Visual Facilitation: 3 Key Benefits of Using Visuals in Strategic Meetings

No one thinks about how much meetings cost a company.

Do you?

I didn’t think so.

Let’s take a look at what a typical meeting might cost.

Let's say you and seven of your coworkers have a two-hour meeting.

If the average annual salary is $45,000, the cost of salaries alone is $450. The annual cost is more than $23,000!

23K 

With that kind of cost at stake, are you getting a decent return on investment from your time?

If not, is there a more productive way to hold meetings?

In fact, there is—with the help of visual facilitation. 


What is visual facilitation?

Visual facilitation combines traditional facilitation and visual recordings

The facilitator leads the meeting and guides the group through a process like strategic planning, brainstorming, or brand planning.

The facilitator works with wall charts that can be 4 feet x 8 feet or 4 feet x 16 feet. 

As the facilitator is leading the meeting, the facilitator is also capturing words and information from the participants. The capture of words and images allows the group to focus, make connections from a lot of different information, and create a record of everything discussed.

vizmtg-001

Unlike traditional meetings, visual facilitation allows a group to discuss lots of information and to capture it so that it’s available for the whole group to see. By capturing data, words, diagrams and ideas on the wall, there's a record of what's been discussed so you don't waste time revisiting subjects and you have the information stored to use in future meetings. 

The group can then take the data, make connections, and develop a plan. The original wall-sized charts can be readily accessed (unlike searching through documents or spreadsheets) to create the final plan.

Who benefits most from using visual facilitation?

The answer is simple: any group having a meeting that involves producing and discussing a lot of information.

For example, it might be the:

  • Senior leadership meeting to set the annual strategy and budget
  • Marketing department needing to clarify their message to the marketplace
  • Upper level management of a company that is about to move in a new strategic direction
  • HR department needing to come up with new procedures in the department
  • Nonprofit organization needing to put together a strategic plan to get organized for their future

While visual facilitation brings many benefits to strategic meetings, let’s look at three key benefits.

3 key benefits of using visual facilitation in strategic meetings

Benefit #1: Visual facilitation increases clarity and employee engagement overall

When using visuals in a meeting, people have something to focus on–the content of the meeting. This anchors all the information being discussed while increasing the level of discussion. Participants can refer to earlier points or map out their own ideas with the facilitator to literally make sure everyone is on the same page.

The results of visual facilitation (as you’ve mapped everything out) can easily be put together as a plan. When the group owns the process, they’re more likely to execute the plan.

Statistics prove this: (Source)

  • Meeting flow: 55% (more effective ~22% / excellent ~35%)
  • Engagement of participants: 65% (more effective ~20% / excellent ~45%)
  • Results: 65% (more effective ~28% / excellent ~37%)

Benefit #2: Visual facilitation quickly clarifies complex problems and issues

It’s easy to feel trapped in a verbal world where all you’re doing is discussing very complex issues. A lot can get lost in translation from one person to another.

With visual facilitation, you can literally map out a system that you can break down into smaller, easier-to-digest pieces. Then, you can see how the system as a whole might work together.

big view

Benefit #3: Visual facilitation improves communication and lowers confusion

We all have a filter through which we see the world. Different words have different meanings. On occasion, I’ve seen two people discussing something, and they were saying the same thing but using different words—the words were getting in the way.

By drawing pictures to explain what somebody is talking about, you increase the communication levels and lower the confusion levels. Pictures can be paired with metaphors and analogies to further enhance understanding. Data can be visualized in graphs and charts to help the numbers tell a story.

But what if you’ve never had a meeting this way before? What can you expect?

If you’ve never worked this way before, it might be difficult to know what to expect.

Think of it this way. Using a visual way of facilitating your meeting is a low-risk proposition. You can add the visual component and try it once—you’ll still get the results out of the meeting that you expected, and you get to try a new way of having a meeting. If you don’t like it, then you don’t have to do it again.

What about the cost?

On the cost side, there is a lot of value in working visually. The visual facilitation process significantly increases engagement and understanding—saving time and money.

Also, there’s a lot more involved when one person is facilitating the meeting and recording at the same time. The team is getting a lot of bang for the buck if the facilitator and the recorder are the same person.

Summary

The visual facilitation process:

  • Engages people in a way that traditional meetings do not, making it highly valuable and effective
  • Includes all the different types of learners in a group: auditory, kinesthetic, and visual
  • Heightens participation levels across the entire group of people

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  • How to reduce wasted time in meetings
  • Why visual facilitation increases productivity
  • How to increase understanding and communication within groups
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  • How to produce strategic plans employees create, own, and can roll out themselves
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