Tag Archives: effective meetings

Reflections on PGviz18

I am inspired.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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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Planning meetings? Can visuals help? Learn the basics at our 2018 Graphic Facilitation Workshop

I’m planning a meeting for May where a group of scientists will come together to plan their reporting on five years of study. In their case they have been monitoring glaciers and snow melt. I am tasked with helping bring together the different studies to come under one technical report. The report should help connect the work of everyone together to tell a bigger story (hopefully).

When looking at ways to think and write together, I surfed through the list serve of one of my favourite networks (www.km4dev.org) which is full of people who help bring knowledge beyond the individual. On one thread a variety of awesome tools were listed. These included using kanban boards, ecocycle planning and visual facilitation. Wow!

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While I haven’t used the kanban board specifically as a tool, I have unintentionally done similar processes and I will certainly consider this in planning with the scientists. I have used the ecocycle a fair bit (and love it) though I think its not the best tool for our needs at this meeting. As far as visual facilitation, I will be brainstorming up numerous ways to embed this into our meeting to help us stay on track, communicate as a group, see the bigger picture and have more FUN!

If you are keen to learn more about visual facilitation / graphic facilitation, want to get the most out of your meetings and your planning, consider joining us to learn the basics of the art (no experience necessary) – July 9-10, 2018 in Rossland, BC, Canada.

More details here!

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Great meeting and art? Try Graphic Facilitation

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Lovely facilitator drawing by Nancy White, graphic facilitator extraordinaire.

I recently read an article that states, “..a new Drexel University study found that making art can significantly reduce stress-related hormones in your body.” And apparently everyone can benefit! Markers, paper, clay and collage were all used in the study.

How might those who plan and attend meetings make the most of this information? For me, it reinforces that taking time to allow participants to ‘hold the pen’, draw together and be creative is important. This could be in the form an ice breaker but also in how we achieve the concrete tasks of the meeting as well. You don’t need to be an artist to include visual and creative elements to your meetings! There are simple and fun ways to reduce stress, engage the group and create meaning beyond words. I started playing with these tools in 2005 and have been hooked ever since. Why? After reading this study, I think it not only reduces stress for the participants but also for the person leading the group 🙂

If utilizing these types of tools is something you think would be useful in your toolkit, check out a graphic facilitation workshop to gain the skills and confidence to support groups and organizations to make the most of their meetings. I’m offering a workshop July 9-10, 2018 in BC, Canada – please join me!

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Meeting intros…beyond the go around.

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A few weeks ago, I got a request from someone new to facilitation asking about a great way to do introductions at a meeting. I have a lot of icebreakers up my sleeve but I was testing out something new at another meeting and had been given some ideas from an online group too. I wanted to feel it out before replying. After testing out some new things and thinking about the games I was suggested, my advice went back to something tried and true that I find a fabulous way to start a meeting.

One thing I’ve always found fun is a 3 round speed meeting. Its helpful to have a chance to meet the people you are going to be working with for the next few hours / days/etc. upfront. It can be very simple or you can put a spin on it to go deeper into your meeting content. The instructions are something like this:

  • Find someone you don’t know and introduce yourselves.
  • You have 3 minutes for the first round and then I will ring a bell and you have to meet another person (90 seconds each during your intros).
  • Do it 3 times
  • Regroup together, stand in a circle and ask people how that was for them.  Do a go-around or a ‘popcorn’ to get feedback.
  • Remind people that often we sit in meetings and don’t know who is around the room. If they didn’t get to meet everyone, take time during the breaks to continue the introductions.

If you want to go DEEPER or be more focused on the meeting itself, similar to above but:

  • Give them 4 mins per round (2 mins each to share)
  • During the intros, ask them to tell each other what they hope to get out of the meeting.
  • During the debrief, ask for examples of what people said they are hoping to get out of the meeting. Ask people if most people they met had similar expectations or where they different? How were they different? What does that mean for the meeting? Ask if anybody has anything further to add that wasn’t said.

Even though each person will only have done 3 rounds, they will know more and have more depth than a simple go around sharing names and where they work.

In general, I believe the debrief for every session/activity is a key part of the session. “What, So What, Now What” are 3 questions to consider for each session you do. Even the introductions can set the tone for the type of meeting you are going to have.

Good luck!

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Announcing two workshops for September 2016

This year I am very excited to host two workshops focused on the use of visuals in our facilitation practice.

The first is called My Pens, Our Pens and is a brand new offering Sept 16-17. This is being developed with Nancy White (my co-conspirator of the last six years). We are treading into new territory as we explore the role of visuals in design and facilitation.   This is not your traditional workshop. We are looking to push our boundaries (and yours) in terms of the role of visuals in design and facilitation. We will ask hard questions about who captures content and what is its use?  Can visual methods help reporting out be more meaningful? What is the role of metaphor? Constraints? Where are there visual opportunities in process design? When does it make sense to use visuals and where does it detract from the process? What is the process of others capturing and harvesting content? For those joining and wanting an introduction to drawing on walls, there is an optional half-day Sept 15 to teach the basics.

The second is the 7th annual  Rosviz graphic facilitation workshop. This two-day experiential workshop provides the fundamentals needed to get started drawing on walls, use visuals to achieve your goals or hone your existing practice (Sept 19-20). Whether helping communities plan their futures or groups track progress, we will provide the skills and confidence needed to use a range of visuals in your work and engage beyond words.

Workshop details for both offerings are found here!

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