The first time I saw graphic facilitation in-action was at a KM4Dev workshop in Seattle, Washington. While participants worked through a series of large and small group sessions, facilitator Nancy White captured major themes, questions, and ideas on a large poster affixed to the back wall. Big font, thick markers, icons, swirls, chalk, and thought bubbles, it was the coolest facilitation tool I had ever seen: a giant conference doodle. A synthesis of main points, sophisticated enough for Tweets and Facebook walls.

My antennae went up. As a modern librarian, I believe that librarians should take on more proactive, participatory roles within their institutions. Physical libraries have shrunk, but the potential for enhanced library and information services has not. So, why not learn how to doodle meetings? Understand what users are engaged-in, and create a colourful take-away for staff. So, when I heard about a two-day graphic facilitation course being offered close to my hometown, I was quick to register.

Set in Rossland, Canada, Rosviz 2015 was held last July. The workshop was led by Michelle Laurie, with Lisa Thiessen as the Social Reporter. Both women have immense talent, so I came away with many great tips and tricks. However, I also came away with a firm realization that:

  1. My upright handwriting needs work
  2. Graphic recording is HARD

Graphic recording is different from graphic facilitation. Facilitators lead conversations. They use templates, and encourage participants to contribute to the drawing, or at least the elements going into the drawing. Graphic recording involves more notetaking, transcribing the main points of a meeting or lecture during someone else’s presentation: more pressure to ‘get it right’, with less time to process what is being said.

Two weeks ago, when my colleagues at CIAT asked for help documenting an internal ICT4D conference, I jumped at the opportunity to practice my new skills. ‘Internal’ implied a safe audience… friends and colleagues, who were less likely to scoff at my poor handwriting.

The event involved two days of graphic recording and plenty of upright handwriting. It was an intimidating, but wholly useful and enjoyable form of professional torture. In future, I will:

  1. Give myself more time to think before putting pen to paper (It’s okay to stand in front of an empty sheet)
  2. Allow myself to write less (less is more)
  3. Use more chalk. Chalk can make a weak drawing look much better.
  4. Practice a few relevant figures and icons beforehand
  5. If possible, gather more information ahead of time regarding what a final synthesis might look like
  6. Encourage more participation in the drawing, using post-its or an interactive session at the end of each presentation

I do hope I get the opportunity to try this again. In the meantime, I will keep writing on walls, perfecting those fonts both large and small.

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