I 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 Linoit.com 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.