Marketing Visual Facilitation – with the IAF
From the March edition of the Global Flipchart with the International Association of Facilitators
Sometimes I’ll get a call from a client who says: “I don’t know what you do, but I’m told that I need you.” And it’s true. You might not know that you need graphic facilitation, just like you didn’t know you were hungry until you had a snack.
But those same clients will stand next to my images during the meeting and say – “yes, that’s exactly what I meant.”
Graphic recorders and facilitators listen deeply, and record what is said using text and pictures. Drawing out ideas live helps groups break through their existing paradigms and see connections. We create images that help groups learn together, connect, and lead.
Marketing what we do
Marketing graphic facilitation is often really easy: a picture is worth a thousand words. We have challenges in our marketing, too. We get asked: “Are you an artist? Will you come draw my wedding?” or “Do you doodle for a living?” No, not really. We’re not artists inventing images or doodling without purpose – we are skilled consultants where every mark is meaningful. We’re there to help groups tap into their hidden wisdom, by making it visible. And that’s a tricky thing to market.
On the plus side, it’s easy to share images on social media (when not confidential) and add to a conversation in real-time online. I market my graphic facilitation and graphic recording services by having great meetings. Participants experience the impact that visuals make in meetings of two people to 900 plus.
Graphic facilitation makes a difference for groups because it:
- Synthesizes large amounts of information clearly
- Helps with memory retention during the meeting
- Is a tool for reflection at strategic points
- Starts conversation at breaks and on social media
- Keeps the conversation going afterwards, because there’s an engaging summary to share.
How clients use these images
The images created through graphic facilitation and graphic recording will continue to create an impact long after the events and meetings are over. Clients make use of these images in a number of ways:
- Following up with participants
- Reminding staff of goals and plans
- Adding a visual punch to reports and newsletters
- Displaying them in gathering spaces for everyone to enjoy.
Marketing joint services
Graphic facilitators and non-visual facilitators can be great partners. Together, you can provide better value for the client than either partner could do alone. Personally, I’m interested in using graphic facilitation to help groups think through problems. Here are some ways to pair up with a graphic facilitator or graphic recorder.
- Do you need to facilitate a company vision? Bring in a graphic recorder to help the group think differently. What if the room was surrounded by brightly coloured visuals that inspired participants to see what was possible?
- Do you need to engage the public at an open house, and you’re deeply bored of post-it note exercises? What if your team had a graphic facilitator, to ask questions of the passerby and draw out ideas, so people could see they had been heard?
- Do you have a 200-page report of the new strategic plan you facilitated for three months? You need an eye-catching graphic that summarizes the report on one page.
- Are you working with vulnerable communities? Graphic facilitation can map out someone’s personal story (such as experiences with homelessness), and it can recognize and validate their experiences. Graphic facilitation can synthesise a lot of information, but it can also help us lead with our hearts and tap into something deeper.
Finding a great fit
Graphic facilitators and graphic recorders are often asked to recommend a great facilitator and vice versa. Both parties want a good fit, and it’s not always about location. Clarify roles and approaches.
When hiring graphic facilitators to work with you, does the group need someone with “outside ears” to listen for plain language and clarity, or is it better to have a subject matter expert who will understand the nuances? Our professional association is IFVP.org and there you can find practitioners worldwide using the handy map directory.
Different approaches to marketing in the visual field
Like non-visual facilitators, there are practitioners in many places. Most are solo practitioners or consultants, and some are facilitators with full-time jobs who also use graphic facilitation tools in their jobs.
Some practitioners rely on word-of-mouth, some people bid on RFPs and some lead with facilitation and then bring in visuals in many aspects of their practice (pre-drawing timelines, using templates for group work, Visual Explorer Cards, etc).
I love that feeling when I leave a great meeting. People are fired up from the inside out. They feel heard, and they’re truly communicating. Bring visuals – and snacks! – to your meeting to make this happen.
* * * * * * * *
Thanks to Monique Walsh at the IAF and The Global Flipchart who reached out to me. The Global Flipchart is IAF’s quarterly magazine about the power of facilitation – made by members, for members. Contact the editorial team by email: email@example.com
* * * * * * * *
More from me online: How to use graphic facilitation visuals after a meeting, and see my new book at www.visualpracticebook.com