

As part of the meeting design, the client, facilitator and graphic recorder should each understand how the meeting fits into the larger change process the group or organization is involved in, and you want to include “action planning” to identify next steps for your participants.

Here are some questions to help you plan how to extend the thinking of the meeting and continue to leverage the visuals afterwards.

  • What are you trying to achieve long-term?
  • What are the stages in organization’s change process?
  • How can you use the visuals to help people stay engaged between one landmark and the next in the change process?
  • After this particular meeting, what activities or meetings will happen next?
  • How could the charts produced at this meeting be used to support follow-up events or discussions?
  • How can you use the charts to keep people advancing their thinking about what happens in the meeting? What is the conversation that needs to continue?
  • What can you do with the charts to inspire people to naturally continue the conversation?

Having a plan for how you’ll actively use the charts after your meeting is crucial to getting the full value out of having created them. Plus, knowing how you will use the charts after the meeting (before your meeting starts) will also help the GR make decisions about what information to capture and how to approach mapping the dialogue.

Conversation is not just what is said; it is also what happens between people. Conversation is not always about an event or a time; it is part of a much larger process of change. It leads to more conversation and is part of a journey to understand. Community conversations are a deliberate form of listening … in an effort to learn to agree, to become committed and engaged, and to create a place in which discovering the obvious is possible.

Paul Born, Community Conversations

As part of the meeting design, the “after” strategy you develop must ENGAGE people with the charts as a THINKING TOOL. 

Think of ways that you can:

  • Set the stage to give people an opportunity to reflect on the charts.
  • Keep people in frequent contact with the visuals and continue their thinking on the topic.
  • Create conditions so that while people are reflecting, they also extend their thinking or engage in some activity that leads to higher level insights.
  • Push people beyond just reading the charts to remind themselves of what was said, and generate an interaction to get them to actually think about and process the information they see.
  • Use the charts to seed or inspire people to continue to have meaningful conversations between meetings.

In her book, We’ve got to START Meeting Like This!, my colleague Dana Wright introduces a model that illustrates what engagement looks like before, during and after a meeting.

la jul 23

Raising questions such as, “What will you give people as they are leaving the meeting (or shortly thereafter)?” and, “How will you extend the thinking or conversation?” she helps you come up with ways to get the full value from your visuals well beyond the meeting.

Some ideas for using visuals after your meeting are:

Whether your “after” engagement plan is quite simple and inexpensive, or more complex and costly (assuming you have clarity on the objectives of the larger transformation and change process), it needs to consider 4 things: form, location, process and accountability.

  • Form: What form will the charts be produced in? (Traditional maps, individual handouts, Prezi presentation, etc.)
  • Location: Where will you display/share the original and reproduced charts?
  • Process: When someone happens upon the charts, what will prompt them to reflect and engage in higher level thinking about the content on the charts? (Analyzing it for some specific purpose, creating something new from it, evaluating it with some specific objective in mind, applying it to some specific purpose/scenario). For example, will you ask them to post further information to the charts, write down their reflections on an accompanying “graffiti wall”, or apply the information to a specific scenario and then report to someone about the results?
  • Accountability (Follow Up): – Someone on the meeting design team needs to own the after strategy/be accountable (for the visuals themselves, for processing any new information created, and for sharing it back via the agreed channel, in the agreed way, and at the agreed time).

When you work visually, over time you build collateral that you can use in various ways. One great method that many visual meetings use to leverage their collection of graphics is by conducting a gallery walk at their next milestone meeting. It’s a great way to give people a reminder of what you’ve worked on over time, and a great perspective on what’s happened since.

(Psst! Keep an eye out for our new book on how to create an engaging, effective gallery walk, plus 101 questions to ask during the meeting. We’re really excited about it and it’s coming soon!) 

The graphic recording field has so much to offer meeting participants and it’s important that we harness the power this incredible thinking tool has to promote conversation and contemplation well beyond the initial meeting the charts were created for. 

So, tell us what you think.

How are you or your clients using visual maps and charts after your meeting?

What are the best ideas you’ve seen? Or, what are some things you’ve witnessed that didn’t work so well? Please, share your comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

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Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #9: Use a Variety of Visual Methods

In an effort to further the graphic recording field and support our clients in getting the most from their visuals, we present our blog series, Powerful Habits to Maximize the Benefits of Graphic Recording in Meetings. 

The tips we offer are based in context of a scenario where a meeting facilitator is partnered with a graphic recorder to serve a client, and where either the facilitator, the client, or both are new to using graphic recording. We strongly believe that graphic recordings are meant to be a thinking tool, not just a recording device. 

Working visually is both a process and a product. We also believe that optimizing the use of graphic recording rests largely upon 2 factors: 1) the quality of the partnership between the facilitator and the graphic recorder and 2) their collective repertoire of strategies for engaging participants to interact with the graphic recordings in a way that produces new insights. Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #9 speaks largely to the latter.

Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #9: Use a Variety of Visual Methods

Graphic recording is a great way to capture group thinking, but remember there are lots of highly participative visual methods that don’t involve drawing. Plus, the longer your meeting is, the more important varying your methodology becomes. Switch it up.

Yes, your GR is there to help visualize your group’s thinking, but give your participants opportunities to express their thoughts tangibly and visually, too. A good GR will be able to contribute plenty of visual process ideas (beyond graphic recording) as you collaborate on the meeting design.

Visual Meeting Tip: Don’t mistake fun for frivolous.

Visual thinking methods are creative and a lot of fun, but don’t be fooled into thinking they can’t be used to discuss serious topics. In fact, these less traditional meeting methods give people fresh ways of approaching the topic at hand, which can produce profound insights and often leads to people expressing things they might otherwise hold back in more linear discussions.

Below is a list of visual methods that don’t involve drawing. We’ve used them to: generate alignment and buy-in for paradigm shifts in education, conceptualize community resiliency in disasters, collaboratively plan large-scale events, coalesce teams after a merger, develop marketing strategies, and much, much more.

  • Collage
  • Visual Explorer
  • Visual card decks like Groupworks
  • Guided visualization exercises
  • Kinesthetic modeling
  • Taking photos or sourcing images online to express something
  • Creating a video
  • Bringing an artifact that has meaning in response to a question
  • Using a visual relic to kick off a discussion, or as a reminder of a prior meeting

Note: GR often works well in conjunction with any of the above to capture the debrief, and the results/insights the method produces.

COLLAGEcollage

A collection of selected images and words express many facets of a shared future vision.

VISUAL EXPLORER

visual explorer

This flexible facilitation tool can be used to discuss almost anything. Here we used it to discuss issues and desires related to the renewal of an Education Enhancement Agreement with First Nations. Learn more about Visual Explorer here.

KINESTHETIC MODELING

KINESTHETIC MODELING

Participants built 3D models to express design concepts, experiences, activities and outcomes for a community festival. After selecting the best ideas, they developed goals and an action plan.

RELIC

RELIC

At a teacher’s retreat, the tables were set with rocks that were used to help signify the qualities of the education paradigm the district was transcending.

Take opportunities to put pens in participant’s hands and get them drawing too.

Despite most people’s belief that they can’t draw, they actually can; we all can! The marks we make on the page to communicate don’t have to be realistic or beautiful. The point is they hold meaning that becomes the basis for discussion between the person who did/is doing the drawing, and the viewer(s).

Depending upon the activity you’re asking people to do, and what their previous experience is with visual methods, you should anticipate resistance to drawing … and be prepared to help people get over it. Often times, if participants are asked to draw after having watched a talented graphic recorder in action, their inhibition becomes even greater because they may be intimidated or making comparisons between their own ability and the practiced ability of the GR.

Tips to Encourage Participants to Draw During Your Meeting

  • Acknowledge the “I’m not an artist” resistance. Let people feel a moment of togetherness in their perception that they can’t draw, bring lightness and a little laughter to it, then move on.
  • Make the case that drawings don’t have to be perfect to be meaningful. Ask people if they’ve ever drawn a stickman on the back of a napkin to help explain something to someone else. Most people have. Reassure them that the purpose is to get an idea across, not to create a Picasso.
  • Give your group some graphic pointers. If appropriate to the activity, take a few minutes and have your GR give them some brief drawing instruction to help develop confidence. With just a few common, basic icons under their belts, people can suddenly combine them in various ways to express a lot.
  • Get the activity underway soon after announcing it. Don’t let participants indulge too long in the “I can’t draw” stuff. Get them making their first marks so they quickly realize that meaning does start to emerge.
  • When you debrief the activity, focus on meaning, not the quality of the actual rendering. Ask people to walk the group through their picture and explain the details that are present (for example, props or features that accompany people or objects in the picture), the choices they made when creating the picture (for example, placement of objects in the scene or uses of color). The more you ask questions and get them talking about the picture, the more you will see the depth of meaning and brilliance that can often be packed into a simple drawing.

We have to design the meeting to keep people in active mode. We want them up and moving 80% of the time. We want to get them writing on boxes, creating things, actively discussing and problem solving in groups. As facilitators, we want to be careful to not over explain. We want to give people enough of an idea to get underway then let them figure it out.

~ Dana Wright – www.TakeAction.com

Depending upon the facilitator’s comfort level and the group’s experience with working visually, you can begin with methods that involve little to no drawing and then work your way up as people acclimatize.

STICKY NOTES & CLUSTERING

STICKY NOTES & CLUSTERING

Participants list ideas one per sticky note so they can be posted, analyzed and moved around in meaningful ways. The group then works together to cluster and make sense of their ideas. Colored sticky notes can be used to add another layer of meaning or categorization as well.

FAMILIAR GRAPHIC ORGANIZER ENLARGED

graphic

Enlarge a graphic organizer and have participants work collaboratively to populate it. Here, we enlarged a 12-month calendar and engaged participants in planning a year’s worth of events to celebrate their organization’s 25th anniversary.

Note: In both of these photos, each person in the room is actively engaged! The point of any of these methods is to get all participants cooperating and contributing to articulate, express and make sense of many perspectives.

As you ease your participants into doing the drawing themselves, here are a couple of ideas you can try:

  • Metaphors – Have participants either suggest or draw a visual metaphor as a lens for exploring any given topic. For example, in Visual Meetings, David Sibbet suggests asking teams to draw their organization as a vehicle.
  • Participant drawing exercises – Have participants freely draw their response to a question, or engage them in a silent collaborative drawing activity, such as the one Avril Orloff teaches in her workshop, The Artful Visual Facilitator, offered through the Masterful Facilitation Institute (www.MasterfulFacilitation.com).

The interactive meeting methods we use require people to listen to each other and work together to accomplish/create something. Through that process they build relationships, practice collaboration and see individual contributions and shared thinking, all of which build trust. Plus, everyone stays awake and has fun … which is WAY better than going to a sit-at-a-boardroom-table-and-listen-to-a-speaker-with-a-Powerpoint one.

People actually WANT to come to visual meetings. 

What are some of your favorite visual methods that you use in your meetings? How do you break out of the traditional graphic recording routine to maintain variety? We’d love to hear your ideas and stories. Please share below!

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Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #8: Leverage Visual Charts as Facilitation Aids

In an effort to further the graphic recording field and support our clients in getting the most from their visuals, we present our blog series, Powerful Habits to Maximize the Benefits of Graphic Recording in Meetings. 

The tips we offer are based in context of a scenario where a meeting facilitator is partnered with a graphic recorder to serve a client, and where either the facilitator, the client, or both are new to using graphic recording. We strongly believe that graphic recordings are meant to be a thinking tool, not just a recording device 

Working visually is both a process and a product. We also believe that optimizing the use of graphic recording rests largely upon 2 factors: 1) the quality of the partnership between the facilitator and the graphic recorder and 2) their collective repertoire of strategies for engaging participants to interact with the graphic recordings in a way that produces new insights. Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #8 speaks largely to the latter.

Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #8: Leverage Visual Charts as Facilitation Aids

In our second Powerful Graphic Recording Habit series post, “Build in Reflection Time,” we explained how the content on your visual charts serves as a mirror for your group, reflecting what they’ve discussed and providing an opportunity to achieve higher level insights as a result.

In this post, we discuss how charts are also useful for the facilitator as a powerful tool to assist with actually promoting, supporting and progressing the meeting dialogue process.

On day 2 of a multi-day meeting, I review the charts together with participants so they can see how the story is building to the whole. It’s a way of getting them to see the process they’re in.

Cecelia Lynch – Focused Momentum 

“Now, what does the content on the map tell us?”

As facilitators move about the meeting space during their facilitation, they should form the habit of frequently noticing what the chart is revealing about the group thinking process and interpersonal dynamics, as well as taking advantage of opportunities to point out relevant things for participants.

Using the visual maps as a reference, a facilitator can:

  • Reflect to the group where they are in the process/arc of the meeting.

Example: “Yesterday we charted our history (past) then got clear on our current strengths and weaknesses (present). Today we transition into talking about our vision (future).”

  • Steer the topic of conversation or move the thinking along.

Example: “I notice we’ve said a lot about X, but not so much about Y. What are your thoughts on that?” Or, “We can see a vast range of ideas up here. Now, let’s begin converging on our best ones.”

  • Acknowledge or address a particular group dynamic or tendency.

Example: Noticing that safe, conservative ideas have been offered when the call has been for bold thinking. Noting a group propensity for circular discussion, or becoming mired in semantics.

The often unspoken beauty of leveraging a chart as a facilitation aid, is that the facilitator can easily give feedback to the group in a gracious, non-judgmental, and sometimes even non-verbal way.

may 21 1

For instance, rather than stating to a participant who’s stuck on a pet point, “I think we’ve heard that already,” the facilitator can simply gesture and touch the chart where the comment was previously recorded. That way the facilitator can display to the participant (and the group) that the point has been logged, without a single word.

This encounter also offers the facilitator an opportunity to either:

  • Uncover why the person is so attached to what they’re trying to get across.
  • Or, ask the participant or the group a fresh question to push beyond the repeated point into new thinking. 

For our usual meeting process, we’ve developed a template to distill key thinking and group agreements throughout our 2-day meeting dialogue. This becomes like a summary chart that shows participants our progress towards the meeting objectives, and supports action after the meeting.

Cecelia Lynch – Focused Momentum

Another great way facilitators can implement visual charts as an effective facilitation tool is by having a graphic recorder prepare a template ahead of time.

A template often grounds a discussion in a visual metaphor and offers various sections or “buckets” on the map that are intended to guide and capture group thinking in a highly organized way.

When a facilitator uses a template, the group will often begin to self-regulate to some degree because the visual feedback is clear on how the dialogue is progressing.

Some other benefits of using a template to facilitate a discussion are that:

  • The group can literally see what areas of discussion are on the table, plus the facilitator has a giant cheat sheet of aspects of the discussion so they don’t need to refer to their facilitation notes as much.
  • It is visually obvious when one or more buckets starts to receive more attention while another remains empty.
  • The facilitator and group can easily notice when an idea doesn’t fit into any of the buckets, thus realizing when new buckets may be warranted.
  • Deciding which bucket a comment or idea fits into can potentially unearth valuable nuances in the participants’ thinking.

Whether you start with a template or have a graphic recorder create the map entirely during your meeting, there are a wide variety of ways a great facilitator can draw charts into their actual facilitation.

Here are 4 techniques a facilitator can practice to leverage charts as facilitation aids:

  • Move over to the maps frequently during the meeting process. Be open to the idea that a spontaneous question may pop up for you when you look at the recording through a lens of curiosity for what it might tell you. Embrace the opportunity for improvisation in your facilitation and authentically pose the arising questions to the group.
  • Periodically do a reality test. Confirm the accuracy of the information on the map from time to time with the group, especially if it’s going to be shared publically or stand as an official record. When you do, it’s an opportunity for the facilitator to evaluate the degree of shared understanding and group alignment. It’s also a chance to understand whether the group needs to drill down more in any areas, and to reaffirm that everyone is clear and in agreement on what’s been discussed.
  • Use the map to recap a segment of the conversation before moving on in the process. View the chart(s) at breaks, during lunch, or overnight and draw on your notes to help synthesize breakouts, to provide a summary, to give credit to the group for high productivity, and so forth. When you recap for your group, you also help participants who don’t have a close view or who have visual impairments, to become more familiar with what’s on the map, helping them relate to it more after the meeting.
  • Use the maps to help gauge interest/energy. A map can help the facilitator determine whether a particular topic is getting a lot of attention or energy (positive or negative) from participants during the meeting or at breaks. This is a great opportunity to discover whether the content points to underlying complexity, dissention, excitement, or if it would be valuable to the process to explore a topic further.

On the surface, graphic recording produces a product, and a valuable one at that. Still, it also offers tremendous depth as a process tool for meeting participants to help generate insight, and for the facilitator as an aid to help manage the discussion process and group dynamics.

When facilitators view visual charts as facilitation aids, they enable themselves to spot in-the-moment opportunities to leverage information in leading and guiding the group process. On top of that, it gives participants the chance to fully interact with the content to derive new meaning, exemplifying that the charts have been fully integrated into the thinking process.

As you think back over your past meetings, or plan your future ones, what are some other ways you know to really incorporate visual charts and maps into your process? We’d love to hear your ideas below!

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Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #7: Think of the Entire Room As a Visual Environment

In an effort to further the graphic recording field and support our clients in getting the most from their visuals, we present our blog series, Powerful Habits to Maximize the Benefits of Graphic Recording in Meetings. 

The tips we offer are based in context of a scenario where a meeting facilitator is partnered with a graphic recorder to serve a client, and where either the facilitator, the client, or both are new to using graphic recording. We strongly believe that graphic recordings are meant to be a thinking tool, not just a recording device. 

Working visually is both a process and a product. We also believe that optimizing the use of graphic recording rests largely upon 2 factors: 1) the quality of the partnership between the facilitator and the graphic recorder and 2) their collective repertoire of strategies for engaging participants to interact with the graphic recordings in a way that produces new insights. Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #7 speaks largely to the latter. 

Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #7: Think of the Entire Room As a Visual Environment

People often roll their eyes at the idea of attending a meeting because so many of them are the same old boring experience. Working visually presents an opportunity to create an engaging, exciting event for your participants – but you have to design the entire meeting environment to make it really effective.

Think of a car dealership. The entire structure is designed to sell cars. From the shiny new models that look down on you from risers to the tiny sales desk in the huge showroom that is positioned there to make you feel small during sales negotiations, every detail and step is by intentional design.

That’s the way to approach a visual meeting. Look for every opportunity to turn your surroundings into a stimulating space that is built to encourage conversations and inspire thinking.

This photo is a great example of turning the entire space into an interactive visual meeting where each attendee can collaborate and contribute to the discussion.

LA_Post 7_ImageWhen you collaborate on the meeting design, the graphic recorder should think creatively and come up with a variety of approaches to help design an interesting meeting space using other visual formats besides the standard live recording on a 4’ x 8’ chart.

Build Physical Representations of Ideas 

When the goal of an educators’ retreat was to shift paradigms, we built 3-D models of the elements of these paradigms. The box represented the traditional system, the triangle represented alternative schools, and the amoeba represented the individualized approach. We visualized the characteristics and realities of each paradigm on the structures then engaged participants in an activity where they actively processed the visual content to make personal and shared meaning.

LA_Post 7_Image 1Leverage Every Moment

Visuals can help you make use of the entire time you have with your attendees. They can be used to inspire meaningful conversations about the topic at hand during times like receptions, breaks, and meals when participants would otherwise be searching for small talk.

In the photo below, we took charts from a previously recorded meeting (a dialogue with physicians) and used them in a conversation with medical office assistants (MOAs) to help them understand the physicians’ perspectives. During the welcome reception, we sent the MOAs on a fun scavenger hunt to find answers to key questions listed on slips of paper.

LA_Post 7_Image 2Create Deliberate Distractions 

Our limited human attention spans guarantee that at some point in the meeting, people will tune out. So, give them something visual and meaningful in the space that they can tune in to. That way you can keep them on topic even when their attention drifts.

A great idea comes from a corporate visioning session we organized. Before the meeting, we created placemats with the company’s manifesto visualized at the top. Underneath we listed the 18 beliefs that underlie the manifesto and laminated them.

Setting a placemat at each seat, we imbued the conversation with meaningful ideas and gave people something fun to look at during moments when they needed to rest their brain from the struggle of birthing a new vision.

Here are 5 tips to help you create a visual environment: 

  • Discuss with your design team: “What is the experience you want people to have in the room? How can you build the space using visuals to inspire the conversations you want to have happen? Where do you need to place the inspirational graphics so the conversations occur when you want them to happen during the meeting? How will you engage participants when they walk in the door?

For example, if you want people to meet each other, think about a visual prompt you can put on the tables to give attendees a meaningful, meeting-related topic to chat about when they sit down. Or, if you want to shift culture, you can come up with different visual quotes to post in the space for people to ponder throughout the day.

  • Dare to be creative, but keep visuals meaningful. Building a visual meeting environment is not decorating. The things you create should support the meeting objectives. So yes, think beyond the usual 4’ x 8’ chart, but be sure the visuals you choose make sense. Vary mediums, sizes and shapes, hang things from ceilings, create display towers … the sky is the limit. But also be certain that the creative choices you make lend themselves to content, and that the two in unison support one or more meeting objectives.

For example, if you want people to reflect on pre-meeting survey information, you might put footprints on the floor with provocative questions on them that lead from where participants enter the room over to a chart with the pre-survey information visually displayed.

  • Consider the staging of live graphic recordings. When a graphic recorder is producing multiple charts during a meeting process, think ahead. Where will the completed charts will be moved to? When and why? If one chart is getting a lot of attention, will you place it prominently then open up a conversation about why it’s so engaging? For each stage in the meeting process, consider what previously recorded information would be handy to have in sight while thinking about the next topic. What do participants need to see side by side?

For example, in order to discuss and develop targeted solutions, it might be important for the group to have the graphic recording of their earlier discussion on the vision and barriers to that idea in sight. Another example might be hanging the roundtable introductions chart above the coffee station before the first break to help people remember who’s who during social times.

  • Switch it up. If you’ve created a visual space with meaningful ideas for people to soak up and ponder, think about when in the process you might want to inject another fresh idea.

For example, find meaningful supporting content for your process that you could put on a series of 3 visual table tent cards that could be switched up at each of the breaks. For multi-day meetings, think of ways to change the space and switch up the scene to re-engage people the next day. Consider what people need to see most prominently from the previous day in order to integrate the next day’s thinking.

Yes! Get a room with a view. Like a canvas for your meeting, the space in which you choose to hold it is a crucial part of the visual environment. Often clients wonder if a room with lots of windows and a view will be a distraction for participants. It will not. A beautiful view and natural light will keep people’s mental performance high. A room with no windows and dim light stresses your participants and decreases their ability to process information. The lighting, the view, the colors in the space, and even the scent of the room all affect your participants’ states, and therefore their ability to do quality thinking. 

As you begin to design your visual meeting, be sure to consider the layout of the room. Work closely with your graphic recorder to pinpoint ways to use the entire space and come up with a variety of different visuals to maximize interaction and learning. Together you can create a fully effective visual experience for your participants from arrival, throughout the meeting, and beyond.

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Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #6: Develop the Dance Between the Facilitator and Graphic Recorder

In an effort to further the graphic recording field and support our clients in getting the most from their visuals, we present our blog series, Powerful Habits to Maximize the Benefits of Graphic Recording in Meetings. 

The tips we offer are based in context of a scenario where a meeting facilitator is partnered with a graphic recorder to serve a client, and where either the facilitator, the client, or both are new to using graphic recording. We strongly believe that graphic recordings are meant to be a thinking tool, not just a recording device. Working visually is both a process and a product. 

We also believe that optimizing the use of graphic recording rests largely upon 2 factors: 1) the quality of the partnership between the facilitator and the graphic recorder and 2) their collective repertoire of strategies for engaging participants to interact with the graphic recordings in a way that produces new insights. Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #6 speaks largely to the former. 

Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #6: Develop the Dance Between the Facilitator and Graphic Recorder

The best facilitator/graphic recorder teams are those who perform the visual meeting dance well together. By that, we mean two things 1) how you both show up in the partnership and 2) being in sync throughout the actual meeting conversation as the facilitation and visual capture occur.

When a facilitator works with a GR for the first time, they often wonder, “Will I have to change how I facilitate?” “Do I have to do anything different?” The answer is, probably not much. A seasoned GR will be able to fall into sync with your facilitation and ebb and flow of the dialogue/presentation quite naturally. However, there is a cooperative dance that begins to happen between the F/GR during the process of visualizing the meeting conversation that is largely built on peripheral awareness. And you can get better at your “moves” together over time so that participants experience the combination of your talents seamlessly. 

The “dance” needs to be smooth, natural and effortless so participants don’t even notice it. When a graphic recorder and facilitator have a long-term relationship and dance together often, they become really good as a result.

Nevada Lane, www.LaneChangeConsulting.com

march 19 2

The dance involves peripheral awareness of each other because the facilitator and GR do the dance most of the time with their backs to each other. Below, we focus on a few important moves in this back-to-back dance that will help the GR/F stay in sync. Staying in sync helps ensure you achieve fulsome, correct, quality capture of the key ideas onto the chart.

Here are a few moves that help the GR/F stay in sync during the dance of visually capturing a meeting. 

A Great Graphic Recorder: 

  • Stays 2 steps ahead of the process. They are prepared for seamless paper changes and transitions, and do not slow or interrupt the meeting process in any way. They stay highly attentive and on the ball the entire meeting, so the facilitator does not need to coach them.
  • Knows how to be flexible and can run with changes to the planned agenda. They can be comfortable not knowing where the meeting is going sometimes, or if the F decides to veer from the planned agenda. Their energy remains calm, which allows them to focus on what’s actually happening/being said (versus what they thought was supposed to happen).
  • Brings a supportive presence to the room. They show up in a way that communicates that they can “hold” whatever the group may say, grapple with or experience. Their energy helps ground the conversation. They are calm, non-judgmental, positive, encouraging and ever helpful.
  • Does not engage in self-criticism during the creation process. They are able to freely draw and iterate for the group.
  • Recognizes they are playing the role of a sounding board. They are able to share observations during huddles and talk through possibilities for the process with the facilitator. And, they are not offended when their guidance/suggestions are not taken. 

I used to think that as a GR, I was invisible in the room – that participants responded to the visuals. Now people tell me my energetic presence, my “humanbeingness”, adds value. The work is an expansion of energy in the room.

Julie Gieseke, www.MaptheMind.org

A Great Facilitator Partner: 

  • Interacts freely with the GR in front of the group. Although the GR is usually silently concentrating on listening and recording, there’s still room for a little back-and-forth communication about the process, and light exchanges that put the fun into working together.
  • Stays aware of the pace of the conversation and attunes their peripheral awareness to the sound of the marker. When the pen slows down or speeds up, the F notices what’s going on for the GR and incorporates any need to modulate the pace into their facilitation. For instance, they can ask follow up questions so the GR can capture an important point they may have been unable to capture earlier. Or, to slow the report back of a list, which participants often deliver in rapid fire, they may ask the speaker to explain a little more about each point on the list.
  • Checks in with the GR, but tries not to disrupt their flow if they are mid-capture. They help ensure the GR captures important points, but doesn’t interrupt with questions that can break the GR’s concentration. For instance, instead of, “Did you get that?” which can throw off the GR’s train of thought, specify what you mean by “that.” Or, if there’s no time to work in a pause, but the GR missed something vital, the F can give them the point on a sticky note or review charts with the GR during breaks.
  • Embraces the times they are out of sync with the GR. From time to time, there may be a moment when a GR misses a beat in the dialogue. Perhaps they didn’t understand a comment, or a distraction such as a sidebar conversation amongst participants, interrupts their ability to listen and focus. A great F partner uses those times as opportunities to circle back and reflect with the group, or to review and process key comments a little deeper, giving their GR partner a chance to recover and grasp the missed point. 

Here are 5 moves both the GR and F can use to improve their dance. 

  • Ask for what you need and offer what you can during the dialogue/recording process. Be sure to develop with your partner a shared sense of which things should be “audible” (transparent to the group) and which should be reserved to discuss during “huddles”.
  • Anticipate and willingly serve your partner’s needs. Be open to taking on any task that supports the meeting, even if it’s unrelated to your role, such as when the GR offers water to an F with a dry throat, or the facilitator helps the GR roll the charts at the end of the day.
  • Value and openly appreciate your partner’s skills. By genuinely recognizing your partner’s talents and strengths, you make them feel acknowledged and respected as your teammate. This in turn, often leads them to want to do the same for you.
  • Maintain positive energy, even in the absence of recognition. There are lots of opportunities during the GR/F dance for egos to be triggered. Good partners know to re-align themselves before responding. Remember: who you are being is as much a part of the equation as what you are doing.
  • Let your partner know you have their back. The best partners are those who know without a doubt that their teammate is on their side. Make sure your partner knows they have your full support in serving the client, both in the meeting room and out.

As you begin (or continue) to develop your GR/F “moves”, your dance together will be in sync, effortless and fully effective for participants. Things like self-awareness and staying aware of one another during the meeting dialogue allows for quality capture and helps deliver the maximum value to the group.

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Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #5: Cultivate True Partnership Between the Facilitator and Graphic Recorder

In an effort to further the graphic recording field and support our clients in getting the most from their visuals, we present our blog series, Powerful Habits to Maximize the Benefits of Graphic Recording in Meetings. 

The tips we offer are based in context of a scenario where a meeting facilitator is partnered with a graphic recorder to serve a client, and where either the facilitator, the client, or both are new to using graphic recording. We strongly believe that graphic recordings are meant to be a thinking tool, not just a recording device.

Working visually is both a process and a product. We also believe that optimizing the use of graphic recording rests largely upon 2 factors: 1) the quality of the partnership between the facilitator and the graphic recorder and 2) their collective repertoire of strategies for engaging participants to interact with the graphic recordings in a way that produces new insights. Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #5 speaks largely to the former.

Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #5: Cultivate True Partnership Between the Facilitator and Graphic Recorder 

Throughout this series, we’ve discussed some hallmarks of a strong partnership between a facilitator and a GR. When the facilitator and GR take steps such as collaborating in the meeting design, having a thorough conversation about roles, and co-navigating the meeting together, they enable the client to optimize their use of graphics. Still, to provide the full value of the tool, you want to develop a much deeper bond between the facilitator and GR.

Great unions exist where there is chemistry, time, appreciation and mutual respect.

Developing a GR/F partnership is a bit like choreographing a dance together. You want to create a solid routine as partners, while allowing space for improvisation and each person’s unique style.

It’s important that you cultivate a partnership between the facilitator and GR based on mutual respect. To start off, both members have to be willing to participate. They must also value both roles and be secure enough in their own role to confidently own and contribute their particular area of expertise. These conditions allow the partners to develop a shared sense of what it means to be “in service to the group,” and be emotionally connected by their desire to move the client where they need to go – without letting ego get in the way.

When you partner with a GR, we can help make your processes better. We’re not in competition with the facilitator. We are there for the same reason – to help move the group from A to B, to have a transformational experience. We’re better together. I can help shine your star. As a facilitator, you’re a soloist, but when you sing harmony with your GR, you get an effect that is greater than the parts.

Avril Orloff, www.OutsideTheLines.ca 

Often the GR and F are similar personality types and wind up liking each other on a personal level. The best partnerships develop when each member feels free to be their full, authentic self. Meaning, who they are outside the meeting room is the same as who they are in the meeting room.

Although good GR/F partnerships begin with a natural chemistry, great relationships are often ongoing so that over time, a high degree of trust in each other’s expertise and strengths is built. When each partner’s goal is to be at the top of his or her respective game, and they both have a shared sense of what it means to be professional, their “dance” becomes fully effective for the meeting participants.

Some other characteristics of a great GR/F partnership are that they:

  • Know one another’s strengths and leverage them in the meeting process.
  • Openly appreciate each other, and make each other “look good.”
  • Are comfortable to challenge each other in the design/creation process, and brainstorm freely together.
  • Lead one another in learning about their respective areas of practice, and transfer skills to some degree between partners.
  • Strategize about how to best serve/talk to/support/grow the client.
  • Are both fully reliable and do not complain.

To create a solid team and deliver full value to the client, the GR and facilitator must intend to show up seamlessly together. This means giving thought to brand and identifying their collaborative meeting style. More than that, each one needs to trust that the other will support them during the entire process.

I’m not expected to be silent all the time. There’s some back and forth between me and the facilitator (we interact, have fun exchanges, share thoughts). We have a sense of connectedness emotionally. We are a team, going out to do our best, to move the client where they need to go. 

As the GR, I watch the pattern of the group’s transformation emerge. I’m flexible and the facilitator appreciates me for it.  And they are freed to focus on the group because they know I’ve got their back.

~ Emily Shepard

Here are 5 tips to help develop your GR/F partnership: 

  • Learn the dance well. As you exchange ideas/make suggestions in the process of working together, be sure to explain the “why” behind your recommendations to each another. Share articles, tips, books and examples of past projects with one another to better understand the basis for one another’s “moves.”
  • Practice together. Just as great dance couples rehearse many hours to polish a number, you will get the best results for your meeting when your facilitator and GR have prepared thoroughly together. Similarly, once the meeting is over, debriefing things together will offer the chance to consider what was smooth and what could be re-choreographed better for next time.
  • Know your role. The process facilitator, by virtue of their responsibility for the outcomes of the meeting, is naturally the leader and the GR is follower/supporter. It’s a good idea to get clear on which you are and stick to it. There is no value judgment associated with being leader or follower. Neither role is more important. In a visual meeting, the two roles are a necessary union for serving the group. In some partnerships where both partners have facilitation and graphic recording skill sets, they choose to weave in and out of the leader and follower roles, however this is less common and must also be well choreographed and understood ahead of time.
  • Trust your partner. You have to trust that your partner isn’t going to step on you or drop you during the dance, and your partner has to believe the same of you. Be respectful of your partner’s pre-existing relationship with the client/group. Help preserve or build the relationship by finding genuine opportunities to strengthen the view of your partner in the client’s eyes. If you have concerns because you don’t yet know your GR partner well, express them honestly and openly communicate your requests/preferences in advance. Offer genuine reassurance to one another if you sense it would help build trust.
  • Stay in sync. When live recording is happening during the meeting, learn to stay aware of your partner. Know one another’s preferences for communicating your needs in front of the group and working in tandem. Learn the telltale signs of when your GR is struggling to keep up and use appropriate strategies for pacing the conversation or interrupting the conversation to check that the GR captured an important comment. On the flip side, expect your GR to be fully tracking your process, anticipating needs and ready to take a quick left turn from the agenda should that need to happen.

As your facilitator and graphic recorder intentionally build their relationship over time, you will see an incredible yield from using visuals in your meetings. The combined efforts of these two practitioners will help your group take full advantage of the potential visuals have to encourage, enhance and engage conversation and thinking in a whole new way.

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Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #4: Take Advantage of the Non-Passive Nature of the GR Role

In an effort to further the graphic recording field and support our clients in getting the most from their visuals, we present our blog series, Powerful Habits to Maximize the Benefits of Graphic Recording in Meetings. 

The tips we offer are based in context of a scenario where a meeting facilitator is partnered with a graphic recorder to serve a client, and where either the facilitator, the client, or both are new to using graphic recording. We strongly believe that graphic recordings are meant to be a thinking tool, not just a recording device.

Working visually is both a process and a product. We also believe that optimizing the use of graphic recording rests largely upon 2 factors: 1) the quality of the partnership between the facilitator and the graphic recorder and 2) their collective repertoire of strategies for engaging participants to interact with the graphic recordings in a way that produces new insights. Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #4 speaks largely to the former. 

Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #4: Take Advantage of the Non-Passive Nature of the GR Role

To some people, the term graphic recorder suggests a passive role because it implies the laborious task of scribing and being a handmaiden to the participants. Despite the fact that GRs are predominantly silent during meetings, they are active contributors to the process in many ways. When you learn to see your GR’s true function, not only can they be a valuable co-designer of the process, they can also be a beneficial co-navigator during the meeting.

My facilitator partners see me as a co-facilitator, even if I am not doing the talking. They value my perspective. They seek my feedback, ideas and opinions. They pressure test stuff with me. They know they can be curious about my take on things without necessarily committing to act on my ideas/change things as a result.

Julie Gieseke | Map The Mind www.MapTheMind.org

As David Roche explains in his book, The Church of 80% Sincerity, the principle of delayed understanding “states that you cannot understand what is going on when it is going on.” During a meeting, the facilitator can’t see him/herself because he/she is focused on the group and following the agenda. (Facilitators have many balls in the air at the same time and their job is like solving a real-time puzzle.) Sometimes they can get caught up in the process, or triggered by participant behavior. Similarly, the group is involved intellectually and emotionally in the conversation, and is often not able to objectively observe or manage their own dynamics.

Although they are also involved in the real-time action of the meeting, GRs have a unique vantage point that differs from that of the facilitator or the group. As a silent witness to what the others in the room are experiencing, the GR is able to hear/see the content of conversation, objectively observe the group’s behavior/dynamics, and objectively observe the facilitator’s performance.

This is a benefit because when invited, the GR can provide gentle, insightful reality checks, validation or affirmation for the facilitator, as well as for the group at large.

As a GR, I can fully listen and watch the situation. I can point out things the facilitator can’t see. It’s like the facilitator is on stage and the GR is in the wings. It’s a completely different vantage point. At the appropriate times and in the right way, I can point out what’s missing in the conversation. Tapping into this is smart.

Dana Wright | Take Action Inc. www.Take-Action.com

GRs have well honed listening skills and comprehend information on many levels. As an objective, trained observer and synthesizer, the GR listens to your meeting in a different way than anyone else in the room. GRs listen using their logic and intuition. They are trained to pay attention to the unspoken and pick up on feelings/tensions that are not expressed verbally. Hearing many layers to the conversation, GRs not only receive the content of what’s actually spoken, but also the emotion with which it’s delivered.

The insights your GR obtains based on what is or is not being said can be valuable for the facilitator to tap into, and they can be held privately for the facilitator’s own awareness during the rest of the process or made public for the group’s understanding/consideration.

My facilitator partners like my synthesis (the way I connect the dots on the map). Sometimes I catch stuff/comments they might miss. My reflections can sometimes change the trajectory of the meeting conversation. When I am invited to re-cap what I heard, then the group can own the observation.

Sophia Liang | Graphic Footprints www.GraphicFootprints.com

Similarly, the GR can offer useful reflections during a debrief session after the meeting. Ask your GR for suggestions on process improvements for the next time, observations on how the group responded to the visuals, ideas for how the process could include a higher level of interactive reflection with the visuals, or thoughts on how the F and GR can “do the dance” or be more effectively in sync as partners. 

Here are 5 tips to help you take advantage of the non-passive nature of the GR role: 

  1. Recognize that by virtue of their roles, the facilitator and participants are in the land of complexity. No one person has “the answer” and for some portion of the process it’s okay to be in the space of not knowing. However, when contemplating where the group needs to go next, the GR can be a useful thought partner as an observer of the complexity of the conversation, (especially if they have facilitation skills themselves).
  2. Introduce the GR technique at the opening of the meeting and explain that the GR will interact with your group. Set the norm that the GR may appropriately push the group to clarify a point or define something they’ve said.
  3. Make your interchanges with the GR audible during facilitation. This role models working as a team/doing the dance. It demonstrates to the group that the GR is there in service as a resource that can be tapped into.
  4. As a facilitator, build in checkpoints with the GR throughout the meeting. This could be during a break or ebb in the process when participants are engaged in activities. Ask the GR: How do you think it’s going? What are you seeing?
  5. If appropriate, plan time during the meeting to invite the GR to reflect on the charts/conversation/contribute to the group’s sense-making. Plan the GR reflection at a point in the meeting process where it will add value and at a time when the GR can stop recording and review the chart(s) themselves beforehand so they can make meaning.

When planning how to integrate your GR’s reflection into the meeting process, it’s important to decide:

  • How much time is appropriate to dedicate to a GR reflection.
  • When the GR’s input would be most valuable during the process.
  • What exactly you want your GR to reflect on. (i.e., themes they heard, patterns they noticed, places where the conversation seemed vague, important terms they suspect the group may lack a shared definition for, the significance of the visuals/layout used, feedback on the accuracy of their capture, and so forth.)
  • What, if anything, you might need to coach the GR on specifically NOT saying to your group.

Remember: while the GR is listening intently to your meeting, their brain is simultaneously occupied with many other tasks and they often are not processing the content thoughtfully as it’s going on the page. They need at least a few minutes (perhaps over a break) to reflect and consider the information so they can formulate thoughtful comments.

As much as the listening role requires the GR to be silent for the majority of the meeting, they play a resounding role in the way they express and give voice to the group’s thoughts. It’s important that you don’t forget the fact their contribution can extend well beyond the paper. Invite your GR to share his or her insight as a valuable resource for the facilitator to tap into as the meeting unfolds and afterwards as the lessons from the meeting facilitation are harvested, to benefit fully from their non-passive role.

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