I’ve been working at The Grove for almost a year and finally had the opportunity to take The Principles of Graphic Facilitation workshop from Senior Consultant Laurie Durnell in April, 2011. I signed up for three days: a two-day workshop that focuses on using graphics to lead group processes, and a one-day workshop that teaches agenda design, custom template design, facilitation and graphic-format selection. In this article I’ll be reflecting on my experience as a participant with virtually no background in graphic facilitation, as well as sharing some of the ideas presented in the workshop.

Day 1

I arrive at The Grove offices at exactly 8:25 a.m. and find I am the last one here. I take the one empty seat, settle into my chair and contemplate the bulging bag placed in front of me. Two blank sketchbooks, three textbooks on graphic facilitation and a small bound book called Pocket Pics. I get the idea we’re going to be covering a lot of ground in three days.

Most of The Grove’s workshops admit a maximum of ten people to make sure breakout groups are small and everyone gets one-on-one attention. This time there are exactly ten participants including me. They come from a variety of locations: Nova Scotia, Alaska, British Columbia, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Seattle; and backgrounds: education, ontological coaching, art therapy, academia and marketing.

Laurie introduces us to the OARRs (Outcomes, Agenda, Roles and Rules) Graphic Guide® template on the wall. This chart addresses participants’ expectations at the beginning of a meeting and makes sure everyone is in alignment. We all set to copying the format into our sketchbooks. I’m already loving this new way of taking notes. It feels quite natural and slightly subversive; like I’m not supposed to be drawing while someone is talking.

Laurie directs our attention to the big wall paper and draws a star person in the center. She then draws a horizontal line across middle of the paper (a ‘horizon” line) and writes the word “Roots” to the left of the star person. At the top left she puts the word “Hopes” and titles the piece “Introductions.” Participants take turns sharing our backgrounds (Roots) and what we expect from the workshop (Hopes). Laurie writes what we say on the big paper, and the chart begins to fill with key concepts, grouped thematically. Our comments begin to crystallize and patterns start to appear. It really does seem like magic, and Laurie makes it look easy.




We’re now getting an explanation of the Group Graphics® Keyboard. Based on Arthur M. Young’s Theory of Process, the Group Graphics® Keyboard is the framework The Grove uses to organize display formats. Reading from left to write, the keyboard progresses from simple to complex formats. The formats are: Poster, List, Cluster, Grid, Diagram, Drawing, and Mandala. Each format serves a different purpose to move people through information. We focus mostly on lists and clusters. Lists are the most exact representation of what’s happening in the room, while clusters activate comparisons and are perfect for creative sharing.

The rest of the day pretty much goes by in a happy blur. After lunch, we get a chance to work with the big paper and use the force of our bodies to create horizontal and vertical lines, make circles and get comfortable drawing on a large scale. Throughout the afternoon, we’re all fussing with the markers and pencils at our tables, drawing in our sketchbooks, laughing, and gradually getting the hang of drawing star people. We’re done a little after 5p I’m exhilarated and exhausted.

Day 2

Reflections from my sketchbook: “I’m finding my drawing ability has very little to do with being able to distill information. I have a strong urge to connect with others and that gets in the way of listening and recording. My first instinct is to build rapport and I’m learning now to think more about outcomes. What is the community expectation and goal of an exercise? I also get stage fright at the prompts! Which then makes me forget what we’re supposed to be doing. The drive to be a good student—to learn everything quickly—sometimes hampers me. This feels a lot like improv, and I need to let go of being perfect and let myself relax.”

Today Laurie introduces us to the concept of templates. My “blank paper” anxiety immediately goes down when she puts up a template. Templates take care of the architecture of the page so that the graphic recorder or facilitator can concentrate on what people are saying and on organizing the information. Laurie encourages us to start with our strengths as a graphic facilitator and build on them. I think my strength is to know to use templates!

The four flows of facilitation are: Attention, Energy, Information and Operations. Laurie displays these flows graphically and links them to the Meyers-Briggs types of Intuition, Feeling, Thinking and Sensing. I try to remember these as I work in our small-group activities. I find that I’m either concentrating on facilitating the group OR I am trying to record what’s being said. It’s not as easy as it looks. Deep breath.




Day 3

The third day I finally break through my anxiety about drawing, facilitating and incorporating all of this information. I experience doing graphic recording without apprehension and feel the “flow” of it. The ideas start coming together for me internally and I’m able to see how to have fun with the process. I can’t believe it has been only three days. I’m now ready to face that blank paper.