The Joy of Visual Facilitation

13 Feb 2020

The JOY of Visual Facilitation by Sorrel Roberts 

Last month, I did Jon McNestrie’s Visual Facilitation training with Barefoot Coaching – and feel compelled to share this secret with you – improving your visual communication is easier than you might think. I was enthusing about this to a friend – who asked what is Visual Facilitation? My answer is: using words and images, hand drawn on a flipchart (or in your own notepad) to help explain, engage, distil learning, to make it more fun, impactful and help it stick. 

Or as the author Charlie Mackesy puts in in his beautiful book The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse: ‘pictures, they are like islands, places to get to in a sea of words.’

A recent workshop delegate asked me about my new found skills, which I was both demonstrating and enthusing about (can you sense a theme here?): “So I can learn this? It’s not just that you are naturally gifted?”. My answer was an emphatic YES! I am definitely not ‘naturally gifted’, this is something that anyone who can use a pen can learn. 

Before doing visual facilitation training this was my story: I would be running a workshop - pick up the pens provided at the venue (which may or may not have ink in them), scrawl some words on a page fast and produce something pretty illegible that was not that useful but gave me something to do with my hands. The idea of ‘drawing’ or doing anything in the least bit ‘artistic’ was out of the question.

After doing visual facilitation training this is me:

  • I arrive with the right tools (pens) for the job
  • I have some simple rules to help with layout
  • I have gone from haphazard to taking care
  • Instead of a collection of random thoughts – there is distilled clarity - useful for both me as facilitator and delegates in the room
  • Flip charts are no longer for the sake of it but instead intentional and purposeful
  • I give it a go - accepting that it might not be perfect (but will certainly be better than before the training)
  • I produce something that I am happy to share and delegates share too

What does the training give you?

Jon’s training is simple, fun, accessible and above all practical.

This sketch note shows you the route that Jon takes you on in his training, and the simple concepts that helped me grow my confidence to go from random to intentional. Jon creates an environment of fun experimentation – encouraging all to give it a go – and in my case to overcome my perfectionism to have a play and produce something imperfect and useful. There is a power in learning and experimenting in a group. I noticed that everyone has different styles, and that following some simple guidelines allowed us ALL to produce something impactful.

The Impact

This has ignited a love of visual facilitation in me, and the joy is I still have loads more to learn and improve. The discipline of distilling my love of words into a simple image is useful for me personally as a learner, and for others in my role as a facilitator and tutor.

People on recent workshops (just last week) gave me the following feedback:

The simple images help me learn and make concepts stick

It creates an engaging learning environment

It makes a difference to how I learn

It demonstrates that you care

Are all Barefoot Tutors artists?

 

And….people keep me asking where I learnt to do this. So if it appeals to you, Jon McNestrie is running two Visual Facilitation days for Barefoot this year: 

East Midlands - 14th May - Book your place

London - 9th July - Book your place

In my experience it’s an investment well worth making.