Graphic Templates with Intention and Impact

As graphic facilitators we use graphic templates in our work with individuals and groups. What exactly are graphic templates anyway?

Graphic templates are structured drawings with blank spaces for text. Facilitators and/or participants can fill it in with notes during the  session. Templates take flip chart notes up a notch and participants literally “See what they mean”.

Why use templates?

Minimal drawing skills are required, yet the result is still a highly engaging process for visual learners in the room. Since 70-80% of us are dominantly visual learners, the impact on learning, retention, and recall is HIGH.

We use graphic templates in four main ways:

1) When we can’t be in the room but want to support learning at an event or meeting, we create custom templates that compliment the facilitation process. The facilitators/leaders either use sticky notes or markers to fill in the template during the event.

2) To support and guide small group conversations.  Our experience with groups tells us that meeting participants like the option of visualizing their ideas as they’re brainstorming, planning, and visioning. We often create table-sized templates with the discussion questions, using simple icons to spark outside-of-the-box thinking. Participants add their own doodles, and words that capture their conversations. And when it comes time to share the small group conversation with the larger group, templates offer structure and a roadmap of the work accomplished. 

3) When we’re the only person facilitating and recording (we usually only do this with groups of 10 or less), we use pre-prepared templates to ensure that we’re integrating visuals and making the group thinking visible, while still engaging participants through eye contact, open body language, and awareness of the group energy. Often this means using sticky notes to capture ideas as people are talking, and filling in with marker during breaks.

4) To support and guide individual reflection. We often ask participants to reflect on their learning. Instead of a text document, we create reflection templates that focus on next steps and commitments. We like to create them as postcards, so participants can stick them up at their desk, or on a bulletin board so their insights from the meeting/ training live on.

Remember the Top 5 Reasons for Using Graphic Templates:

1. Get prepared for the process using my creativity in designing the custom template(s) before the event

2. Bring visuals into the room when I’m facilitating and recording so there is less pressure because the heavy lifting of illustration is done

3. Guide the conversation and encourage sharing

4. Elicit big picture thinking from participants for broader and deeper thinking

5. Capture and organize information with a clear take-away image after the event

Boosts learning and clarity: most people are visual thinkers. They can understand and build on ideas when they see them.

Validates participant voice: people can see that they have been heard.

Enhances creativity: we integrate visual approaches that inspire out-of-the-box thinking.

Fosters collaboration and change: using visual tools allows people to communicate, co-create and plan together with ease.

Provides a visual summary: this keeps the learning 'in the room' during your event. Or, post-event, share our charts by email, post them to the web or print them as a starting point for your next meeting.