A friend has been conversing with me in email about the practicalities of graphic facilitation. One of his questions was this: ‘Does the digital aspect enhance the visual facilitator’s creativity?’
I suspect this answer will vary between different practitioners.
I’ll dodge and enhance the question by changing its terms of reference…
Digital Works For Me… AND For My Clients
For me, it would be almost inconceivable working non-digitally. I’ve done it. And the results were good. But my experience of the process was not so good.
Painting my illustrations digitally makes it possible for me to do a significant amount of pre-production. I can set up different backgrounds for different parts of the talk. I can create icons that can become part of my visual vocabulary, which I can insert at will. This means that the client gets much more value out of me than if I were working in an analogue medium.
While doing graphic facilitation on my tablet pc, I feel no pressure about mistakes. I can erase or undo at will. And this adds an element of suspense and even humour for people watching the stuff I’m painting. If I work on paper, I’m pretty much committed to whatever errors I make. Which puts pressure on things.
On a personal level, my creativity is certainly enhanced by the colours and tools available to me. I’d be hesitant to work with messy magic markers and smeary paper.
The Goal of a Graphic Facilitation: Making the Content Memorable for Onlookers
However, I need to question the value of ‘creativity’ in visual facilitation. The objective of a good visual facilitation is to provide each delegate with a memorable visual interpretation of a session.
Is there a link between ‘memorable’ and ‘creative’? Probably. But not *necessarily*. My mission is not to be creative in the room. It’s to make the material vivid and memorable.
I’ve worked with a speaker who has been humiliated by an overly creative visual facilitator. The artist was intent on making funny pictures rather than enhancing the content of the talk.
The speaker told me that while he was making points that usually brought solemn reflection and tears, this particular audience was roaring with inappropriate laughter. Laughter at the expense of the speaker, cos the ‘artist’ was turning everything into gags.
A visual facilitator is not the star of the show. The material delivered by the speaker is the star.
Deliver the Material (But Avoid Stick Figures)
I focus on the delivery and enhancement of the material, not on the creativity.
I’ve done some ‘uncreative’ yet memorable visual facilitations that clients and delegates have loved. If the material is the hero, people love the pics. At the same time, they’re not hiring me to draw stick figures.