Mentoring and Graphic Recording at IFVP conference

Sam graphic recording at IFVP 2013This summer, I went to my first International Forum of Visual Practitioners (IFVP) conference in New York. I promised I would go outside my learning “comfort zone” if I was flying all the way to New York, so for me the best part was being mentored.

While I was mingling and signing up for sessions, two people encouraged me to volunteer to do graphic recording at a session. These IFVP organizers were so encouraging that I took it to heart. So I signed up to do graphic recording at Lynn Carruther’s 90-minute session. I was paired up with mentor Jennifer Shepherd of Living Tapestries (from Ottawa, Ontario).

Instead of being threatened by other peoples’ talents, sharing skills raises the bar for everyone – which in turn means a higher quality process for the clients we work with. A strong professional community mentors each other. Here’s what made the experience a success for me.

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Quickly develop a comfortable, working repore. I work with a broad range of groups, but I get super nervous about graphic recording in front of my peers and artists who draw (right!). Jennifer helped me quickly get settled by checking in, and helping me define what was going to help me learn best. A great mentor is on your side, and she helped me feel that right away.

Establish the scope. First, Jennifer asked me what types of feedback I was looking for. I wanted to look at my use of white space and scale in this session, for example.

What’s the best way to hear feedback.  Feedback isn’t criticism. It’s a chance for reflection and problem-solving. Jennifer asked me when, and how, I wanted to debrief with her- did I want to have a meeting before the session, talk over lunch, get things in writing, etc? For me, I wanted to talk after the session and use post-it notes that we could put right onto the graphic recording to illustrate points.

Asking questions. “Tell me about this part.” “What helped you make this decision here?” I liked answering these questions. Graphic recording is part drawing, part listening, part time-crunch. Sometimes decisions are made so quickly that things come out imperfectly. Answering about my process was my opportunity to reflect on what I would change, without feeling criticized.

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Together, she helped me reflect on  these things, and I hope they help someone else too:

  • Posture – bending my knees and thinking about self-care for long-term health
  • Colour choice – orange is less visible over green from a distance
  • Leaving time to fill in titles later, in case content emerges
  • More white space (especially in the sample templates pictures I drew first as white/empty)

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