Category Archives: Effective meetings

Learning online…with others

One thing is for certain as we move our world of meetings, facilitation and engagement online. You are not alone!

you are not alone

Seriously, you are not alone up there!

In case you don’t have time to read the entire lengthy blog post, my best learning from this current deep dive is…. Learning online tools is easier (and more FUN) with others! I have a few more quick learning nuggets at the bottom as well.

 

Today I co-hosted a session with someone I met days ago online, tested out a crowdsourcing tool I began to play with literally a couple weeks ago and was joined by an almost complete group of strangers in zoom. How did that happen, how did it go and what did I learn?

 

How did it happen?

A series of random musings in an online network led me and a stranger named Bill (who I now consider a friend and future collaborator) to offer an online session to experiment with Thoughtexchange.  The tool enables groups to crowdsource ideas to questions posed and then prioritize based on people’s preferences. You can deliver data and generate reports in minutes or over longer stretches of time. Check out Thoughtexchange for the details.

 

As preparation for the session, I explored the tools and made great online friends in the process!

 

  1. To get a handle on what ThoughtExchange could offer:
    1. I attended one of their weekly online seminars and participated in a live exchange. I learned about presenter mode which offers a slick interface where people can join an exchange by scanning a QR code with their phone device. I tried this today in our session and it worked well! Someone shared that they experienced this with 700 people in a room and 200 people online participating. Making things easy is important for usage.
    2. I befriended a consultant I met through the TE seminar and we started some offline chats about how we were experimenting with the tool and what we were learning. Finding another person to learn with has added so much value to my own learning as well as inspiration to keep trying new things.
    3. I offered my services to a local group to help them understand issues impacting them related to COVID-19. It was very effective and I assume they found value as they have asked if we could do more. This is important to me as with any new tool we try, despite it looking slick, the key is that clients (users) see value!
    4. I checked-in with the support folks at ThoughtExchange to ask questions and learn more about features I hadn’t yet used. They were great and have a Help site with live chat.

 

  1. To advertise the event and get a handle on numbers participating:
    1. I used Eventbrite for the registration. This was useful as I was not sure how many people might come and thus I wasn’t sure how to structure the session for maximum interaction.
    2. After creating my free event, which included the zoom link, I shared it on a few platforms including facilitators for covid response on io, liberating structures slack channel #virtual, a QiqoChatcalendar, as well as my LinkedIn and Facebook sites. Once I noticed people were registering, I stopped sharing the invite as I started to get nervous!
    3. I learned its helpful to have an idea of numbers of people registering, where they are from and to get a sense if I know them or not. I also learned that 20% of the people registered likely won’t show up.

 

  1. To learn more about hosting online events I’ve been joining a few generous offerings as time permits. I have also saved many articles to go through still but here are some gems I feel lucky to have been exposed to:
    1. Strategic thinking / supporting other groups transitioning their online work (hosted by Nancy and written up here).
    2. Working with liberating structures online – S/Lowdown Series
    3. Following the enormous information shared through the facilitators 4 covid response list-serve.
    4. Experienced what it felt like to meet and discuss with a group of strangers online with National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation.
    5. I will dive in as a ‘tech host’ with another new group of friends next week talking about the technology behind the scenes in online events (It’s free and you can sign up April 21here or April 24th here).
    6. I’m a big fan of Gillian’s blog and she is writing up lots of her experiences and how-to switch to virtual. Aside from the many great tips she provides, I have learned it always comes back to purpose and designing for the purpose!

 

How did it go?

Overall, I think the session went well however this is likely better asked by the people that participated.

 

Still, in addition to understanding the technology and setting up the online environment, helpful points for the session included:

  • Doing a Thought Exchange in advance to prepare the agenda. 43 people participated and I was able to generate a quick report. I focused on the top 2 themes which were the desire to demo the tool live and to discuss when to use it.
  • I proposed an agenda online and adapted it heavily with my co-host. Getting together before the event and working through design and logistics was key.
  • We adapted the agenda to include a couple live demos, a couple break-outs and a final all group discussion.
  • As co-hosts we took on roles. Bill was the zoom tech host and I led the Thoughtexchange.
  • We used the polling feature of Zoom to quickly understand people’s knowledge of the tool at the outset of our session.
  • A highlight was bringing in David who recently used the tool and shared his insights and learning from real world situations. Thank you David!
  • The session was one and half hours. We started with 23 people, after an hour were were 15 and by the end we were 9.

 

What did I learn?

I got your back copy

I’ve got your back!

From today specifically I learned its very helpful to have a co-host(s) to watch your back and spot potential falls. Aside from that:

  • One hour is likely the right amount of time for an online training session such as this.
  • Co-host. Share the roles. It reduces the stress enormously.
  • Take a breath before inviting people into the room. It also helps calm the nerves.
  • Bring in people from the participant group to share, keeps things relevant and real.
  • Meeting on line is different than face to face for reading the room. Having people join with video is better than joining by phone.
  • Facilitating, i.e. supporting groups to get where they need to go, is essentially the same online as offline. We need to be adaptable and go where the group wants.
  • Loosening the agenda and remaining flexible is very nice to experience online as a facilitator (and I assume as a participant too).
  • Specific to the tool thoughtexchange, people want to come back together and keep learning after they have tried it out. People felt using the tool would be a great conversation starter and allow for more informed and richer conversations. We had some debate on the tool’s ability to be a decision-making tool. There was agreement that it would help identify places to start digging deeper.

If you are keen to play or join us please do. The company is offering it free right now for COVID-19 conversations. Send me a note and I’ll let you know when our next learning experiment takes place! I started an exchange to develop the agenda here.

Thanks to everyone who came out today. I know we are all overloaded with meetings and online events. I learned so much and I hope you did too 🙂

 

 

 

 

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Exploration of an Online Crowdsourcing Tool

Screen Shot 2020-04-14 at 10.56.27 PM

Recently I’ve been playing with an online crowdsourcing tool called ThoughtExchange. The software allows you to crowdsource answers to questions in real time. You can do an exchange in a matter of minutes or over a period of weeks. For people looking to harness the wisdom of crowds – this tool has incredible potential. Furthermore, in the age of physical distancing, facilitators are looking for ways to expand our tools for gathering and sensemaking information.

 

On this note, I agreed to host a practice session for a group of strangers I have been meeting online via various digital facilitator networks. To understand what we might focus the meeting on, I hosted a thought exchange asking people what needs to happen at the meeting to make it a good use of their time.

The answers landed in three categories (you can read the full report here):

  • Those who want to test and try the tool live.
  • Those who want to understand when to use the tool.
  • Those who want to dig deeper into the tool (for example questions that work best, costs).

Based on this, I’m considering what the agenda could look like. Here is my first draft!

Purpose: To learn with others about the TE platform as a tool for virtual meetings and collaboration.

When: Friday, April 17th, 8-9:30am Pacific Time.

Platform: Zoom (loving it).

Side note: After several playful experiments with using Liberating Structures online, I definitely want to include some of those in our session. The two practices mesh well as both aim to include the ideas and input of as many people as possible.

Draft Agenda:

8:00-8:15        Your experience with the tool and hope for the session (Impromptu Networking)

8:15-8:30        A look at the original TE question and the online report (share screen).

8:30-8:45        Feedback, comments (1-2-all)

8:45-9:00        What are good scenarios to use the tool? (Live Exchange)

9:00 – 9:15      So what do you think? Next steps? (Small groups)

9:15-9:30        Sharing, Digging deeper, Questions to look into further.

I still have 2 days to plan so your feedback is very welcome! What do you think? Do you have suggestions to offer? Will this online meeting deliver the hopes of those that signed up?  Leave me a comment!

And if you want to join Friday’s online meeting – you are welcome, sign up here (it’s free!).

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The harvest…the gifts.

group harvest all lookingIt’s been almost a month since #Rosviz19, my annual graphic facilitation workshop, took place in Rossland, BC, Canada. I am inspired by the people I was fortunate to meet, the work that was created and the harvests that emerged from this group!

That last exercise of the 2-day workshop is typically about harvest – capturing the learnings, what we want to share, the artifacts to help us remember and the tangible and intangible bits that we each gather throughout.

The harvests were BOLD gifts that stretched everyone to be their best. It was amazing to witness the element of surprise when people saw the sense making that had emerged after a few days of skills building, practice and discussion.

A group of eight gathered together to draw their learnings in large format. 

Harvest Wall No people

Another small group drew tidbits of advice and key points on cards to fit the key ring I gave at the start of the workshop so people could harvest personal insights throughout.

A poet and business advisor shared spoken word as a way to harvest the learnings!

KatieWellsPoem

Finally, after the workshop, Lisa, our social reporter and graphic recorder/guest artist shared a digital recording she created over the 2 days!

RosViz19

Special thank you to Carolina and Fernando for sharing a few Liberating Structures with us on Day 2!

Thank you to Lisa Gates for sharing her exceptional talents once again!

Michelle & Lisa

Finally, a huge thank you to everyone who traveled to Rossland to join me on this amazing graphic facilitation journey! 

Now to start planning for 2020…

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Last call for Rosviz19!

3 spots left

We are in the home stretch for registration! One month until the annual graphic facilitation workshop ‘Rosviz19’ begins. There are 3 spots left. This is why you should register:

  1. You want to increase engagement in meetings and with teams, you want to add skills to your toolkit BUT you think…I can’t draw. In this workshop, I promise you will transform that thinking!

 

I can draw

Yes that is you jumping up with joy!

 

2. You are planning an event or a project and you need to visualize your timeline. You want to communicate this to your client or to your team in a simple way to share the big picture ideas. This workshop provides you with the tools and confidence to do so!

Here is a quick example:

draw your next event

A visual timeline explaining stages, dates and process.

 

3. You are wondering…what the heck are we going to do? Here are some ideas…

ideas for the workshop

 

Still not sure? Check out the video from 2018!

Details provided on this webpage.

Scholarships available on as need basis!

Contact me with your questions.

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Announcing Rosviz19 July 11-12

Join us for a creative skills building retreat in Rossland, BC, Canada July 11-12th, 2019. Boost your ability to engage beyond words, help groups see the bigger picture and make meetings more interesting! More information is here! Graphic workshop 2019

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Reflections on PGviz18

I am inspired.

img_8710.jpg

Icon jam with the word feathers

Sometimes a workshop or meeting leaves me feeling better than when I walked in the room and this happened recently at PGviz18 in Prince George.

 

From the moment I set-up to the time I finished, I knew hosting this workshop was one of my best decisions.  It was somewhat doubtful as it happened very last minute and there was a fair bit of chaos leading up to it. However, the combination of space, people and content managed to fall into place and bring about a very interesting two days.

 

Space

We were fortunate to be offered a venue at the Prince George Native Friendship Center. When I arrived to set up, the parking lot of the building was overflowing, as it was ‘backpack day’. The center puts together and distributes school supplies to about a thousand First Nation’s children before the school year starts. They also provided meals to the families, free hair cuts to the children along with bouncy castles, chalk and other fun kids activities. The place was bustling with activity intended to bring families together and support their educational goals.

 

In the center of the room we were given for the workshop, there was a large feather drawn on the floor with the words ‘power of friendship’ in an arc around it. This was a fitting place for our circle discussions which focused on facilitation techniques but also deeper societal issues. The walls for the most part were flat and large which is helpful for hanging large format paper we needed to draw on.

IMG_8638

The executive director of the center had her office next to our room. We were fortunate to have her welcome the group and offer a prayer to start our workshop. We were also reminded of the people less fortunate than us experiencing evacuations due to the large-scale wild fires ravaging the Province of BC. We said prayers for them too. This was a fitting start as much of what we do as graphic facilitators is try to understand how our tools can be of service to support others in their path.

 

People

People also make the gathering what it is and this workshop was no different. The participants came from Prince George and northern Alberta though many had originated from Ontario, the Arctic, other parts of BC and Europe. Each had a story of how they ended up where they were today. The roads were often windy, filled with challenges as well as personal triumphs. These stories were impactful; filled with joy despite the use of words such as ‘survivor’ to describe many of the people.  The ages ranged from university student to grandmothers. There was turbulence and talk of justice, but also calm.

 

The group was different than most groups I give the workshop to. A large portion worked in social work and worked with (or were) First Nations, and another handful worked in natural resources, education or administration.

IMG_8715

PGviz18

Despite some trepidation to draw on walls at the start, people embraced the ideas, playfulness and let their inner censors go. A lot of beauty was created in the room.

 

Content

The skills and techniques we talked about were tricks of the trade that I share. However, some of the activities I typically do were turned on their head and gave me a lot to think about. For example, after introducing a very basic visual language, I ask individuals to draw a city using these shapes. A few people struggled conjuring up images of a city. In the end, one woman simply drew her community with trees, water and igloos in the ice. This was a huge reminder to me of the importance of context when working with groups. Whether planning a training, meeting or event, considering the participants, their stories and what resonates for them is critical to making meaning (one of the objectives of graphic facilitation).

 

Another interesting moment came during an exercise we do called ‘peer assist’. People can bring forward a facilitation challenge and get advice from their peers. At the same time, others can practice live graphic recording. Typical conversations are about getting groups to work together, planning agendas and dealing with conflict. Our two circle discussions focused on what was on people’s minds. The first was on the topic of privilege and unpacking what it means. The second was on power structures with marginalized groups. While not typical workshop circles, I am grateful for the moments I had to listen to these conversations, learning more about real struggles people have lived through (and still deal with) as well as ways to deal with them based on the groups’ experience.

IMG_8681

Live recording of a peer assist, by Theresa Healy

Lastly, I typically end the workshop with a visual evaluative tool called River of Life. Funny enough, the group had talked about river of life and done a lot of reflection during our group ‘harvesting’ activities. So rather than doing another evaluative task, one participant led the closing perfectly. She shared feathers she had gathered on her walks (and cleaned for us). Then she broke out hair spray and sparkles so we could all make our own sparkling feathers to take home. As an added bonus, everyone gave me a feather to take home. They are sitting in a glass jar on my desk as a reminder of the inspiring few days we had together as I write this post.

 

Thank you again to everyone who participated in PGviz18 and for bringing your openness and willingness to play and share in our workshop.

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Markers – ready!

marker refill

It’s always fun getting ready to host a graphic facilitation workshop and I have one coming up Aug 15-16 in Prince George (a few spaces left in case you are keen).  What I love is the opportunity to sift through my books, resources and extensive marker collection!

One of my marker favourites are the Neuland markers. I use a range of Number Ones and the Big Ones. I not only enjoy the wide nib and feel of the marker, what I particularly think is cool is that I can refill them. In the photo above you can see my marker is upside down and has a tiny hole in the top of the green circle. The bottle beside with the clear bulb on top is refill ink. Thus whenever you run out of ink you can fill the marker up. It feels really good to not throw away the marker (I do that with other ones that I really love despite feeling wasteful).

The refillable marker was also an incentive given the cost of buying these markers (they are imported from Germany). However, if you decide you do want to try them, the shipping fee is flat rate to a certain weight so you can share an order with friends or buy as much as you can within the weight limit! I bought refills for all my colours which has been handy. Though, after using the markers for several years I realize I should have bought more black ink refill. I love the black most 🙂

What are your favourite markers? Any recommendations I should share with the participants in Prince George?

 

 

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Rosviz18 reflection part 2

See below for a second reflective guest blog from Lisa Theissen, social reporter at Rosviz18:

“I’ve been mulling over our time together, and thinking about my own Harvest from the point of view of Social Reporter. It’s always an interesting spot to hold, a little outside of things, recording everything I can, keeping track and choosing pieces to share with the online world about our work in the workshop.

1-Rosviz2

What amazes me each time we do this is how the people in the room shape the workshop. As organizer, Michelle knows the flow and shape of the exercises and of our days ahead of time. She is skillful in employing the wisdom in the room, the strengths of the attendees – which is different every time. Our Day Two was different than other Day Twos that I’ve seen at RosViz, and very rich! It was what was needed in the room, decided by the room.

This watching role allowed me the opportunity to hear both the rumblings of self doubt, self effacing comments as well as the emphatic “I CAN” moments that occurred. Beautiful, big AHA moments here and there, different for everyone.

My big AHAs this year were around how much more complex the work has become. People are taking graphic facilitation into rooms it may never have been in before, and learning new things about themselves and the groups they work with because of it.

Our group this year was looking to solve some very complex problems – to find more ways to engage their groups authentically, to facilitate respectfully, with curiosity and goals in mind.

One of the topics that came up around this was how the facilitation and recording of sensitive issues can have an emotional  impact on the facilitator/recorder. I’ve had experience with recording in sensitive situations involving violence and abuse, and know this absolutely to be true. Some of those sessions are still here in my memory as though they happened earlier today. We talked a little bit in Rossland about being aware that we can become traumatized – and I would like to add another layer, one of being aware that, through our work, we don’t re-traumatize the individuals in the room. There are a few ways to approach this, the most effective I’ve found is to talk with the group ahead of time with some possible imagery/iconography pre-drawn to represent some of the big, difficult issues that can arise and ask for approval before they are used on the chart. My experience has been that people respond very genuinely to this, and are quick and clear with their answers. It is respectful, and saves the group (or individuals within it) from unwelcome shocks later. Graphics are powerful. We want to ensure that we wield them wisely.

Another ongoing theme that emerged was the use of technology in conjunction with graphic facilitation methods. One of the Harvest groups did a presentation about that very topic – and shared a rich conversation in the creation of the presentation. Serendipitously, on my arrival home I found a gift had come in the mail – that of a RocketBook – which had immediate and obvious application in terms of graphics and technology. It’s an analogue book that can be drawn/written in—and with an app and a bit of pre-linking, whatever has been put on the page can be uploaded as a .pdf, a .jpg or other file format to the virtual repository of your choice. I’ve been playing a bit with mine, and found it to be quite easy to use – I have been testing the RocketBook Everlast, which uses Frixion pens so that pages can be erased and used over and over again. It is, in effect, an infinite notebook, with each of the images stored on the web/in the cloud in a place of your choosing. Apparently it also has handwriting recognition, but I’ve not tested that feature yet. I think it’s going to become something I take with me as part of my toolkit in the future. (And I haven’t monetized the blog yet – looking at you, Jules)

It was really powerful to listen to each of the River of Life pieces as they were shared at the end. So many of the participants had already found clear direction for how they are going to be taking visuals forward into their facilitation practices and lives. I realized this year that everything that I’d written in my own 2011 River of Life had been accomplished – which motivated to hang some fresh paper on my own wall when I got home, look forward, and start drawing my future, once again.

 

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New Workshop: Prince George, BC, Aug 15-16th

Want to learn more about engaging beyond words?

There are a handful of graphic facilitation workshops in major city centres, mostly in the USA. I’ve been offering one in the interior of southern BC, Canada for 8 years. Now I’m doing one this August 15-16th in Prince George, BC. This is a great chance for those that don’t have the opportunity to travel south to learn the art of drawing on walls – Join us!

GF workshop Prince George Aug 15-16

 

All details are found on the training page:

https://michellelaurie.wordpress.com/training-and-workshops/graphic-facilitation-2018/

Registration closes August 7th so get in touch soon!

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Rosviz18 Reflection part 1

Lisa Theissen, our social reporter for rosviz18, has a 2 part blog reporting on what happened as well as sharing thoughts on juicy ideas that came up that we didn’t have time to dive into. Here is part 1 of her workshop reflection:

1-Rosviz1

“I’m always excited to see a new group of people take risks, be vulnerable and learn something new. I an opportunity to do this only a short while ago in Rossland with Michelle Laurie, at RosViz18.

The group, as it often is, is from varying backgrounds, brought together through facilitation work and the interest in taking the work further and deeper.

Our visual introductions were a great way to get started on the wall, trying out new ways of putting things together on the page. Participants got a good grounding in how to use the body to create large lines and circles, and what works in terms of printing and clarity, colour and spacing. Along with shapes, landscapes, faces and people, we talked about lettering and containers for gathering ideas.

Thanks to a spontaneous chart drawing by Maureen, we visually constructed a plan for a small group dinner out at the Flying Steamshovel!

Day Two began with a bang – dancing from page to page, getting a sense of what it is to do some co-drawing. Feedback here was interesting – participants talked about how it felt to write on ‘someone else’s’ page, about looking for the visual theme and continuing it. We talked about different kinds of agendas, about the development and suitability of different ones for different circumstances.

Everyone spent some time going through the materials and looking at different iconography ending off with a quickly paced ICON JAM! It was interesting to see the visual themes that developed around words like ‘technology’ and terms like ‘on-boarding’. Later, when developing templates, one of the big ‘aha’ moments for me was the idea of the tree metaphor not just being looked at from roots to leaves, but also in terms of cross section, of rings. We also practiced the art of facilitation itself, along with some live graphic recording or sketch noting. Those who didn’t have the chance to draw live got this after lunch where everyone recorded a live talk! 

In addition to lots of doing, we also spent time on reflection and learning. The concept of Harvest weaved through the workshop with a dedicated discussion on the afternoon of day 2. Harvest could be personal, to share widely or for specific audiences. It showed again how many ways there are to interpret a workshop like this. Participants created specific and thoughtful take-aways, including a river/path through the journey of our two days together, a technological overview of digital tools for connecting and building – and a literal take-away, cards with key learnings from the days drawn on each. 

Our time concluded with a visual evaluative practice, a way of individually reflecting on the time together, looking at what each of us had hoped for, what we actually experienced and learned, and plans for how we can take it all forward and apply it more in our lives, in our practices as facilitators, and especially on big paper!” 

 

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