Transform the graphic recording planning meeting – to be exceptional

There’s a crucial meeting before any graphic facilitation project, and it doesn’t get enough attention. This is the humble-but-very-important preparation meeting, with the graphic facilitator, client team and process facilitator. I used to have a checklist so I could resolve the technical questions I needed (what’s the meeting purpose? Where will I set up?) but now I optimize this time for something even more important to do my work well.

It’s also the moment for rapport and relationship.

The higher purpose is to connect with each other, and have a great conversation so you can understand their vision, hopes and design for the meeting at a strategic level.

These planning meetings are the opportunity for two sets of your skills to shine: emotional intelligence and diagnostic skills. Being open and able to build rapport – before asking about image sizes and outcomes, is helpful. When we prioritize relationships and connection, we can help the client and facilitation team feel at ease and fully present: in this way, they can communicate to you from a place of purpose and clarity. As a consultant, your curiosity and good diagnostic questions can then help you understand the content and the fullest context of what might happen that day. This in turn, helps us listen at strategic level and be as informed and prepared as possible, so we can be a trusted advisor in the room.

Graphic recording can be a place for people where people share their hopes, dreams and vision for something better.

When it’s seamless, it looks like magic. And of course, like anything – it’s also about the journey and experience that has been building and leading up to that very moment. 

Don't just bring a checklist, bring yourself - graphic facilitation prep meetings and best practices with drawing change

Everyone does all of this a little differently in planning meetings. This isn’t a checklist, but here’s some of my considerations. 

  1. Before jumping into anything, it’s connection before content 
    • Build rapport. Do introductions. Approach the work in a relational way, not in a transactional way. Get into the right mindset here 
  2. Say that it’s confidential
    •  Let people know that in this planning meeting, that whatever they tell you will be held in the highest confidence. We want people to trust us so we can understand the very most of this particular meeting 
  3. Talk about roles and expecations; supporting each other as a facilitation team in the room
    • How do you like to work with a graphic facilitator? What can I do to support you as the process facilitator? How can we check in, especially if the agenda changes? 
  4. Understanding the content 
  5. Understanding the context 
    • Identifying outcomes that we need from this meeting. What would make this a success for you? Do you have Top 3 things on your wish list, that would be a must-have for these posters? 
    • Are there any sensitivities we should know about? Anything under the surface that might not be obvious from here? 
  6. Approaching individual agenda items
    • Group work and graphic recording during different activities 
    • Matching up the right level of detail in the posters with the right agenda items – what should be emphasized, when 
  7. Participant experiences with the images – at the beginning, during and end 
    • Help participants understand the process by introducing the role at the beginning 
    • Invite participants to talk with the graphic recorder partway and engage with images
    • At the end, ask if the graphic recorder can share back what they’ve heard with the whole room. Like the role of a rapporteur/ witness / public listener, this is often valuable to connect participants with the images
  8. Then yes, turn to the technical details (which may be coordinated with a different, operational person than the facilitator or project lead)
    • Where will I set up? How will images be displayed during the event? how will the images be used afterwards and are there any specific sizes needed? Confirming timelines, and any necessary branding colours 

If that seems like a lot to remember, the company Apple (among others) has an acronym for their steps of customer service. Importantly, it begins with connection. 

  • A: approach customers with a personalized, warm welcome
  • P: probe politely to understand the customer’s needs 
  • P: present a solution the customer can take home today 
  • L: listen for and resolve any issues and concerns 
  • E: end with a fond farewell and invitation to return. 

In our case, the sale has already been established and the client values your expertise. So here’s how those 5 steps with APPLE relates to planning calls for graphic facilitation: 

We want to build connection with everyone we are teaming up with . We also want to ask strategic questions, to understand the context as much as possible. Then, we can provide guidance and propose graphic recording approaches for the event, including any group work, engagement, technology, and using the images afterwards. Leave enough time for more questions and concerns, then plan for next steps before the event. 

But most of all, just be you. That’s truly the magic here.