Using Visuals to Facilitate Meetings

Using VisualsSpeak in a meeting

This is a guest post by Onno Kruitwagen, a VisualsSpeak customer from the Netherlands.


 Fun, surprising, personal and profound

Using VisualsSpeak in a meetingRecently, I learned firsthand that using visuals in facilitated meetings can be fun, surprising, personal  and profound. I would like to share my experiences with you, and give some pointers as well.

Last year, I was asked to facilitate a meeting for a team of senior project managers. The team
leader wanted to discuss the future of her team. The main challenge was to combine the individual
views about the future into a collective ambition.

This challenging request somehow coincided with my recent interest in using visuals in facilitated meetings. The literature about visuals told me that visuals can be very helpful in determining the  course of a team or organization, and helps to shape the future. So it didn’t take much convincing: we were going to use visuals.

During the meeting I used an image set of 200 different visuals, divided into categories like people, nature, and life. Lots of different shapes, sizes and colors. I will never forget the participants’ faces when they saw the big table full of images. This was all new to them. They thought we were only going to talk!

I used the images to get to know the participants’ motivation to join the team (what made them tick?), and how they individually perceived the future of it. After that, we combined their individual views into a collective ambition. By the end of the session, we also determined the main activities for 2013 and the individual contributions of the team members, but we didn’t use the visuals for this anymore.

Tips for Using Visuals in Facilitation

I would like to share my experiences with you, and give you some advice about using visuals as a facilitator.

  • You can choose to create your own image set, this way it is tailor made, or you can buy an existing one. There has been an interesting discussion about this on the IAF-group on LinkedIn (topic title: “Looking for picture cards”). I bought my image set at VisualsSpeak, because I didn’t feel like making my own one, and the image set of VisualsSpeak has lots of beautiful images (yes, I am a happy customer J).
  • I think most participants are not familiar with using visuals. They might feel surprised and want to know why you decided to use visuals. Expect these questions, and make sure you have some convincing answers for them. I have noticed that participants are easily convinced if you have a good explanation, and truly believe in what you are doing is helpful.
  • Participants should be able to see all the visuals on the table (or floor), so make sure you have enough space for that. Also make sure you have enough space for the participants to walk around the visuals. I remember that my room was too small, so it was a bit crowded when the participants had to select their visuals at the table.
  • Start with some easy exercises using the visuals. I started my session by asking the participants to select an image that indicated how they had entered the room. This way, they started to feel more comfortable with using the visuals. I recommend that facilitators participate in these exercises, so they can set an example and break the ice.
  • Be prepared for some very personal, surprising and confronting stories. Images can do a lot with people, you can really get to the bottom of it. One of the participants literally said that he had never expected the answers he had given.
  • Using visuals can be surprising for participants. Even so, I advise facilitators to use the visuals in different kind of ways during the meeting. This way, participants stay challenged and focused. I sometimes asked the participants to select one visual, and sometimes I asked them to selected a couple of them. You can use visuals in many ways, so make sure you do.
  • I found out that the participants really liked to talk about the visuals they selected. This took more time than I expected. Keep this in mind. It is such a shame to stop these personal stories too early.
  • Although some of the participants started a bit reluctant, at the end of the meeting they told me that they liked working with the visuals. They said it was fun, surprising, personal and profound, and it helped their team in shaping the future.

If you have any questions or have your own experiences to share, please get in touch.

About the author
OnnoKruitwagenOnno Kruitwagen is a Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) at OK-worx. He is self employed, andhelps project and team leaders to get more result out of their meetings. Onno creates customized programs that are tailored to the client’s needs, the participants and the intended outcome of the meeting. Onno is also a board member of the IAF Netherlands Chapter.

OK-worx logoEmail: onno @ OK-worx.nl
Twitter: OKworx
LinkedIn: nl.linkedin.com/in/onnokruitwagen

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Questions for End of Year Reflection

VisualsSpeak: Triptychs in sections &emdash; Triptych 2: Center

Use visuals to help you think beyond the obvious.

If you have one of the VisualsSpeak tools, you can use them to explore and reflect on the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014.

It can be helpful to think about a particular context. You might pick your life, health, relationships, business, organization etc

Here are some questions you can use:

  • What do I want to leave behind?
  • What do I want to increase?
  • What might make me more effective?
  • What qualities do I want in my life?
  • What do I want to express to my customers?
  • How can I bring more ____ into my business?
  • What do I want our team/family to look like?
  • What increases satisfaction?
  • What do I really want?
  • What could I stop doing?
  • What am I ready to let go of?
  • How can I make sure I am satisfied this time next year?

Select images in response to the question. Work quickly, not to think too much (you can do that later.) Tell someone what the images mean to you or write in a journal.

To explore your life

Michele Martin has a wonderful series of questions on her blog, 30 Juicy Questions to Grow Your Life in 2014 

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Keeping Your Meetings Out of Quicksand

slide describing quicksand

This is a guest post by Nancy Seibel, a facilitator and coach for Keys to Change  who uses a range of VisualsSpeak products with her clients. One of the interesting things about this story is she is using our coaching tool, Exploring New Options in a group setting.


Nancy Siegel from Keys to Change CoachingIn August, I facilitated a 2-day meeting for the Infancy and Early Childhood Mental Health Committee of the New Jersey Council for Young Children, which is the state’s early learning council located in New Jersey’s Department of Education.

The meeting’s purpose was to provide input into the creation of a new approach to formation of the infant mental health workforce. Gerry Costa, my client and Director and Senior Lecturer at Montclair State University’s Center on Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health, explained that “formation” refers to the development of the knowledge, skills, attitudes, beliefs, values, intra-personal and interpersonal capacities needed for effective work with young children and their families. The stated outcomes for the meeting included identifying learning domains and topics, providing participants with approaches useful to their own work, and gathering volunteers to stay involved in the work moving forward.

What Made Us Successful

By the end of our second day we reached the stated outcome goals.  That’s important. Equally important is that the meeting process was successful.  Participants went out of their way to let us know that, both at the meeting and afterwards. The meeting’s success was a combination of many factors. These included my client’s vision for and commitment to the meeting, the collaboration in planning it, the thoughtfulness in inviting key participants, and the openness to my use of VisualsSpeak images as an important part of the agenda.

Exploring New Options images used for group meeting

Who Was In The Room

The participants were a group of 24 high-level experts in the field of infant mental health. The direction we hoped to move in was a new one. Informing it was a long history within the infant mental health field. This history includes knowledge, wisdom, evidence, a body of work, and interpersonal relationships, along with conflict, discussion, debate and dilemma. The task at hand called for honoring and building on the existing knowledge, products, experience and wisdom coupled willingness to think in new ways and move in new directions.

How We Used The Images

We used VisualsSpeak images in 2 ways during this meeting, both on the first day. First, we used the large Icebreaker Set for introductions. Each person selected 3 images. One image represented them, one represented a gift they brought to the meeting and one represented a hope for what they would get from the meeting. I asked participants to introduce themselves by making one brief statement about each of their three cards. A facilitators’ note: the entire activity took about 45 minutes. The introductions held everyone’s interest. No one tuned out as we went around the room. I think the exercise helped people feel connected and engaged, especially as there was a mix of seriousness and humor in the introductions.

slide describing quicksand

Second, based on planning conversations with my clients, I developed an exercise on “Avoiding the Quicksand.” I showed a slide with an image (found here, and purchased from the artist) and discussed the experience of getting stuck in the quicksand. I defined the quicksand as questions that are compelling, but that derail us, push certain “hot buttons”, are ways of avoiding progress, or signs of resistance. I provided directions (found on the Discovery Channel’s website, and available elsewhere as well) about what to do if you get stuck in quicksand. That got everyone laughing.  I then had the participants work in small groups. Each 4-person group had one Exploring New Options deck to use in identifying quicksand issues that could bog us down.

Our Results

This turned out to be such a useful exercise!  We never got stuck in the quicksand throughout the intense 2-day meeting. In my experience this is quite unusual! The exercise helped people self-monitor. They commented that at times they chose not to bring up what they internally decided were “quicksand issues.”  When participants did say something that might be a “quicksand issue” they noted it as such. We were readily able as a group to put aside those quicksand issues that came up and to spend our time and energy on those that were relevant to our purpose. 

We’ll be doing a brief follow up evaluation to collect participants’ experiences. The in-person feedback was exceedingly positive, enthusiastic and energetic. Not only did everyone enjoy the process, make new professional connections and gain new ideas and tangible products to use in their own work, we ended up with the hoped-for tangible outcomes to guide next steps in our work plan.  VisualsSpeak images helped people connect to themselves, each other and their capacity for creative, innovative thinking.

Submitted by
Nancy L. Seibel, M.Ed, NCC, BCC
Director Keys to Change, LLC

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VisualsSpeak ImageSet as a Diagnosis Tool

VisualSpeack ImageSet a a Diagnosis Tool 2

Recently we received a success story from a customer in Argentina, Gabriel Pardi. He owns an organizational development and facilitation company called TecnoBiz. This is the report he sent. 

VisualSpeack ImageSet a a Diagnosis Tool3

I had a great experience using the ImageSet as a diagnosis tool. I had to facilitate the reorganization of the security and environment area (CASS) of a petroleum company, to examine how it fits the needs of their internal customers.

Before the two days of work that I had with the members of the CASS, I made a diagnosis of their service, with their main internal customers. For that I used the ImageSet. I worked with a total of 25 people who are in six different groups of internal clients, working in six separated meetings.

VisualSpeack ImageSet a a Diagnosis Tool 2

The meeting agenda was as follows (each participant worked separately):

  1. Icebreaker (to become familiar with the method)
  2. Question: How would you represent the service you are receiving from CASS?
  3. Please describe your picture
  4. Select an image that expresses a request for an improvement in the quality of service you are receiving
  5. Please state what the image says

VisualSpeack ImageSet a a Diagnosis Tool

The diagnosis result exceeded all expectations: in amount of information, its breadth and depth. This method is much better than to do a written survey (I used to do that), where you have to limit the questions and possible answers.

 Thanks Gabriel for sharing your story. I agree, I always feel I get more information from using VisualsSpeak for assessment than when I use a more traditional instrument.

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Image Power at Power Boost Live

Yolanda Facio at Power Boost Live Event

Here’s a success story from one of our customers, Yolanda Facio from Red. Hot. Momentum

Yolanda Facio Speaks about Referral Marketing

I was pretty excited when I was recently asked to present a workshop at Pam Slim’s Power Boost Live event.  Pam asked that I give a breakout session on building a referral-based business.

I set up the 90 minute workshop to include three work sections.  I would give a small amount of content and instructions then had the participants work on that content.  The first item involved outlining a target market and differentiating statements about what set them apart from the competition.

I wanted to make sure that each person left with some usable work that could be translated into action immediately after the event.  In order to do that I knew I would need to get creative.  My workshop was in the last breakout of the day so folks had been talked at all day and were starting to get tired… as was I!

So in order to make my job easier, to ensure I would spark conversation amongst participants and get them working, I used the VisualsSpeak Image Set.

Use photos to guarantee success

Before the workshop began, I set up one table in the room with all of the images.  I used all but the smallest sizes.  I mixed them up all over the table, it looked great and generated quite a bit of interest as people entered the room.

After my introduction material I started in on the first of the work items.  I explained what I expected them to work on for the next 15 minutes.  Then I asked them to stand up, go to the table and pick out some pictures that might help them think about their target customers and what made them special as businesses.

The process was an absolute hit.  Talk about breaking the ice!

The excitement and energy at the table was great to see.  The participants engaged not only with the images but with each other.  Lots of conversation and most importantly laughter and smiles.  I had beat the afternoon slump.

My experience using the images and the feedback I received after will definitely ensure I include the images in all types of workshop formats.  There are just too many benefits not to.

One woman who had tried to work on a target market description in the past said that it finally all just came to her.  She credited my workshop.  Secretly I credit the images.  She was not alone in the assessment that “things just clicked” during the workshop.  As a result I received lots of “thank you’s” after the event.

I couldn’t be more pleased!

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Can an Image Paint a Thousand Words?

512px-Recyclables

Here’s what’s interesting about the brain.  It relies on memories to develop our values and belief systems.

I had to think about that at first because my initial reaction was, don’t I decide what I believe?  Nope.  My brain has an active role in determining what I believe based on what I remember.  Of course then I get to filter that information. 

So the mind, what we think of as our conscious self relies quite heavily on what the brain is doing and lets face it, the brain doesn’t really have the best filing system in the world or I’d be able to remember the name of that movie, you know the one with that guy…

And that leads me to images.  Images are the place where our memories hang. 
If you don’t believe me then look at the word below:
 

 

Now, how do you feel? How many memories were immediately triggered?  Or did you have to think about what the word meant first? 

 

Now, look at the image below:

So, this time, how did you feel?  How many memories were immediately triggered?

With the word you probably got some ideas about what the word means and what it means to you.  But I’m betting you didn’t have an emotional reaction like you might have when you looked at the image.

Images are powerful.  Not only are they worth a thousand words, they are worth a whole host of emotions, values, beliefs, passions and more. 

This is what makes VisualsSpeak tools so effective.  When working with individuals or groups on big questions about innovation or leadership or teambuilding.  Nothing breaks through barriers quite as quickly as images do.  Images reach into the brain’s filing cabinet of memories and make connections we couldn’t make as well on our own.

If you want big breakthroughs with your clients, if you want successful sessions every time, give images an opportunity to shine.  You’ll be amazed at the results… we always are!

The ImageSet does it all – check it out! >> ImageSet

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Building Better Client Engagement

VS leave the deck 500

Leave the Deck Behind

Building Your Practice One Deck At A Time
 

Fear.

It’s one of the biggest barriers to growing a business, organization, team or department.  We want to keep much of what we know, our expertise, close to the vest. 

But failure to share means failure to expand and move beyond what exists right now into what could be.

Innovation and growth are the fruits of sharing what we know with others so that we can affect more people in more places.

You might be wondering why I’m bringing up this topic of fear.

It’s because I see the fear in the reluctance of facilitators, coaches, consultants, organizations, etc. to leave the deck behind.

VisualsSpeak tools are strategically designed to be left behind.  Whether you facilitate a group of 1 or 20 using individual decks for each participant, the deck is designed to be left with the participant.  And yet this practice rarely happens.

Busting the Myths

One reason is fear and it’s a big one.  You might be thinking a couple of different things like:

  • If I leave the deck behind they won’t need me anymore.
  • If I leave the deck behind they will know my secrets.
  • If I leave the deck behind I’ll be spending more money replacing them.

These few thoughts give you some insight into the fear we might feel about leaving part of our work behind.

But these are all myths.

A VisualsSpeak tool or deck is meaningless without you.  You know what to do and how to use the tools to elicit responses from the people using them.  On their own, users can certainly use the deck but it will not have the same impact or results in most cases because they are not trained like you are.

Your secrets are in your training, knowledge and experience.  Your secrets lie in the special abilities you bring to the sessions you facilitate.  Those can’t be replicated without you.

And finally, yes, you’ll have to buy more decks but the cost should always be written into the session prices you set, so the cost ultimately comes out of the client’s pocket and not yours.

Five Big Reasons to Leave the Deck Behind

So we’ve busted some of the myths surrounding leaving image decks behind with clients but what’s more important than that is why you should leave the deck behind.

There’s profit in those image decks!

Here’s why…

1.         Marketing, plain and simple.  Every time an image desk surfaces after you’ve left, the users are reminded of their session with you.  A deck left behind becomes a constant reminder of the benefits received when you brought the tool to the client.  The power of using the image tools is that they create lasting memories for participants; that means they remember you.

2.         The image decks you leave behind serve as your business card because they become great reminders of you and the work you’ve done with your clients.  Always make sure that you leave a business card in the box with the deck or affix it to the outside of the box.  Make sure when they pull that deck out they are reminded of you.

3.         As you know, VisualsSpeak tools are creative and fun.  Because clients enjoy and benefit from your use of the image decks, there will be a desire of clients to find more ways to use them.  When you leave a deck behind and clients start to use them, questions will surface.  That’s where you come in.  Make yourself available to answer questions, suggest uses and schedule new sessions.  Leaving the deck behind creates a reason for the client to call you, rather than you chasing the client.

4.         But image decks cost money!  Yes, and those costs should always be factored into your proposals and client costs.  In the event that your cost for a deck isn’t covered, remember this, the cost of an image deck is much cheaper than an entire marketing and advertising campaign which may or may not garner one new customer.

5.         Use the VisualsSpeak image decks as your own personal marketing and advertising campaign.  It is much cheaper over time to keep existing customers in the loop than it is to chase down new ones.  If you are working with the same clients over and over then you make the investment in leaving a deck behind only once.  From a business building marketing perspective, it’s a no brainer.

Build Your Business and Client-base

Remember, it’s easier to keep existing customers coming back for more than to pay the advertising costs required acquiring a new customer.

So the next time you use the VisualsSpeak tools consider them your calling card to better and longer-lasting client engagement and leave the deck behind.

Happy Visioning!

Individual Image Decks can be found in the Products area as Participant Sets and are available in the Exploring New Options set, Building Great Teams set and Developing Great Leaders set.

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A New Facilitator tries VisualsSpeak

We hear from facilitators all the time who are using the VisualsSpeak toolset — but usually it is from experienced practitioners. Recently, though, we heard of an experience by someone brand-new to the tools and to facilitation!

Learning by participating

He was working with a group in his organization on planning a conference, and they needed to get a clear vision. The toolset was very useful, and the company’s Chief Operating Officer happened to be in the meeting.

So the next time an issue came up — in this case, a work team that wasn’t really a “team” at all — the COO decided VisualsSpeak was the answer. Now this COO had never done facilitation before, and had only used the toolset once before as a participant. But in she dove!

Results!

Our more experienced user (who was a participant in this team intervention) said that even though the COO made some newbie mistakes, the toolset worked beautifully. It yielded great bonding for the starting-to-be-a-team, and laid a strong foundation. Or, as he put it:

It’s amazing how robust a tool it is–you can’t mess it up even if you’re new at using it!

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Tell your clients to stick it!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Yes, that’s right. Tell your clients to stick it. The photographs! To the wall! What did you think I meant?

Painters Tape!

When facilitating VisualsSpeak processes we recommend
you carry a couple of rolls of painter’s tape with you. These are the blue rolls of tape you can find in most hardware stores.

Painter’s tape – Its versatile and won’t ruin your images or the surfaces the images are being stuck to. It doesn’t leave a sticky residue like masking tape, and you won’t have tape welded to your photographs.

On the walls

One very successful technique we use is to have clients create a group collage on the wall. In advance, we tape a large piece of wide (white) paper on the wall. Then, as a team, people place their images on the paper by applying a piece of doubled-over tape on the back of the photos. Doing a group collage on the wall also shifts the client’s visual perspective of the work, opening up further possibilities of gaining insights.

On the ceiling or window?

I facilitated a leadership development retreat with a group of high level government executives. This is a very creative bunch. One breakout group taped their collage to the ceiling. Another created a frame out of tape on the window. And another framed their collage with tape on the wall.

Use multiple senses

Remember – One reason VisualsSpeak is such a powerful tool for group work is because it involves multiple senses: visual, verbal and kinesthetic. Using tape adds another level to the kinesthetic sense. It is tactile.

Rebellion = Fun – Don’t forget the rebellious nature of taping things to the walls. After all, didn’t your mother tell you not to stick things on the walls?

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Making your training stickier

LeadershipJournal

Image printed from ImageCenter used for journaling

Good interventions, whether training, coaching, facilitation, or something else, aren’t one-time events. To be most effective, they need to have an ongoing component that helps participants apply what they learned.

A great way to do this with the VisualsSpeak tools is through the creation of artifacts–pieces that the participant can take away with them for further reflection. There are a number of ways this can happen.

Take photographs of the images

For example when you are using the Visualsspeak ImageSet, taking pictures of each person’s assembled images and printing or sending it to them afterward is a good approach. When we first designed the ImageSet, people didn’t commonly have decent cameras on their phones, so we included tips about how to take good photos. Now we find people often take out their phones and take their own photos.

Professional prints of our photos are available for purchase in our online Gallery. Sometimes people fall in love with a particular photo and want to get a copy. Others people want to reproduce their entire image by purchasing prints to hang on the wall.

There are people who still have their VisualsSpeak images from five years ago hanging in their offices or in their desk drawers. We hear stories all the time about how they have continued to give them insights, and how much more sense they make over time.

Record the stories

Also effective is to have a notetaker write down how people describe their images and send those notes to the participants later. You can also audio or video record, but make sure you weigh the value since recording can make some people uneasy and less likely to share freely.

Suggest journaling

Insights often deepen by journaling about the images after the session. If you use our online ImageCenter, the images can be printed out for journaling pages. A particularly interesting way to journal is to start with the story that comes to mind first. Continue by asking yourself, what else could this be saying to me? Try it several times to see what emerges.

Give participants a set of their own

Of course, if you’re using the Building Great Teams or Developing Great Leaders tools, the follow-up is taken care of for you. Each Participant Set comes with an individual image set and a collection of follow-up activities the participant does after the team-building session is over. Easy as pie!
Whatever approach you choose, building in a follow-up strategy will help your effectiveness with participants and learners skyrocket!

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