3 Key Learnings from the Virtual Graphic Facilitation Workshop

Digital notes from Penny Pullan’s interview of David Sibbet and Rachel Smith. Notes by Rachel Smith

Like it or not, virtual communication is with us to stay. Over the past 10 years, most groups I’ve been part of have worked from a range of locations with little face-to-face contact. Relying only on audio and emailed documents to move our projects forward has proven both frustrating and clunky.

To learn how to help virtual meetings go better, I recently took a workshop at The Grove Consultants International on Virtual Graphic Facilitation. Our trainer, Rachel Smith, directs The Grove’s Digital Facilitation Services. Rachel is a brilliant digital visual recorder and facilitator, as well as an all-around great trainer. She made this previously daunting subject accessible and interesting.

Virtual Graphic Facilitation in a Nutshell: Online visual facilitation bridges the miles when colleagues work together from dispersed locations. It blends facilitation skills with in-the-moment graphic recording, using screen-sharing accessed through telecommunications or web conferencing. This practice supports creative and engaging group processes, yielding richer participation and more satisfying outcomes for participants.

My 3 key takeaways from our workshop and follow-up web meeting:

1. Techno-phobia De-fanged: One of the biggest obstacles people face with this work is the self-fulfilling belief that the technology is going to be a huge obstacle. Most of us in the class shared this concern at the beginning of the workshop. Then as Rachel broke the process down into a series of manageable steps, it was like peeking behind the Wizard of Oz’s curtain. I was amazed to find myself thinking: “I could actually do this!”

Yes, new equipment will be needed. The choices vary greatly in cost and complexity. Tablets, it turns out, are surprisingly affordable. Whatever route one chooses to go with the technology, it is simply a question of learning a series of steps, then working through the list when setting up. The good news: this truly is not rocket science.

2. Virtual Facilitation Finesse: For an on-line meeting, all of the usual facilitation skills for face-to-face meetings apply – and more. Rachel shared helpful tips for facilitating when you can’t see the participants and are not able to read their facial expressions and other body language. Adding virtual facilitation savvy to my toolbox was one of my most important workshop outcomes.

3. The Power of Virtual Graphic Recording: The week after the workshop, we had a follow-up web conference call to gel the learnings and experience this work in action. It was a treat to watch as Rachel recorded us in real time. Seeing people’s comments take shape in the words and images that filled my screen was wholly different from the usual phone conference call or standard-issue webinar. In fact, a few times I actually forgot that we weren’t all in the same place!

Where I Have Landed: After this training, I am intrigued and open to the idea of doing digital facilitation, to a degree that I did not expect. It seems that the drawing involved in virtual graphic facilitation is doable – even for someone like me, with my modest artistic talents. Since the workshop I’ve been practicing drawing daily, using a digital drawing program to improve my skills. It has become more natural to draw with my finger.

My next step on this learning path will be to borrow a friend’s Bamboo tablet and give it a try.

Learn more about the upcoming Virtual Graphic Facilitation Workshop.

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