Graphic recording and small group work

I’m often asked if it’s possible to integrate small group work and graphic recording during the session. It is possible – and in fact it’s very successful. I can work with facilitators ahead of time to integrate small group work, and sometimes it happens on the fly.

One of my favorite parts of being graphic recorder is working with facilitators. We’re two parts of building a successful group experience. The facilitator uses timing, activities, their words and tone  – and I create visuals – to support groups to do their best work.

Here are two ways I’ve integrated small group work and graphic recording (or graphic facilitation).

1) Breakout Groups – Harvest report back

A large room may break out into smaller tables or groups. Smaller groups build trust faster and encourage participation.

While they are working, I walk around with my notepad of post-it notes. I’m listening for emerging themes. If the tables are all working on the same 1-2 topics, I’m also listening for similarities. I take notes on post-its and bring them back to the wall chart where I’m working. I’m unobtrusive, don’t hover and spread my attention around the room.

With this format, small groups report back to the larger group at the end. They’re building towards this ‘harvest’, often getting to the heart of the presentation in the last few minutes before they present back. The facilitator structures the report-back to minimize duplications and keep things on time. Groups often will report-back on 1-3 main points. This is my chance to hear the important themes. I’m anticipating much of the content based on my post-it note research, and then I draw it all together.

graphic recording - graphic facilitation - public health services of BC - small group work report back about  indigenous youth wellness
8 tables of 10 people each

2) Small Group Work – World Cafe Style

World Cafe is a specific discussion format that invites participants to move around the room to different tables, and build on previous contributions. Each table has a different topic, and ‘host’ who stays at that table for the duration of the full activity. In the first step, participants discuss their topic, and often take notes on big pieces of flip chart paper. In the second step, participants move to the next table, and the ‘host’ stays. When the next group arrives at the table, and the ‘host’ fills them in about the work done so far and they proceed together.

I walk around the room too. I’m listening deeply for themes and taking notes on my post-its. I can read unobtrusively the flip chart paper the groups are building, which helps fill me in.

Variation A) Once everyone has circulated to every table, the facilitator invites people to return to the table/topic that spoke to them most. The group and host summarize the work, and report-back to the group in a Harvest session. This opportunity to reflect one last time can have a powerful affect. I recently worked in a room of high-level decision makers who phrased their report-back statements with a visionary, clear call to action.

Variation B) I once worked with group of 80 youth who did the report back more kinesthetically. In this case, as they came to consensus on their ideas, they wrote them down on their own stack of post-its and literally ran them over to me where I was drawing. I grouped and synthesized their ideas as we went along. Each table still had a host and a note-taker. This was a fun variation and kept the energy high – a little bit of competition!

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Considering using graphic recording at your event, and have questions? Don’t hesitate to get in touch. With more than a decade of experience in facilitating groups, I can provide input into agendas, timing, and planning that supports your goals.




One comment on “Graphic recording and small group work

  1. My friend and colleague Olé Qvist Sorenson presented at a recent TEDx conference in Copenhagen. His video is wonderful. It’s a simple, inviting, clear demonstration of why visualizing in groups is so much fun and so helpful. Enjoy a look. Olé’s company Bigger Picture, regularly creates large-scale visualization for clients, as well as white board animation movies and many other visualizations. He’s been a very inspirational example in a growing, world-wide network of visual pratitioners.

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