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Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #6: Develop the Dance Between the Facilitator and Graphic Recorder

In an effort to further the graphic recording field and support our clients in getting the most from their visuals, we present our blog series, Powerful Habits to Maximize the Benefits of Graphic Recording in Meetings. 

The tips we offer are based in context of a scenario where a meeting facilitator is partnered with a graphic recorder to serve a client, and where either the facilitator, the client, or both are new to using graphic recording. We strongly believe thatgraphic recordings are meant to be a thinking tool, not just a recording device. Working visually is both a process and a product. 

We also believe that optimizing the use of graphic recording rests largely upon 2 factors: 1) the quality of the partnership between the facilitator and the graphic recorder and 2) their collective repertoire of strategies for engaging participants to interact with the graphic recordings in a way that produces new insights. Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #6 speaks largely to the former. 

Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #6: Develop the Dance Between the Facilitator and Graphic Recorder

The best facilitator/graphic recorder teams are those who perform the visual meeting dance well together. By that, we mean two things 1) how you both show up in the partnership and 2) being in sync throughout the actual meeting conversation as the facilitation and visual capture occur.

When a facilitator works with a GR for the first time, they often wonder, “Will I have to change how I facilitate?” “Do I have to do anything different?” The answer is, probably not much. A seasoned GR will be able to fall into sync with your facilitation and ebb and flow of the dialogue/presentation quite naturally. However, there is a cooperative dance that begins to happen between the F/GR during the process of visualizing the meeting conversation that is largely built on peripheral awareness. And you can get better at your “moves” together over time so that participants experience the combination of your talents seamlessly. 

The “dance” needs to be smooth, natural and effortless so participants don’t even notice it. When a graphic recorder and facilitator have a long-term relationship and dance together often, they become really good as a result.

Nevada Lane,

march 19 2

The dance involves peripheral awareness of each other because the facilitator and GR do the dance most of the time with their backs to each other. Below, we focus on a few important moves in this back-to-back dance that will help the GR/F stay in sync. Staying in sync helps ensure you achieve fulsome, correct, quality capture of the key ideas onto the chart.

Here are a few moves that help the GR/F stay in sync during the dance of visually capturing a meeting. 

A Great Graphic Recorder: 

  • Stays 2 steps ahead of the process. They are prepared for seamless paper changes and transitions, and do not slow or interrupt the meeting process in any way. They stay highly attentive and on the ball the entire meeting, so the facilitator does not need to coach them.
  • Knows how to be flexible and can run with changes to the planned agenda. They can be comfortable not knowing where the meeting is going sometimes, or if the F decides to veer from the planned agenda. Their energy remains calm, which allows them to focus on what’s actually happening/being said (versus what they thought was supposed to happen).
  • Brings a supportive presence to the room. They show up in a way that communicates that they can “hold” whatever the group may say, grapple with or experience. Their energy helps ground the conversation. They are calm, non-judgmental, positive, encouraging and ever helpful.
  • Does not engage in self-criticism during the creation process. They are able to freely draw and iterate for the group.
  • Recognizes they are playing the role of a sounding board. They are able to share observations during huddles and talk through possibilities for the process with the facilitator. And, they are not offended when their guidance/suggestions are not taken. 

I used to think that as a GR, I was invisible in the room – that participants responded to the visuals. Now people tell me my energetic presence, my “humanbeingness”, adds value. The work is an expansion of energy in the room.

Julie Gieseke,

A Great Facilitator Partner: 

  • Interacts freely with the GR in front of the group. Although the GR is usually silently concentrating on listening and recording, there’s still room for a little back-and-forth communication about the process, and light exchanges that put the fun into working together.
  • Stays aware of the pace of the conversation and attunes their peripheral awareness to the sound of the marker. When the pen slows down or speeds up, the F notices what’s going on for the GR and incorporates any need to modulate the pace into their facilitation. For instance, they can ask follow up questions so the GR can capture an important point they may have been unable to capture earlier. Or, to slow the report back of a list, which participants often deliver in rapid fire, they may ask the speaker to explain a little more about each point on the list.
  • Checks in with the GR, but tries not to disrupt their flow if they are mid-capture. They help ensure the GR captures important points, but doesn’t interrupt with questions that can break the GR’s concentration. For instance, instead of, “Did you get that?” which can throw off the GR’s train of thought, specify what you mean by “that.” Or, if there’s no time to work in a pause, but the GR missed something vital, the F can give them the point on a sticky note or review charts with the GR during breaks.
  • Embraces the times they are out of sync with the GR. From time to time, there may be a moment when a GR misses a beat in the dialogue. Perhaps they didn’t understand a comment, or a distraction such as a sidebar conversation amongst participants, interrupts their ability to listen and focus. A great F partner uses those times as opportunities to circle back and reflect with the group, or to review and process key comments a little deeper, giving their GR partner a chance to recover and grasp the missed point. 

Here are 5 moves both the GR and F can use to improve their dance. 

  • Ask for what you need and offer what you can during the dialogue/recording process. Be sure to develop with your partner a shared sense of which things should be “audible” (transparent to the group) and which should be reserved to discuss during “huddles”.
  • Anticipate and willingly serve your partner’s needs. Be open to taking on any task that supports the meeting, even if it’s unrelated to your role, such as when the GR offers water to an F with a dry throat, or the facilitator helps the GR roll the charts at the end of the day.
  • Value and openly appreciate your partner’s skills. By genuinely recognizing your partner’s talents and strengths, you make them feel acknowledged and respected as your teammate. This in turn, often leads them to want to do the same for you.
  • Maintain positive energy, even in the absence of recognition. There are lots of opportunities during the GR/F dance for egos to be triggered. Good partners know to re-align themselves before responding. Remember: who you are being is as much a part of the equation as what you are doing.
  • Let your partner know you have their back. The best partners are those who know without a doubt that their teammate is on their side. Make sure your partner knows they have your full support in serving the client, both in the meeting room and out.

As you begin (or continue) to develop your GR/F “moves”, your dance together will be in sync, effortless and fully effective for participants. Things like self-awareness and staying aware of one another during the meeting dialogue allows for quality capture and helps deliver the maximum value to the group.