Virtual graphic facilitation

Screen Shot 2020-04-12 at 9.46.49 PMScreen Shot 2020-04-13 at 11.20.57 AMI did my first virtual graphic facilitation last week, connecting around 30 participants from Myanmar, Thailand, France, and the Philippines. Here is what I learned from this experience.

Quality of conversation: In a virtual workshop, communication flows from participants to facilitators, rather than among participants. ZOOM breakout rooms made people talk more in a group but it wasn’t enough.

The virtual workshop format seems to work well for factual discussion. Sitting in front of a computer, typing a keyboard might activate participants’ operational brain. But it was more difficult to capture unspoken feelings, embrace ambiguity and uncertainty as a group.

Reading between the lines, or as Japanese say ‘reading the air’ is a key element for a graphic facilitator. Especially with an ever-challenging situation with COVID-19, sharing those feelings might have been helpful.

Lesson learned: take more time to check-in, as well as make space and time for participants to talk among themselves such as breakout rooms.

Mastering technology: Overall technology worked well despite big concerns about poor internet connection. In the case of tech failure, all presentations and activities were pre-recorded. That made the group feel safe to continue the workshop.

For me, digital facilitation is an art of multitasking. Drawing with Wacom tablet and photoshop, being a host in ZOOM, keeping time and getting the process going, listening to participants, and managing chats. At one point, we used a virtual sticky note to collect ideas as well. (We used as it seems to be simple and user friendly.)

As you can imagine, my brain and hands were working 120%. While I typically finish my drawing by the closing of the workshop, I just couldn’t finish it this time.

Lesson learned: work sharing. thorough preparation with co-facilitator to check every step on tech and process.

Learning from gurus: 4 weeks ago, I didn’t know anything about digital facilitation. It was a steep learning curve to deliver the workshop. Followings are three sources of information that helped me a lot:

– Unity Effect: their free digital facilitation course opened the door for me.

– Rachel Smith’s blog Digital Facilitation: Her workshop at the IAF conference in Tokyo was a turning point for me to start my career as a graphic facilitator. 7 years later, her blog helped me again to make a shift to the digital world.

– IAF virtual facilitation resource toolkit: There is plenty of resources on the IAF website. Particularly Resources for Online Meetings, Classes, and Events – Facilitators for Pandemic Response Group had full of useful tips and links.

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