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The Power of Graphic Facilitation

On Friday morning, I spent nearly 3 solid hours drawing. On my feet. With fancy markers. This is not my normal.

I’m a word person. I’m into language and reading. In my spare time I love crosswords and even word search puzzles. I rarely draw. And these days I’m also rarely on my feet for three hours unless I’m the one running a workshop!

So what was going on Friday morning? The Mid-Atlantic Facilitation Network’s workshop, Drawing for Graphic Facilitation, by Brian Tarallo of Lizard Brain Solutions. When you teach, it’s important to get people to do what they’re learning so they retain it. So, shortly after introductions, Brian got us all up and drawing - stick figures, symbols, shapes, connectors, callouts, containers, and more. Trust me, it was not high art… for most of us, anyway!

The first thing we did was draw a symbol that captured how we approach facilitation. Being forced to draw, in one minute, in a tiny space, this is what I came up with. I’m extra impressed that the people at my table knew the two curved lines were meant to symbolize an ear.

ear and list doodle

Symbol of…

This symbol is my approach to facilitation. I listen to all the voices (often, chaos) and create lists and timelines (creating order and structure).

In addition to forcing us to draw (and kindly demonstrating basics for us to copy), Brian ran a mini-discussion about the ethics of visuals in facilitations while most of the group observed. There were perhaps 4 people participating in the mini-discussion, with probably 40 or 50 people watching. The small group covered a lot of ground in a few minutes, and Brian captured the top idea: Make Mindful Choices. Key details included a yes/no list of when to use graphic facilitation vs. straight note-taking. For example, graphic facilitation can help with structure and with decision-making; however, graphic facilitation may not be appropriate when the subject matter is highly sensitive. While I neglected to capture a picture of the resulting sheet of graphic notes (doh!), I can see it clearly in my mind. Like the research says it does, the graphic facilitation of this conversation helps me remember the conversation after the fact, and helped me feel fully engaged in it, even though I was just an observer.

I love learning, and now I have a new tool to practice. Best of all, I get to have fun doing it! I used to doodle a lot as a middle school and high school student. Now, I need to spend some time following Brian’s best advice to practice graphic facilitation - do it while listening to an interview or talk show. Excuse me while I fire up my favorite podcast, Call Your Girlfriend, and get out some paper and these new lovely Neuland markers…


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