As a facilitator, VOICE is a big part of how you show up and present yourself in front of others. UCLA studies showed that  people pay FOUR TIMES the attention to tone of voice over the words themselves. 
Here are some great exercises to project your voice and be heard. 

Energizer: Story Cubes


We ask participants to talk about abstract things. "What does your future look like?" "What is your leadership style?" "What's happening in your industry?" Giving participants a concrete anchor, however nonsensical, is a great way to access abstract concepts and start people talking. In his body of knowledge around kinesthetic modeling, John Ward calls this "useless sense-making."  

My favorite method for providing concrete anchors to abstract concepts is the Center for Creative Leadership's Visual Explorer which I've written about before. Unfortunately, the full size version is as big and heavy as a phone book, so using it has to be planned ahead of time. Plus, at $380, it ain't cheap.

As a light, packable, impromptu alternative to Visual Explorer, I always carry a set of Rory's Story Cubes

Pass out the Story Cubes. Have them select an image. Depending on how far you feel like you can push the participants' creativity, you can either have them choose an icon from the cube or roll and have to make sense of whatever lands. Then, ask a question relevant to the topic of the facilitation. You might ask, "How does the image represent...

  • ...what you'd like to get out of our time together?"
  • ...your personal leadership style?"
  • ...your organization?"
  • ...what's happening in your organization?"
  • ...the opportunities you or your organization is facing?"
  • ...the challenges you or your organization is facing?"
  • ...the culture of your organization?"
  • ...what an ideal organization looks like?"
  • ...where we are as a team?"
  • ...how we want to be perceived?"
  • ...your own personal vision?"
  • ...the vision of your organization?"
  • ...what success looks like?"

Depending on the size of the group, individuals can report out to the whole group or just to the people sitting around them. If there aren't enough cubes to go around, form small groups to share a cube and report outs. Even if not everyone reports out, you'll definitely want to ask for volunteers to share highlights out to the whole group to get a sample of answers to the question.

I have the Original and Voyages Story Cubes sets. Trent Wakenight, Lauren Green, and Ben Tinker recently augmented my set with Space Travel Dice by Laurence King.

    When Stuff Blows Up


    I was right in the middle of a facilitation, with thirty people around me busily filling out graphic templates, when the door flew open, someone I'd never met before stormed in, stuck his finger in my chest, yelled, "I don't know who you think you are, but I'll see to it you never work in this building again!" and stomped out.

    What would you do? 

    No fair reading on if you don't have an answer in your head.

    In that moment, the lizard brain triggers. Fight or flight. Most have the presence of mind not to fight. We don't yell back. We don't throw insults. But it's soooo easy to default to flight. Flight isn't just running away. It's ignoring what happened. Or laughing it off. Or saying, "Alright, alright, let's get back to the agenda." But that ignores the Rule of Group Dynamics: if you're feeling something, chances are someone else is feeling it too.

    Here's what I did. I'm not saying it's the best thing to do, or even the right thing to do, but I'm glad I handled it the way I did. I pulled the participants up to the balcony

    I said, "Okay, so that just happened. We're going to stop right here for just a moment. I want everyone to tell me what's going on for them right now. In one word, what are you feeling?" Angry. Sad. Irritated. Upset. Mad. Frustrated. Disappointed. Ashamed. Humiliated. "Okay. Now that you've put a label on what you're feeling, who can briefly tell me what they believe just happened?" The first few comments were judgmental and derisive, but soon, participants starting exploring why that person might have behaved the way he did. I asked, "Can someone tell me how what we're doing might have looked from his perspective?" They shared some ideas, and as they did, the tone quieted, the room calmed, and someone said, "I think we can get back to work."

    Why did that work? 

    Pausing the facilitation allowed participants to empty their emotional backpacks of what had just happened. Had they not done so, they would have been at best distracted and at worst, destructive.

    Asking participants to name the emotion they were feeling was actually a first step toward moving past it. In his book The Misleading Mind, Karuna Cayton says, "Thoughts, emotions, and all mental experience are quite slippery. When you try to grasp and hold on to the inner experience, it slips away, like trying to grab a fish with one hand." Naming an emotion is a gateway to dealing with it objectivity.

    Asking participants to share what they believed happened was a "Vesuvius:" a time-boxed, tightly-controlled chance for participants to get anger off their chest and blow off remaining steam.

    Finally, asking participants to adopt the perspective of the intruder had one intent: to build empathy for the intruder. It's hard to stay upset with someone you understand. At this point, the lizard brain is back in its cave.

    That moment was my biggest facilitation nightmare, by far. But because it was such a nightmare, it was also one of my proudest moments. If you have the right tools and the right mindset, you'll know what to do when stuff blows up.

    Epilogue: The intruder had been given some bad information about what we were doing and felt personally threatened by it. He apologized to me, and ended up becoming one of my strongest advocates and best clients. We're not always our best selves

    Gear: Combinations of Kits

    By request, here's the gear I carry. 


    I love finding new tools for graphic facilitation and graphic recording. I use small, fabric Ikea cubes and zippered pouches as kits to swap out the stuff I need depending on what I'm doing. 

    Here's a list of the stuff I carry, organized into kits:

    Gear Bags

    My standard gear bag is a nylon Field & Stream fishing bag with a shoulder strap. It has tons of compartments and can hold three or four of the kits detailed below. It's good to carry enough materials for one-to-three days of work. I also have a smaller repurposed camera bag that can hold one or two kits that's good for a couple of hours of work. For jobs that go longer than three days and require a lot of materials, I have a rolling Stanley FatMax Mobile Work Station with drawers, trays, and bins. I also have a small tool hip pouch for easy access to markers while I'm working. 

    Graphic Facilitation Marker Kit

    Black (Neuland 010 and 100), red (200) , and gray (101) is a simple, fast palette for graphic facilitation. Black for text, red for emphasis and connection, and gray for containers and clusters. 

    Graphic Recording Kit

    Extended color palette for graphic recording with Neuland Art Markers, No. Ones, Big Ones, and Montana markers. To keep from having to carry a lot of Big Ones or Montana markers, I carry one empty marker and a plastic case full of inked nibs. 

    Ink Refill Kit

    Bottles of ink, new nibs, small pliers to pull out nibs, a folding cardboard ink refill station, one or two ink spare bottle bulbs in case a needle breaks, and a rag for wipes and spills. 

    Drawing Kit

    Razor to cut paper, scissors, white artists tape to hang paper, blue non-photographic pencil, carpenter's pencil (it's easy to sharpen with a razor), Kum pencil sharpener, kneaded eraser, rubber bands to hold rolled finished charts, t-pins to hang charts on fabric walls, white out and labels for cover ups, double-sided tape to hold down sticky notes.

    Sketchnoting supplies: Sharpie pens, fine one Neuland markers, Tombow markers, Zig markers.

    Two tools you don't often see for drawing perfect circles: an arc compass (also called a beam compass or trammel, available at hardware stores), and Heather Martinez's custom plexiglass templates for drawing circles.  

    Facilitation Kit

    Stickies and sharpies for participants, a small inflatable beachball, Angel cards, Story cubes, a couple of whiteboard markers, kinetic toys, Tibetan tingsha chimes

    Marketing Kit

    Business cards, Lizard Brain stickers, postcards, thank you notes.

    Giveaways and guides to give away to people who show interest, Mike Rohde's Sketchnote Kickstarter, Mindmapping Basics, Sketchnote Basics, Flipchart Fundamentals, Visual Vocabulary, Q-FORCE framework.


    4-panel Neuland LX-W. and/or an original Neuland wall. The original wall sets up a lot quicker, but the LX-W can angle back, adjustable height, and packs tighter. On the LX-W, I like to put the marker trays on AFTER setting up the panels on the cleats to help secure the panels to the easels. I also use big spring clamps to hold paper to the wall it's faster and cheaper than tape. 


    Yes, there's a lot of other, less expensive paper out there, but I still like the Grove's 25-yard rolls. It's super smooth and doesn't bleed (unless your markers are super-juicy or you're using Sharpies.) I usually average one roll per whole day of work. I use a ski tube to carry new rolls and finished charts.

    References & Paperwork

    Small portfolio of examples of work I like (thanks Trent!), sketchbook, and Heather Martinez's lettering guides.

    Job file: contract, client-specific stickers, facilitation guide, image library, logistics/travel information, printed correspondence. 

    Personal Care

    Snack bars, breath mints, toothpicks, chapstick, single-use medicines (tylenol, claratin, tums, cough drops.)

    Starter: Here and Gone

    Here and Gone no tom.jpg

    The Grove Consultants' Team Portrait is, I think, the best Starter for a facilitation. (You can read about the Team Portrait method in The Grove's Strategic Visioning cards, on page 127 of Visual Meetings, and on page 103 of Graphic Facilitation.) Simply, it tells you who's in the room.

    But what about recurring events that spread out across several days? Increasingly, organizations are forming cross-functional working groups, which may meet periodically. There may be alternates, absentees, and new attendees. New or missing faces either have difficulty contributing or can pull a group back to the beginning of the learning curve. 

    One way around this is a variation on the Team Portrait called Here and Gone. In addition to the seating chart that tells you who's "Here," have a flipchart handy as a holding area for those who are "Gone."


    When first introducing Here and Gone, have participants fill out stickies with their name, their role as it relates to the project, an alternate who will step in for them if they need to be elsewhere, and basic contact information. You might have participants identify whether they are Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, or Informed relative to the project, following PMI's RACI approach to assessing stakeholders. You can also have participants draw a self-portrait on the sticky as a light Energizer and fun icebreaker. Invite each participant to share their sticky with the large group.

    Draw a "Here" chart, which is a simple drawing of the room's seating layout, and place the stickies relative to where participants are seated. At the end of the facilitation, move all the stickies to the "Gone" chart.

    At the next meeting, move the stickies from the "Gone" chart to the "Here" chart as participants take their seats. If anyone is absent and left in the "Gone" chart, remind the alternate that they have responsibility to bring the absentee up to speed at a later time. If both participant and alternate are absent, ask for a volunteers to update the absentees. If a new participant shows up, pause the meeting, welcome them into the group, ask them to fill out a sticky note for the "Here" chart, and ask for a volunteer to quietly bring them up to speed on the group's progress thus far so the rest of the participants can carry on. If you've been capturing progress on graphic charts and they're posted around the room, a gallery walk is the best way to bring in new participants.

    PS: When I do a Team Portrait, I like to ask participants to share four things: their name, their role, their expected outcome for the facilitation, and one interesting thing about themselves that no one in the room already knows. In my role as a facilitator, all I really care about is name and outcome, and that's typically all I capture on the Team Portrait. Knowing expected outcomes allows me to pivot the approach to the facilitation if necessary. Knowing role allows other participants to orient to that person. The one interesting thing isn't just a quick Energizer; it also buys me a little time to catch up on writing what the person just said. 

    Mindmapping Basics

    Mindmapping is a foundational skill to graphic facilitation. Once you start mindmapping, it's easy to get hooked, and even easier to transition into using more sophisticated visual methods.

    Read More

    Principle: Be at the Right Altitude


    Be at the Right Altitude is a Principle that sets up conversations to be at the right right level of detail. 

    At the top of a flipchart, draw objects you'd find in the sky, like a plane, clouds, and a hot air balloon. In the middle of the flipchart, draw mountains and hills. At the bottom, draw grass and weeds. Draw a vertical double-headed arrow to represent the concept of altitude. 

    Ask participants, "What would be some examples of topics that are at too high a level for the conversation we're about to have?" Record their responses in the sky. Ask, "What are some examples of topics that are too in the weeds?" Record responses in the grass. Ask, "What topics do we need to cover for this to be successful?" Record those in the space remaining in the middle. You might want to circle topics at the right altitude to emphasize that that's where the conversation should be. It's OK to recap the outcomes here.

    Put all the responsibility for coming up with example topics on the participants. Throughout the facilitation, model and empower participants to ask, "Is the topic at the right altitude" when they sense the conversation is veering too high or too low.

    Secret Facilitator Language

    Co-facilitating is awesome.

    Being in the groove with a trusted partner, sharing the load of holding the space for others, is one of the most satisfying moments of the work. My good friend and colleague Nancy Reuscher used to call this "jaeger piloting," referencing the mind meld necessary for two pilots to drive one of the giant robots from the movie Pacific Rim


    It's that awesome.

    When you're really in sync, sometimes a glance is enough to pass the baton, shift topics, or even pivot the approach entirely. But sometimes, you need more than a glance to communicate softly and subtly to your partner. 

    American Sign Language (ASL) is one way to communicate simple ideas across the room. Right up front, let me post a disclaimer. Be very careful that your facial expression, body language, and follow up statements match the intent of the communication. For example:

    WRONG: A big hand gesture, rolling your eyes, looking at one participant in particular, pursing your lips, shaking your head, then going silent while the group continues their conversation. 

    RIGHT: A subtle hand gesture, a nod, followed by, "Why don't we take a 15 minute break?"

    In other words, it has to be done in openness and with the intent of helping the group process. 

    With that in mind, here's two resources for learning some basic signs that are very helpful in facilitation.

    Nick Kapustka, signer and owner of http://www.ServingLifeChiropractic shares some common ASL signs with the Strategic Visualization team to increase communication during co-facilitation. May 2014 Video by Heather Martinez http://www.HeatherMartinez.com
    The "Signing Savvy" is a searchable website for learning sign that my colleague  Rayna Schroeder of Positive Impact Leaders  shared with me.

    The "Signing Savvy" is a searchable website for learning sign that my colleague Rayna Schroeder of Positive Impact Leaders shared with me.

    Energizer: Appreciation Letters

    Appreciation Letters are a simple visual tool developed by Nami Ishihara from the Mid-Atlantic Facilitators' Network, shared here with her express permission. Her instructions appear below. It's effective with intact teams, even those with latent conflicts. What I like about this method is that it blends methods from the practices of useless sense making (from John Ward's Kinesthetic Modeling), metaphors in images (from the Center for Creative Leadership's Visual Explorer), and absurd connection (from George M. Prince's Synectic method.)

    1. In advance, prepare cards with photos of different images. The number of images should be half the number of participants, and there should be 2 cards of each image. For example, if there are 24 participants there should be 12 different images, 2 cards each. Consider images that can be open to broad interpretation, such as landscapes, food, people, animals, and famous paintings.

    2. Arrange the chairs in a circle, with a table in the middle of the room. Lay the cards randomly out on the table. You can decorate the table with a tablecloth, to make it look a bit "special." As participants enter the room, ask them to choose one card that they like.

    3. After everyone chooses a card, ask them to find the other person who has the same card that they do. Ask them to spend the next 10 minutes talking with that person. The conversation can be about anything, including their work and personal lives. Explain that, after the 10 minutes, they will be asked to write an Appreciation Letter addressed to the other person explaining what they appreciate about him or her. This could be something related to their contribution at work, or personal, like a special quality that they have. They should also know that they will be asked to share this letter with the group.

    4. Hand out paper, pens (in different colors), and envelopes. Ask participants to take 10 minutes to write their letters in silence. It is important to enforce this silence. When they are finished, they hold on to the letter and return to their chairs.

    5. When everyone has finished, ask for the first pair to volunteer to show the image that they chose in common, and share the letters. The pair stand up and face each other inside the circle. They take turns reading their letter to each other, in front of the group. Sometimes they are shy at first, but usually become more open as the activity progresses. Often, these letters are funny, and some are quite moving.

    6. At the end, have a debriefing moment and ask for thoughts about the activity and what they learned from each other. This often leads to a discussion about what they have in common, how the appreciation affected them, etc. Participants are encouraged to put the letters in an envelope and give it to their partner as a gift. Depending on the size of the group, this activity takes 45 min to 1.5 hours. This works well for groups of 6 to 40.

    Energizer: Gain a New Perspective, Find a New Seat


    After the first day of an offsite, mix it up a little by having this poster waiting at the door for participants to see the next day as they arrive. Finding a new seat forms new relationships as participants sit next to new people. You can also use finding a new seat as a metaphor for appreciating others' perspectives. 

    A variation on this is to also change the room layout.

    Be sensitive to the amount of materials you're asking participants to move.  

    Gain a New Perspective, Find a New Seat comes from Elise Yanker.  


    2 Design Thinking Energizers: The Fake Australian Vacation and the Parking Lot Circus

    I just returned from the annual national conference of the Volunteers of America. The highlight of the event was a workshop delivered by VOA's Robert Gibson, who is leading their innovation efforts at a national level. He introduced design thinking* to conference attendees through a combination of principles and practical activities. Here is one of his principles and two of his activities.

    The first principle is "Getting Rid of Negativity Bias." This is the tendency to hold back on good ideas, or worse, to shoot down others' ideas with reasons why they won't work before giving them a fighting chance. It's far easier to shoot down someone else's idea with criticism than to put yourself out there with a new idea. This comes from fear of being publicly judged or humiliated (what Susan Cain in her book "Quiet" calls "evaluation apprehension.") Self-censorship is learned early on, and it sticks. As Robert put it, "This is why we start our education with 64 crayons, and we end our education with one blue pen." He went on to say, "If you think your idea is stupid, just think: someone came up with Sharknado. And that's made millions."

    A way to get rid of negativity bias is to practice the improv technique of saying "Yes, And." And a way to practice "Yes, And" is through the Energizer of the Fake Australian Vacation. 

    Have participants pair off. One begins by saying, "Do you remember when we took a vacation to Australia?" The other responds, "Yes, and we went to the beach?" The other answers, "Yes, and we went surfing?" The other responds, "Yes, and we saw dolphins?" The pair continues the thread, beginning each statement with "yes, and." After about three to five minutes, call time and ask participants to share their stories. Debrief by asking about the mood, the energy, noticing body language and tone of voice, and asking whether it was easy or hard. Tie the Energizer back to the organization by asking about the benefits of using "yes, and" language in the workplace.

    The second design thinking Energizer Robert introduced was the Parking Lot Circus. Introduce the Energizer by explaining to the participants that they have been asked by their organization to consider holding a circus in the parking lot of their main location. Ask the small groups to first spend three minutes discussing all the "why nots:" all the reasons why having a circus in the parking lot won't work or is a bad idea. Then, after three minutes, they must shift gears and spend five minutes exploring why having a circus in the parking lot is a good idea. Debrief the Energizer by asking participants to share both whys and why nots, what it was like to transition from exploring why nots to whys, and what were some of the innovative ideas that emerged. Ask participants to connect the Energizer back to the workplace: what is the impact of focusing on why nots? What happens when you shift to focusing on whys?  

    *If you haven't yet discovered design thinking, let me just say that the application it has to experiential facilitation is huge. Design thinking is what Tim Brown, president and CEO of IDEO, calls, "a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Practically, design thinking provides tools so participants can take their ideas beyond the action list and into prototypes and minimum viable products during the facilitation.

    Principle: The Rule of Group Dynamics

    The Rule of Group Dynamics is a great principle to bring into any facilitation to make space for quiet people and give permission to check the process. It states that, if you're thinking something, feeling something, or if you have a concern, chances are at least one other person is thinking the same thing. So, speak up. Say what you're feeling. Ask questions. Make requests. And we'll deal with it openly as a group. 

    I first heard the Rule of Group Dynamics from Elise Yanker. 


    Energizer: Symbols Of

    Symbols Of is a quick energizer that frames the day and primes participants for following activities. 

    Ask participants to grab a sticky and a sharpie and draw a symbol of an experience that's relevant to the overarching purpose of the facilitation. Here are some examples:

    • for Leadership Development: "Draw a symbol that represents a moment when you were at your best as a leader."
    • for Innovation and Creativity: "Draw a symbol that represents a time when you came up with a creative solution to a problem."
    • for Team Development: "Draw a symbol representing a high-performing team you were a part of."
    • for Learning and Instruction: "Draw a symbol that represents a time when you learned an important lesson that you've carried with you."
    • for Strategic Planning: "Draw a symbol that represents an organizational strategy that became real for you."
    • for Success: "Draw a symbol representing a moment of success that you look back on with pride."

    Encourage participants to favor symbols over literal drawings. Frame your instructions to recall positive experiences. In remembering the positive past experience, participants' mindsets will be better prepared to engage with the facilitation to come.

    Ask participants to share their symbols, the experience that they represent, and what the experience means to them. Post the symbols together in a place visible for the rest of the facilitation.

    Symbols Of is an energizer is based on "Learning Symbols" by Dean Meyers. Dean's original concept was expanded to include symbols of any experience by Samantha Oleson. The symbols in the illustration above are the work of the Think With Ink cohort of April 2017.

    Energizer: Appreciation Awards

    Appreciation Awards are a great way for participants to celebrate and openly recognize each other.


    Have participants mentally select someone they'd like to call out for a particular act or attribute. Then, they can either make a trophy (by hocking together whatever they can find around the room) or draw up a certificate of appreciation. 

    Facilitate an awards ceremony, where participants say a few words of appreciation then present one another with their trophy or certificate.  

    Have materials for trophies handy and graphic elements for certificates visible. Have a few blank certificates on hand to fill out and present in case anyone gets overlooked.  

    Appreciation Awards are often the highlight of the event. 


    One way to avoid anyone getting overlooked is to prepopulate awards with all the participants’ names and posting them for others to select from. 

    Journey Maps

    Mapping the customer 's journey is a popular design thinking method. Journey maps show the steps that a customer goes through as they interact with a product or service from start to end. As a graphic facilitation activity, journey maps are great ways to build empathy, achieve a beginner's mindset, identify opportunities, and harvest the knowledge of the group. They are a great way to help see other sides of the beachball. There are plenty of journey map templates available, but all you really need to design a journey map are stickies and markers.

    A journey map has five major elements: 

    • Major steps: the six to ten categorical steps a customer takes as she interacts with a product or service,
    • Sub steps: six or less parts of each major step,
    • Pain points: moments of customer dissatisfaction in the journey,
    • Pleasure points: moments of customer satisfaction in the journey, and
    • Moments of truth: the three or fewer make-or-break sub steps that can color how a customer sees the entire journey.

    Start by showing an example of a journey map. My favorite example is going out to eat.

    Example of a journey map. Major steps at the top, sub steps below. Pain points, pleasure points, and moments of truth are tagged throughout. 

    Example of a journey map. Major steps at the top, sub steps below. Pain points, pleasure points, and moments of truth are tagged throughout. 

    Then, in groups of four to six, have participants practice designing a journey map of their own from a shared experience. Air travel is a good experience to bring up pains and pleasures.

    Coach participants to not capture every possible variation of what a customer MIGHT do, but rather what they MOST LIKELY would do. For example, although it's possible that someone MIGHT book a flight through a travel agent, it's MOST LIKELY they would book online, so participants should choose online booking as a step. A journey map is not a comprehensive process diagram.

    After participants are comfortable creating a journey map from a shared experience, they are ready to design a journey map relevant to their own business. The real richness of a journey map occurs as participants discover insights from examining the steps from the customer's perspective. 

    As they work, there will be a temptation to include "behind the curtain" processes, that is, the parts of the process that are invisible to the participant. In the case of air travel, behind the curtain processes are air traffic control, or aircraft maintenance, or the database that holds your personal information as a traveler. Don't include behind the curtain process. Although participants may spend their entire careers thinking about these processes, the purpose of a journey map is to experience the journey from the customer's perspective. If participants really can't let go of behind the curtain processes, draw a line below the lowest sub step, have them capture the behind the curtain process at a high level below that line, then move on. 

    A journey map is a great starting point for process improvement. In addition to resolving pain points, maximize pleasure points, and make sure that moments of truth don't sour the whole experience. In addition to identifying opportunities, a good follow up is to design a to-be journey map that improves upon the as-is journey map.

    I first saw journey mapping from Jeneanne Rae of Motiv Strategies at a DC:DT meetup in January 2016. Since then, I've seen journey mapping methods shared by the LUMA Institute, Ideo, and at design studios around the world. 

    Energizer: Graphic Jam

    A Graphic Jam is a great Energizer that has the tremendous added benefit of building participants' visual literacy. 


    Graphic Jam with the Chesapeake Organizational Development Network (CBODN), March 22, 2017.

    Have each participant hang a sheet of flipchart around the room, then write a word at the top. The word should be something relevant to the event or their organization. For example, for a strategic planning offsite, look for words like "Objectives," "Values," and "Vision." Words should be abstract concepts, not concrete objects.

    Start a timer. Participants have one minute to draw a simple picture that represents their word. Then, they rotate on to their neighbor's flipchart and have one minute to draw the new word on their neighbor's flipchart. No redrawing allowed: if someone's already drawn a bridge to represent "Connection," no one else can draw a bridge on that chart. Read the energy of the group to know when to end the activity, but generally, 10-15 minutes with just as many rotations is a good timeframe for most groups.* 

    By drawing the words, participants will develop their mental models of the concepts beneath them. They'll also have dented their own armor around performance anxiety and judgment apprehension. 


    It's possible that two or more people could choose the same word. Here's two ways around that. 

    1. Have them create and select from a common marketplace of words. (For more on the marketplace, check out the methods behind Open Space Technology by Harrison Owen.) 

    2. Have participants call out their words, one at a time, as soon as they think of them to "reserve" their word. There's an incentive to choose quickly, so someone else doesn't take your preferred word.

    If possible, try to redraw the participants' drawings over the course of the day in your own graphic chart. You'll take advantage of the strong mental models they're building around that concept.

    The earliest mention of the Graphic Jam I could find is in the book "Graphic Facilitation" by the Grove Consultants. https://grovetools-inc.com/collections/books/products/graphic-facilitation-w-dvd

    *The longest graphic jam I ever saw was facilitated by Stephanie Brown for the DC:GF Meetup group. It lasted nearly two hours... and we could've kept going! 


    Principle: Practice Where It's Safe

    The first time I went scuba diving, a stingray* got between me and my oxygen hose and popped my regulator out of my mouth about 25 feet below the surface of the water. It sounds scary, but all I did was reach my arm back, sweep forward to catch my regulator, put it back in my mouth, and push a button to clear the water out. I didn't even have to think about it. It was muscle memory, because I'd practiced it dozens of times on dry land. 

    The principle of Practice Where It's Safe is a way to give participants permission to try using the tools and techniques they're learning in the safety of the facilitation, before they go back to the real world. It's a chance to try something out, fail safely, and learn so that when they need it, it's muscle memory. 

    *Sharks are easier to draw than stingrays. But it was a stingray:


    Opener: World Café

    The World Café is one of the best Opening methods for harvesting ideas and bringing diverse stakeholders together. More structured than Open Space, the World Café directs the power of simultaneous diverse group discussions towards set questions. Participants break into small groups and have a chance to answer the questions and build on the ideas of others by rotating from one question to the next. A table host/scribe stays behind to orient the next group as to what the preceding groups discussed. After the rotations are complete, the ideas are reported back to the plenary. 

    Prepare for a World Café by working with the client to develop a list of open-ended questions you'd like participants to answer. Questions can be two-parters, such as, "Who are the key stakeholders" and "What do we believe their greatest needs are?" Avoid closed-ended questions, which can be answered with a one-word response.

    The time to allot to the World Café is governed by the number of questions. Give participants about five minutes to discuss each question. For example, for four questions (one on each of four tables), a full rotation would require 20 minutes to discuss plus a little time to physically move from one table to the next. You may choose to allot an additional five minutes for participants to return to their original table and hear from the table host/scribe what everyone else added. 

    Ideally, have four to six participants at each table. For large groups of 30 participants or more, consider running two simultaneous World Café cycles in the same space. Regardless, make sure you clearly understand the rotation cycle of the World Café. It may be helpful to map out the cycle of questions, tables, participants, and time intervals visually.  

    Set up the room with a series of small tables, ideally hightop cocktail rounds, one table per each question. Place a sheet of flipchart paper on each table, or if possible, cut a piece of large chart paper to fit the size and shape of the table. Write one question in the center of each paper. Provide markers at each table for the table host/scribe to capture ideas from the participants.

    Introduce the World Café by sharing the instructions below:

    The flow of a World Café follows these instructions. 

    The flow of a World Café follows these instructions. 

    Answer any questions, then start the clock. After five minutes, call time, ask participants to wrap up any final thoughts, and move on to the next table. Allow about a minute for movement. Repeat until participants have had a chance to add their ideas to each question. Again, you may choose to also give participants time to return to their original question and orient around how others have added to their initial ideas. 

    Each table should brief out a summary of the ideas against their questions. This could be the table host/scribe, but doesn't have to be. Graphic record highlights of each summary brief out. 

    Make the completed paper tablecloths available to the participants to refer back to. 

    The World Café comes from Juanita Brown and David Isaacs. For more on the World Café, see this Wikipedia article or Learning Map No.2: World Café by Neuland

    Persona Profiles

    Persona Profile EXAMPLE.jpg

    Persona profiles come from user experience, human-centered design, and design thinking. They put a name and a face on stakeholder groups. They are fictionalized characterizations to help participants better empathize and understand the stakeholder groups. A good persona profile template looks like a dossier: it has a name, the customer group they belong to, likes, dislikes, career goals, frustrations, feelings towards your organization, needs that your organization can help provide for, preferred communications channels, and a memorable quote.

    A great way to facilitate developing persona profiles is to use open space. As a large group, brainstorm a list of stakeholder groups, then select the top stakeholder groups to explore in more detail. Each top stakeholder group gets its own persona profile template. From there, participants are free to work on the persona or personas they have the most energy around. Don't dictate who has to develop which profile. And, if someone wants to leave a persona midway and join development of another, that's OK. The principles of open space say, whoever shows up are the right people, whatever conversations are had are the right ones to have, and whenever a conversation starts and ends is the right time for it to start and end. And there's one law: the law of two feet. That means, if a conversation isn't working for you, you can leave it and join another. 

    Share a completed mock-up example so participants better understand what's expected. Give participants about an hour to develop the persona profiles. Then, invite participants to share the persona profiles they'd developed back to the large group. Graphic record highlights from that debrief.

    I first saw persona profiles used by Dean Meyers in September 2013.

    Here's a link to a free persona profile template.

    Starter: Morning Percolations

    Morning Percolations comes from Elise Yanker of Collaborative Consulting Inc. It's a great framing activity that gives participants time and space to empty their mental backpacks and be fully present and engaged for the day.  

    Morning Percolations typically begin the morning of the second day of a multi-day event and repeat every following morning. You might begin by saying, "We had some good conversations yesterday. Last night and this morning, you may have been thinking about what we talked about. Let's begin today with an open conversation. Please share anything that's on your mind relevant to what you heard yesterday. What's percolating up for you?"

    Morning Percolations only need a timebox (typically 30 - 45 minutes) and good open-ended questions. Resist the urge to answer questions or resolve doubts or concerns. Encourage participants to likewise simply listen to each other. 

    You don't have to graphic record Morning Percolations, but it adds to the experience by acknowledging what participants share. Use a loose layout, like a word cloud, that supports the free-form nature of the conversation.