Making the Most of Graphic Facilitation

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By: Nevada Lane, Luminare Guest Blogger

Nevada Lane is an expert graphic facilitator, trainer and team coach based in San Francisco. She helps individuals and teams move from insights to action using the power of visual thinking. You can learn more by visiter her website: www.lanechangeconsulting.com 


I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jara and Luminare Group for the past few years as a graphic facilitator. Graphic facilitation (also called graphic recording, scribing, and visual harvesting) is the real-time visual translation of group conversations onto large paper. Graphic facilitation can be a powerful tool that supports group focus, learning and knowledge retention, and overall meeting and project effectiveness.

While few graphic facilitators will admit it, graphic facilitation can unfortunately also become a sideshow that adds little value to the event. How does Luminare Group ensure that we maximize the power of the tool when we work together?

Here are 4 best practices I’ve encountered while working with the Luminare Team:

Graphic facilitation is integrated into the meeting design.

When designing large-group sessions, graphic facilitation is integrated in to every piece of the agenda to support objectives, and we talk through the goals and process of each part of the agenda. What does this mean in practice? For some parts of the meeting, such as during introductions or report-outs, I may visually capture every word, idea, or image the group shares.

For example, at a recent session, the group brainstormed possible visual metaphors for the work they were doing and I drew those image ideas. For other parts of the agenda, however, the visuals are designed to support a learning activity and might be much more interactive. For example, I frequently draw a big title and frame of some sort on the paper to create a space for the group to post their initial thoughts on purpose statements, or values, on sticky-notes. At a session last year, Jara asked me to draw a large matrix that the group filled in together as they thought about questions to ask of stakeholders. Thinking of the graphics as a space for co-creation, not just visual capture, is one of the keys to using graphic facilitation effectively.   

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The graphics are front and center in the room.

I’ve been in many situations where I’ve been asked to set up in the back of the room (where no one can see me without turning around). Once I was even up in a balcony 20 feet above the audience with the back of my board facing them! As you can imagine, interaction or co-creation is impossible in these situations. To be fair, not every meeting is about co-creation, but when group learning and engagement matters, having the graphics where everyone can see them is key.

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We don’t treat the work as precious.

Graphic facilitation is a tool and the output, while often beautiful, isn’t finished art that shouldn’t be touched. I love it when groups aren’t afraid to make the graphics “messy” and want me to change a word or draw big arrows between two ideas because it means they are thinking about and shifting their ideas as they see them mirrored back on paper. In these cases, the graphics are doing they job by helping people evolve their thinking, collectively.

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We partner long term.

The more I work with Jara and the Luminare Team the more I understand her/their facilitation style, frameworks and models. As my understanding of the work deepens, I’m able to be a better thought partner both before and during the meeting regarding how to make the most graphic facilitation.

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