How Graphics Facilitate Strategic Work

Posted by on Feb 16, 2016 in blog, Graphic Facilitation, graphic recorder, Graphic Recording, scribing, visual facilitation

There are two general terms for translating a meeting discussion into visuals in real-time: Graphic recording – the meeting is captured by a graphic recorder, who is dedicated to listening, synthesizing, and organizing the content into visuals and text. Graphic facilitation – the meeting is facilitated by one person who simultaneously uses graphics to help guide the discussion and organize action items. Often pre-designed charts are used – these large scale templates help focus the group. I operate as a hybrid of the two – graphic recording the discussion, and closely involved in planning the graphic templates that will help guide the discussion. For example, most of my work is strategic planning with boards and executive teams. This includes working through complex discussions around mission, vision, values – intangible items that at first seem simple, yet are so crucial to the direction of an organization and difficult to pin down. Which is why a hybrid of graphic recording & graphic facilitation is the most valuable to strategic planning work. This hybrid approach means I’m working closely with the meeting facilitator in the weeks leading up to a strategic session. We plan the best way graphics can support the meeting depending on the objectives, the stakeholders in the room, and the difficult discussions that might come up. There are numerous templates that can be used to help guide the group and ensure the focus remains on the “big picture.” Planning layouts for a strategic session — these rough sketches are refined with input from the meeting organizer and/or facilitator. A simple template used to help a group focus on concrete actions during the coming year. The above template is free for download and use in your next meeting! Of course, graphic templates are designed for what will work best for the group. The same approach won’t work for a multi-million dollar pharmaceutical company as it does for a small non-profit organization (see my recent blog post on designing metaphors for strategic planning). The meeting benefits greatly from this hybrid approach. The facilitator is supported by carefully selected graphic templates, and he/she can focus completely on guiding the group through their work. Meanwhile, the graphic recorder is dedicated to deep listening & synthesis of the discussion, but has a much more involved role because of the pre-planning with the facilitator and customized graphic templates. As one of my clients recently remarked, “it’s the difference between tacking on graphic recording last-minute and getting a “pretty picture” at the end of the meeting, versus having the graphic recorder deeply involved in the objectives, with a keen understanding of the issues. I was floored by the difference this made in our strategic...

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5 Ways of Using Completed Graphic Recordings

Posted by on Feb 1, 2016 in blog, Graphic Facilitation, graphic recorder, Graphic Recording, Hand Drawn Video, Prezi, visual facilitation, Whiteboard Animation, Whiteboard Videos

You’ve got these fantastic graphic recordings from your meeting, but how will you use them? In advertising, the more you expose people to a brand or message the more likely they are to commit to it. The same holds true for the outcomes and action items in a meeting. Graphic recordings are already an engaging visual record of your meeting, but it’s important they are displayed throughout the year to keep the content top-of-mind and ensure long-term commitment to the action items. 1. Use the images in other materials Specific imagery in the graphic recordings can be isolated as stand-alone graphics for use in other materials such as reports, brochures, Powerpoints, websites, etc. It’s a great way to liven up information-rich reports or add that “human touch” to a website. Images from a graphic recording are incorporated into an organization’s report. 2. Cards, coffee mugs, and screen savers A number of my clients have printed their graphic recordings on greeting cards or mugs given out for employee recognition and thank you’s to clients. Many others use the graphic recordings as desktop backgrounds or screen savers — a constant visual reminder throughout the year. 3. Laminate the hard-copies Many organizations display the graphic recordings in their hallways or bring them to future meetings as a touchstone to continue the conversation. Laminating the graphic recordings ensures they are durable and prevent wrinkling, tearing, colour fading, or yellowing. When walking through the graphic recordings with colleagues, you can use a whiteboard marker (depending on the brand of marker – test it first!) to circle items or add extra text – a great way to make them more interactive! Mounting the graphic recordings on foam-core or gator-board is also an impressive format for public display. 4. Prezi presentations Prezi is a dynamic way to walk through the graphic recordings and additional text, photos, videos, or a voice over can easily be added. Prezi presentations can be embedded on websites, shared internally with staff, or presented at conferences. Below is an example Prezi that integrates additional text to provide context (note this is an excerpt from a full Prezi presentation): 5. Whiteboard-style animation Video is fast becoming the most engaging way to reach online audiences, especially if the video is well-designed and entertaining. Whiteboard animations are a popular way of explaining complex topics in a simple and engaging format. Because graphic recordings were created live during your meeting, this animation style engages viewers in the same way because each concept is drawn out in time with a voice over. Converting your graphic recordings into an animation solidifies the action items or key discussion points from your meeting into a professional little video ready to be shared with staff who weren’t in the meeting or a broader public audience. I offer a range of animation services – from converting graphic recordings into a basic whiteboard...

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Metaphor and Graphic Recording

Posted by on Jan 19, 2016 in blog, Graphic Facilitation, graphic recorder, Graphic Recording, scribing, visual facilitation

Strategic planning is a complicated process that takes time and deep discussion. It’s not easy for an organization or company to step back from itself and see the big picture or grapple with intangibles like vision, mission, and values. This is why developing an overarching metaphor to frame the discussion can be so effective. Stories are the most powerful form of communication and learning. We surround ourselves with stories: blockbuster movies, novels, news articles, plays. The most successful movie franchises all have a powerful story at their core (Star Wars, Harry Potter, Toy Story).  And it goes beyond entertainment – stories allow us to step outside our day-to-day lives. They teach us about ourselves and open our minds to new perspectives. Re-framing the work It’s not easy to reflect on a company’s challenges or opportunities when you’re working day-to-day “in the trenches.”Metaphor frames the strategic planning as a story and allows people to take a step back and gain new perspective. It’s a neutral and safe place to have tough discussions. For example, mountain climbing is a common metaphor used when graphic recording a strategic session. What small peaks can we reach on the way to Everest? What tools and climbing gear are needed? Who is leading us to the first peak? What are the avalanche conditions and how can we prepare for them? Example graphic recording using mountain metaphor (confidential information has been removed or blurred). Tailor to the group Some people may be skeptical of framing the work in this way – they may feel it’s juvenile, a waste of time, not the “real work.” Of course, metaphor can be overused and it’s important to strike the right tone with the group you’re working with. Some groups are more receptive to working this way; others prefer a lighter touch of metaphor. However, the power of metaphor is undeniable. It’s a non-threatening way of assessing a company’s strategy and it’s surprisingly effective at pulling the nay-sayers into the discussion. Anchor the intangibles Finally, metaphor anchors intangible items like mission, vision, values, and quarterly actions into an engaging visual that everyone is more likely to review in future. It allows people to see interconnections between team members, how resources support the yearly goals, and gets people excited about their work. I’ve used a variety of metaphors in graphic recording – from the traditional mountain climb, to canoeing down a river, space travel, sailing, and building a house… just to name a few! Try it at your next meeting and see how metaphor can transform strategic...

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The Fastest Way to Kill Good Design

Posted by on Jan 4, 2016 in blog, Graphic Facilitation, graphic recorder, Graphic Recording, Infographic, Whiteboard Animation, Whiteboard Videos

There’s a common refrain in the design community that every designer hopes to never hear from their client: “can you make it pop?” Why is this so deadly? It’s vague and imprecise; nor is it clear whether the critique is based on how it will impact the audience and their interpretation of the design. But there’s a bigger problem lurking behind those five words: Can you make it pop? And it comes down to how the client and designer are collaborating. I’ve worked with numerous clients over the years from a variety of organizations and I’ve realized there are two approaches to working with a visual designer, whether it’s producing an animated video, an infographic, logo design, or even graphic recording. Sean McCabe, a fellow designer, put it in these terms: 1)     Designer as technician 2)     Designer as professional Designer as Technician This is the fastest way to kill good design and it follows a predictable pattern (using a logo-design scenario for simplicity’s sake): 1) Client provides designer with a project brief for a logo redesign. 2) Designer spends hours, maybe days, conceiving different designs, tossing out bad ideas, and re-thinking the logo from different perspectives. All with a focus on the client’s target audience and goals. 3) Designer presents a selection of two or three logos to the client. 4) Client chooses a logo but doesn’t like how the letter M in the logo reminds him of mountain tops. He was in a skiing accident once and mountains of any kind are a bad omen. 5) Designer changes the font so the M becomes an m. 6) Client wants the words in the logo re-positioned slightly to the left because Sally from accounting thinks it’s better off-centre. … wash, rinse, repeat. The designer has become someone who owns design software and knows how to push the mouse around – a technician. The client’s subjective edits are based on personal taste and not from the perspective of the target audience. The designer has become someone who owns design software and knows how to push the mouse around – a technician. Designer as Professional I wouldn’t hire an electrician to wire my house and then critique how he or she wired my walls based on my very limited (non-existent) knowledge of electrical work. Likewise, visual designers bring a unique expertise to their craft – whether it’s designs for web, graphics, or video. A professional designer understands core principles of colour use, information layout, audience interpretation, and engaging design. They live and breathe their work – keeping up to date on design principles, best practices, and constantly studying others’ work, whether it’s a designer from the 1950s or the latest intriguing designer on Instagram. The client brings their own expertise; they know their audience, their product, their organization. The client is the content expert. It’s imperative the client and designer respect...

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Research & Cultural Sensitivity in Graphic Recording

Posted by on Jul 2, 2015 in blog, Graphic Facilitation, graphic recorder, Graphic Recording, scribing, visual facilitation

I was graphic recording at a recent scientific research conference and a woman remarked to me: “How do you know what to draw? You must really know our industry!” It’s a question I’m asked often — how do I choose the right images? How do I follow along with a complex industry discussion? What if I offend someone with what I’ve drawn? Research There’s a school of thought among some facilitators that it’s best to go into a meeting “knowing just enough to be dangerous.” In other words, doing just enough research before a meeting to have a basic understanding of the topic. All meetings are pretty much the same, right? Knowing “just enough” before going into a meeting is like an architect knowing “just enough” about a company’s needs before designing their building. Prior to a full-day meeting I spend 2-3 days researching the topics being discussed and the people in the room. Having a fulsome understanding of the discussion topics allows me to move quickly with the discussion and make connections between ideas when I’m graphic recording. I’ll have a strong sense of what stakeholders are struggling with and what their goals are. Research also ensures I understand the industry terminology (especially if it’s a technical conference for engineers!).  The graphic recording should be an authentic reflection of the industry and work, so including accurate imagery and knowing how to spell specific terms and acronyms makes a difference in people connecting with the graphic recording. Cultural Sensitivity Every organization or community has a culture and I adjust my graphic recording to align with it. Often this means working closely with the meeting planner to understand their organization’s culture and what may or may not be appropriate to draw. For example, I worked with an environmental organization that uses a lot of data and statistics to back up their work. They needed a graphic recording that was accurate, in a straight-forward layout (see “Layout Preparation” below), with clear text and not too image-heavy. This isn’t an organization that would respond well to a graphic recording that is whimsical or overly playful — it’s not their organizational culture. I’ve also been honoured to work with many BC First Nations (Haida Nation, Tk’emlúps, Kitsumkalum, Hagwilget, Gitanmaax, to name a few), and it’s important to respect that each community has their own unique culture, perspective, and history. First Nations art and storytelling is very visual, with an emphasis on metaphor and respectful listening. Graphic recording at its core is about listening and reflecting on a discussion, and using metaphor (often nature or land related for First Nations discussions) to amplify ideas. Layout Preparation The final cornerstone in preparing is the planning of layouts for the graphic recording. This is especially effective for strategic planning meetings where the group intends to develop a vision, values, or action plan. Utilizing a layout to...

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5 Powerful Ways to Display Graphic Recordings

Posted by on May 20, 2015 in blog, Graphic Facilitation, graphic recorder, Graphic Recording

Nothing sucks the energy out of a conference room faster than a lack of windows and poor air circulation. Large bright windows and comfortable facilities allow people to work to their full potential in a productive environment. If you have graphic recording, it’s also important to effectively display the graphic recordings so participants engage with the visuals and have a deeper discussion. At multi-day meetings, it’s powerful to walk into a room on day two and see yesterday’s work on the walls. It sets an immediate tone and productive environment for the rest of the session and prompts participants to reflect on the work — this is crucial in making new discoveries and sharing ideas openly. Prior to a meeting, go over your display options: How much wall space do we have? Can we build reflection time into the agenda? How do we want to engage participants? Below are five effective ways of displaying graphic recordings and getting people engaged in the visuals. 1. Enrich the Meeting Space Displaying the graphic recordings in the meeting space itself is one of the most effective ways to ensure the visuals are part of the ongoing discussion. People will naturally refer back to what was said — the graphic recordings serve as a tangible record in full view of everyone. Alternatively, hang the graphic recordings near the snacks and coffee refills. The visuals will prompt people to stop and reflect and discuss the work with their fellow participants. 2. Graphics Tunnel If wall space is limited in the meeting room, make use of the walls leading into the room. Better yet, if there is a hall leading into the room, create a “graphics tunnel” that participants walk through into the meeting space. This is an effective way to refocus when coming back from a break or lunch. Allowing just five minutes of quiet time in the agenda so people can do a graphics walk will ensure everyone enters the room with the content top of mind.   3. 3D Towers Foam core (or falcon board for the environmentally friendly!) is effective when wall space is limited. Graphic recording can be done directly on foam core, which can be built into “towers” of graphics, be arranged up staircases or as building blocks that represent a foundation of something larger. Seeing the work in another dimension really helps open people’s minds to new points of view.   4. Summary Graphic Recording Have blank sticky notes next to each graphic recording and encourage people to put a sticky note on what resonated with them. Over the course of the conference, a summary graphic recording can be built based on what people have marked as important. The summary graphic recording might be caricatures of each person and their “ah-ha moment,” or a visual summary of the important points. It serves as a powerful take-away, especially at...

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