10 Things I’ve Learned About Graphic Facilitation in a Virtual World

Graphic recording helps us see complex information in new ways. It creates more understanding, helps us hear each other and can connect us to purpose – while inviting in more creativity. After hundreds of online meetings during the pandemic, here’s 10 things I’ve learned about adapting graphic facilitation to an online world. 

Graphic facilitation can be a process tool during the meeting, helping groups unlock clarity and have better conversations. We make each other’s stories visible. It can also be a tool for two-way engagement or a way to distill and communicate out information. It can be both process and product. One is not better than the other – we need to choose the right fit for function – especially online.

Here’s my top 10 learnings:

  1. Meetings are shorter: have a focussed plan 
  2. Online meetings need creativity, art and connection
  3. Design with the participants in mind: how will they see the images
  4. Set expectations  
  5. Graphic recording and facilitation is a two-way conversation – create space for collaboration online
  6. Online choices: draw on paper or all digital
  7. Hear from the graphic recorder: at the beginning, middle and end
  8. An all-online world creates new opportunities for new styles and experimentation 
  9. Leverage social media – “Create Once, Publish Everywhere”
  10. Invest in the best tech possible; Practice and have a backup plan

1. Meetings are shorter: have a focussed plan for the graphics  

If your online meeting is short, don’t cram in too much. Talk to your graphic recorder about the goals of the meeting: is it to support a learning environment? Distill complex information to share afterwards? To make a dialogue into something visual? Create online engagement with social media during the session? 

Graphic recorders can be a trusted, sophisticated consultant on your project as they’ve attended hundreds of meetings. With the graphic facilitator, align on purpose and outcomes and your agenda. Online meetings are shorter. Instead of expecting the graphic facilitator to work faster during the meeting, instead, do more preparation work so there’s a focussed plan for the graphics. 

Talk about the core purpose of your meeting and how the agenda supports that. For example, are there parts of the agenda that require detailed notetaking? Let’s layer in digital note-taking like a google jamboard, MURAL, or pen and paper notes. Are there parts where you’re coming to a decision? Let the graphic recorder know how online polling / voting / might also happen, so the graphics can reflect the information you need.


2. Online meetings need more creativity, art and connection

If you already know that your meeting does not need to be an email …  

Over and over, we hear from participants and organizers – “this was the best meeting I’ve attended.” The combination of working with tools that build participation and engagement – along with art-based methods like graphic recording – is a powerful combination. 

We need more creativity online. Instead of thinking “do we have time for this?”, rethink what is the true purpose of the meeting and “how can we best connect in our time together?” You can accomplish that in a million ways – listening to musicians play live music, inviting in play with small games or imagination, or watching a performance during your conference. And – you can invite in visuals. Doodling is soothing and meditative: send out colouring sheets for people during the event; have workbooks that have activity sheets for reflection / action steps and space to draw; create templates or worksheets for group work that include visuals and then use powerpoint or annotate to fill them in during the session. And of course, graphic recording is another way to invite in creativity, art, and conversation. 

Bring in delight. Bring in art, online. 


3. Design with the participants in mind: how will they see the images, and when? 

When will people need to see everything that the graphic facilitator is writing or drawing? For a strategic planning meeting, a brainstorm, journey mapping or other interactive exercise it may be crucial to see all of images up close. In this case, choose a process where participants can see the drawings up close throughout the meeting.

Or, will the participants be best served by seeing the graphics up close at specific points during the meeting? Sometimes, for example for a panel or keynote with high-profile speakers, we may or may not want to have drawings happening at the same time as the star of the event. Or maybe we want the images to be ‘revealed’ for a big wow during the event. It may be better to pan to the graphics at specific times, or do a detailed explanation of the images after the speaker/panel is complete. 


4. Set expectations when images will be ready

Do: set expectations ahead of time when the event organizers need the final images delivered. Online events seem to speed up expectations for the files. I try to send them within the hour for maximum impact or overnight. The days of waiting 3-4 days fo images are probably behind us

Do: be clear on what exact size (and quantity) of images the organizers need. One image drawn over the whole session? Multiple images during one day? 

Do: clarify what types of post-event edits are included, or not included 

Don’t: when a client prefers to revise the images many times afterwards, don’t choose graphic recording; choose a standard illustration process instead for more flexibility

Don’t: expect that a graphic recorder can draw 5 hours of back to back sessions plus upload things to social media at the same time plus present images out loud to the group; be realistic about pacing and the schedule!

Don’t: … assume that graphic recording includes a time-lapse video. Making videos is best done in a whole other process 


5. Graphic recording and facilitation is a two-way conversation – create space for collaboration online

Create online collaboration and engagement. There’s a million ways to do this. You could try using digital post it notes, text or photos.  Upload images, or images in progress, to a collaboration space like MURAL. There, participants can use digital post-it notes (or text! or photos!) to add to the images. Ask people silently or in pairs to reflect and write:

  • What … stands out for you, right now? 
  • So What …themes are emerging? 
  • Now What …. Might we do? 

Engage directly with the graphic facilitator. 

Just like in face-to-face meetings, bringing the graphic facilitator into the process also builds collaboration and dialogue. Ask the graphic facilitator to present back key themes to the room. If you only invest 3 minutes in the graphics and hearing from the graphic recorder, you might realize only part of the potential value. If you can invest more time in the dialogue about the graphics, more is possible. Use the graphics to unlock clarity and the next step of what your meeting needs. It could take the form of paired or plenary conversation, or time for silent reflection, or annotating the graphics to vote or decide on action steps, among other things. 

These conversations are also an excellent way for the graphic recorder to receive feedback from participants about things that can be improved or adjusted. 

For a recent project developing framework model about information governance,  I presented a draft image to the group. It was partly drafted ahead of time. Then, we used graphic facilitation to improve it. We had small group conversations and during the share back, I edited the image in real-time so everyone could see it. We left with more clarity about how the next version of the framework would develop. This online process was easier than people emailing their contributions to me – and it was easier to ‘see’ what we all meant. 


6. Online choices: draw on paper or all digital

Some graphic recorders prefer analog, digital, and some can offer both. Event convenors might want to choose one process because there’s a preferred way it looks, or because of the way the participants can interact with or view the images either during or after the event. Here are some choices. In both cases, it’s very human to watch someone create – it breaks through the repetition of another Zoom meeting. 


Pros Cons
Analog: drawing with markers on paper Watch someone create in real time. Might be on a giant easel, a small close up easel, or with an overhead camera pointed at a sketchbook  A large drawing easel might be further from the web cam; may be hard to see all the details. There are limits on poster size. Discuss all this with the graphic recorder (ideas below) 
You may choose to keep the one of a kind posters. It’s easy to hang them up after Build in lag time after the event to photograph and edit the images before they can be distributed 
Digital: with a tablet / ipad / Wacom Watch someone create in real time, using a tablet / ipad. You may or may not see a hand in the frame. 

Screensharing is easy and one-click, see all the details by zooming in. 

Don’t make the audience dizzy by zooming in/out too fast
Rich saturated colour, make the poster and shape or length. Then print them out after Tech gremlins can sabotage things 
Immediately export files for social media, a collaboration space, or sharing with participants  I’ve heard that the images can look ‘too good’ and people don’t believe it’s drawn live, unless they can see the hand drawing 


7. Hear from the graphic recorder: at the beginning, middle and end

Bring the graphic recorder’s voice into the meeting – at the beginning! Have a slide with their information. Give time for the graphic recorder to let the room know out loud who they are, about their role, and why visuals are a powerful way to support this event. People may be curious if the graphic recorder is there to attribute quotes to specific participants, or to draw the way we look (usually both are not true). Participants may be excited to watch the images be created, and you can encourage the ‘pin’ view in Zoom. Inform participants if/how they will receive the images after, and about confidentiality if appropriate. 

At appropriate points in the online meeting, decide how the in-progress graphics could be shared. Is there a break where a screenshare can happen? A draft image posted to a collaboration space? 

At the end, leave time for the graphic recorder to bring voice and meaning to the images out loud for the whole room. 


8. An all-online world creates new opportunities for new styles and experimentation 

An all-online world is an opportunity to also experiment with visuals that are created live. 

Could there be a group drawing collaboration? What about collaging and layering. Or inviting participants to upload photos and the graphic recorder draws or writes  connections between them. There are no rules – experiments might include collages, working with solid colours, layers, textures and annotating with text. Things we can’t do easily on paper – huge areas of solid coloured backgrounds, adding photography, or writing with white text on solid colours, moving objects around, huge canvas sizes – become straightforward in a digital space. 

The best approach here is to outline what problem or challenge you want to solve – and then invite the graphic recorder to propose some possible approaches. Clients should always hire the best graphic recorder for their unique project – we all work differently, have different strengths and unique skill sets. Here’s our professional association if you’re looking for great talent: ifvp.org. 

There’s some exciting work out there happening with Virtual Reality, too! 

Resources I appreciate: IFVP has pre-recorded videos, including technical help created by @unlockawesome and “digital graphic recording with analog tools” by @CorpGraffitiArt and @SandradirksDe. I also adore @RBenmergui‘s courses. 

9. Leverage social media – “Create Once, Publish Everywhere”

When working digitally, leverage social media. Quickly crop small parts of a larger graphic recording image and it can be sent it out through the event’s social media, or through the event conference platform (like Whova, etc). At a recent conference, I created a small series of easy to view images for a recent session –  and then the amazing communications team tweeted them out and also made the small bite sized images into a small video for the participants by the end of the day. Then the full sized images went onto the event website and report. 

You’ve heard of Create Once, Publish Everywhere (via NPR): Here’s some more information on creating other assets for social media, after your event. https://drawingchange.com/graphic-recording-social-media-packages-to-amplify-your-message/


10. Invest in the best tech possible; Practice and have a backup plan

1. I use an overhead IPEVO document camera pointed at a giant Wacom Cintiq. Anyone can pin my view as a regular participant. Then at specific points in the meeting, I screenshare. I used to have an HDMI capture card setup, but I found the resolution to be sometimes grainy from the participant perspective. 

Resources for HDMI/tech solutions: Set up a tech solutions coaching session with Muddy at the Whiteboard Academy, and visit IFVP’s online series here

I work using a Wacom Cintiq because I want a big drawing surface, and ability to make big files. If you’re working professionally you’ll want pro tools no matter what platform you choose (I used to use an Ipad). If you’re brand new and trying things out – try a Wacom One? Affordable and super simple to learn. 

2. Analog work: 

    1. Get three sources of lighting
    2.  The graphic recorder can log in with multiple devices (mute one!) to have multiple angles when working on paper
    3. Consider making your paper smaller so you can place the camera closer to the page. Make it the best experience for the participants vs what used to be a “standard” 8 foot poster. Maybe a series of smaller pictures is better, or a shift to an overhead camera and a sketchbook. 

3. Screensharing, or webcam view? Discuss whether screen sharing is the best way to see the images while they are created. Screensharing takes over the whole screen so no other slides can be shown. So people can see the presenter and the graphics, some solutions include using a capture card, software or an overhead camera so the zoom square becomes the drawing view just like a regular webcam. 

Test all the tech before doing anything high stakes. If working at an event with an online event platform (eg for a conference), a usual online graphic recording set up may not apply. Have the tech event team connect directly with the graphic recorder. Hardwire everything. Have the best internet possible, and a backup plan. People always ask me what tech they should buy: my advice is to buy the best you can afford, and you’ll grow into it. 

Hope these 10 tips help, and if you have other things to share I’d love to hear from you below.


In mid-2021, we’re all turning to think about the future of work. What will our meetings look like? What will be a successful hybrid meeting? Let’s use the best of online graphic recording and the best of online meetings. Graphic facilitation and graphic recording are tools for process – and can also be a beautiful end result. 


Want to use visuals to create connection, have better meetings, solve complex problems … and do it remotely? We’ve been collaborating remotely for a long time – get in touch at www.drawingchange.com and hello@drawingchange.com

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