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Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #1: Practice Complete Collaboration

In an effort to further the graphic recording field and support our clients in getting the most from their visuals, we present our blog series, Powerful Habits to Maximize the Benefits of Graphic Recording in Meetings. 

The tips we offer are based in context of a scenario where a meeting facilitator is partnered with a graphic recorder to serve a client, and where either the facilitator, the client, or both are new to using graphic recording. We strongly believe that graphic recordings are meant to be a thinking tool, not just a recording device.

Working visually is both a process and a product. We also believe that optimizing the use of graphic recording rests largely upon 2 factors: 1) the quality of the partnership between the facilitator and the graphic recorder and 2) their collective repertoire of strategies for engaging participants to interact with the graphic recordings in a way that produces new insights. Our first Powerful Graphic Recording Habit speaks to both.



Image courtesy of Avril Orloff


Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #1: Practice Complete Collaboration

When it comes to using graphic recording effectively and meaningfully, the first good habit you want to develop starts way before your meeting begins.

People planning a visual meeting for the first time often put “graphic recording” as a task on their to-do list just like getting pens and notebooks, or scheduling a conference room. What they may not yet realize is that, when engaged early, an experienced graphic recorder (GR) can be a valuable collaborator in the advance process of designing the meeting.

Experienced Graphic Recorders:

  • Are well grounded in logistical implications required to support a group visual meeting process.
  • Participate in more meetings per year than most people, so they’re like walking libraries of current practices and strategies that work well (and those that don’t).
  • Frequently have a background in organizational development knowledge.
  • Tend to have a gut sense for what works with groups process-wise, and can serve as a sounding board for the facilitator’s design ideas.

A good GR knows how to access the depth visuals have to offer and can recommend strategies and processes to get people to interact with your charts as a thinking tool. When you collaborate with your GR early in the planning stage , it means that your design will be stronger as the result of your collaboration. Plus, your GR – Facilitator team will be set for a seamless meeting since they’ll both be intimately aware of the objectives and the group process.

“80% of my work happens before we set foot in the meeting room, therefore, the GR’s involvement in the design process is key. “

Amanda Fenton – Group Process Specialist 


Here are 5 top tips to reinforce your Practice Complete Collaboration habit: 

  1. Involve the GR early in the meeting design process. This will give you plenty of time to brainstorm lots of possibilities and rationalize your best choices for how you apply the visuals. Your GR will also have time to create any visual tools to support the process such as agendas, templates or pre-custom charts.
  2. Get clear on why you’re using graphics. What is the objective of your meeting? What does your desired outcome require you to harvest from your participants? What’s the purpose of recording your discussion? Knowing your goals will help you plan the process.
  3. Build in a variety of visual processes. Work with your GR to develop an integrative meeting that takes full advantage of your visuals. Depending upon your objectives and the culture of the group (their comfort/experience level working visually) this could mean using a mixture of straight live graphic recording, templates, or other types of tools/processes such as Visual Explorer or Collaborative Drawing.
  4. Clarify the roles of your GR and facilitator. Specify how the GR and facilitator are to work together. What are the roles required for the meeting? Where are the boundaries between the GR and facilitator’s roles? What’s the preferred way for the two to interact during the meeting? To what degree can the GR interject thoughts? What support does each person need to deliver the best work to the client?
  5. Give some forethought to your afterward. In addition to planning ways to integrate visuals into the dialogue of your meeting to stimulate thinking, be sure to create ways to get value from your graphics once the meeting is over. (See our upcoming post on the “after” habits for ways to use meeting maps as thinking tools into the future.)

Whether you are the client or the facilitator in this scenario, you want to fully collaborate with your graphic recorder from the very beginning of your planning process. That way you not only get the full value of your visuals, but you establish a relationship that will help you “dance together” smoothly throughout your meeting.

Remember: the overall purpose of using graphic recording is to create a reflective experience with the visual charts that inspires an insight or an “a-ha moment” for your participants. When you fully integrate visuals in the context of the larger process of creating engagement, those moments will occur before, during and after your meeting.

Make it a habit to practice complete collaboration with your graphic recorder to ensure you get everything this incredible thinking tool has to offer.