Who is the Third Facilitator in the Room? – with SunShine Céline BenBelkacem
Graphic recorders are a fantastic addition to many workshop environments, but it means bringing not one but two more facilitators into the space… Yes, two!
Myriam spoke to renowned graphic recorder, communication artist, and appropriately-named ray of light SunShine Céline BenBelkacem to learn more about how graphic recorders and lead facilitators can work together to produce better results for clients.
Their conversation ranged widely from deep questions including whether some skills are innate or teachable to Sunny’s favourite activity, but this blog post will cover just one of the many that was discussed:
What can a graphic recorder help you achieve as a facilitator?
What is a graphic recorder?
Before we get into why you might want to work with a graphic recorder, perhaps it’s best that we clarify what one is!
In her role as a graphic recorder, Sunny, in her own words, acts “in service to the client to give them the workshop that they deserve and need.”
Sunny will visualise the discussions taking place, drawing on walls or canvas to capture outlines and themes that occur.
“Graphic recording is really about listening to information and organising it and showing how it connects to the other pieces of information.”
“I think in shapes and words”, says Sunny, “so it’s always about figuring out how to take the topic they’re discussing and put it into a shape.”
Who is the third facilitator?
A workshop with a graphic recorder will have three facilitators in it: the lead facilitator, the graphic recorder, and the chart they have drawn.
Crucially, the chart is not a passive actor. It isn’t ‘just a drawing’, it has life and becomes “meaningful to [the participants], because it wasn’t just me who drew it, it was co-created by them.”
Once the two human facilitators leave the room, the third facilitator only grows in importance. It is the embodiment of the discussion and represents the discussion in a fair, unbiased, and powerful way.
Why would you hire a graphic recorder?
Now that we have a clearer understanding of what – or who – a graphic recorder is, we can discuss why you might hire a graphic recorder.
Myriam and Sunny discussed this at length and found four reasons they could point to as to how a graphic recorder can complement and enhance your workshops.
1. To help your participants focus
Even the most engaged participants will find themselves distracted at some points in a workshop. Others will find themselves distracted a lot.
Having a graphic recorder transcribing the discussion in front of them means that, if they do lose focus, they can bring their attention back to the room and follow the thread being woven by the graphic recorder.
When their attention snaps back to the present moment, “they can see words and images corresponding to what they’re hearing” (if only unconsciously). This makes it much easier to maintain or re-engage participants’ focus.
2. To represent the group’s collective wisdom
“No one person knows the answer,” says Sunny, but “together, there is an answer.”
One of Sunny’s favourite things to do is “to just cover all of the walls around them.” This way, “no matter where they turn to look, they’re going to land on a topic or a subject that they were discussing earlier that day, and maybe that’s a thread for them to pull through and the current conversation.”
A graphic recorder captures the moments of wisdom that we might pass over in a discussion and preserves them, ready for reflection when the time is right.
3. To democratise voices
In her role as a graphic recorder, Sunny has her back to the room. Physical expressions of power (whether held or relinquished) go unseen and the words being spoken are untouched by any hierarchy or power dynamics within the space.
“I don’t know who’s talking… It can be anyone from within the organisation’s hierarchy.”
The beauty of this, Sunny says, is that “it allows people to say what they really need to say without attribution.”
In removing markers of power and hierarchy (such as job title, status, and physical expression), the playing field is levelled for every participant.
4. To create a record of the moment
Having a visual prompt helps participants to better ingrain the lessons and ideas from the workshop.
In creating this physical memory of the event, participants are empowered to share the results more easily with members of the organisation who weren’t present.
And it isn’t all about the important lessons and life-changing results, it can also capture the lighter moments of the workshop – the kind that hold more power than we first may give credence.
A visual representation of the workshop can “trigger memory of what was discussed and what decisions were made”, but also “what the joke was – and what was the kernel of truth behind the joke.”
How to work with a graphic recorder
If you would like a focused, engaged, equal group that can comfortably recall the outcomes of their workshop, then it sounds like you may want to work with a graphic recorder!
Sunny recommends searching via the International Forum of Visual Practitioners, of which she is voluntary President.
“If anyone ever is curious to find a graphic facilitator in their part of the world, we have a Find a Visual Practitioner module where you can just go in and type in your city or country to see who is there.”
If you want to find out more about the fascinating ways you can enhance your workshops with a graphic recorder, I highly recommend you listen to Myriam and Sunny’s conversation on episode 49 of the Workshops Work podcast.
You can listen to the show on your favourite podcast player by searching for “Workshops Work” or stream the episodes here.
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