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#718: Learn to Engage Groups Visually

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, December 14, 2011
I learned a valuable lesson recently when I attended a session facilitated by a client manager. He did a good time presenting his materials but when it came time to organize the group and move them in a specific direction, he was all left brain/words and no right brain/visuals. Is this something a consultant should have as a skill or leave it to professional facilitators (with good visual skills)?

Your effectiveness as a consultant is largely bound in your ability to in clearly communicate your ideas to your client and assure that they fully understand the facts and implications of those ideas. Because we learn by more than words, consultants benefit (along with their clients) by knowing how to communicate in a variety of ways. Using graphical techniques to express your ideas is a good skill to have. However, the combination of oral, written, graphic and kinesthetic techniques, as appropriate to the audience, is also powerful in eliciting ideas and engagement within client teams.

Professional facilitators have created many visualization techniques to engage groups, create a fun atmosphere that stimulates creativity, and streamline decision making. However, these skills are more than just being able to draw. To engage groups visually, we need to train ourselves to think graphically, use graphics to include group participants (no one likes to be lectured to but everyone is willing to draw), and have a practiced set of processes to step through your facilitation. The ultimate advantage of visualization techniques over, say PowerPoint, is that your audience is part of creating their future, not some consultant driving them through (your) set of conclusions.

Tip: I highly recommend developing a skill set in visualization techniques. You can shadow a trained facilitator (not all are proficient in visualization skills) or get a good tutorial to help you appreciate the added value you can provide as well as give you some skill building techniques. David Sibbet's Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity provides a rich resource base and a lot of great ideas of how to better engage groups. The sections on guided imagery, using visual techniques for web conferences, and graphical ideas to enhance even project management (who knew?) are particularly useful.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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Dan Callahan says...
Posted Thursday, December 15, 2011
Mark -- Great post! I will take a look at the book you recommended. For some more stimulation on this topic, I recommend the Periodic Table of Visualization. It is one of the most compelling charts I have ever seen; I also recommend reading the Blogger who posted it (Kris Wheaton)

Dan C.
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Dan Callahan says...
Posted Thursday, December 15, 2011
Here is the link to the blog I recommended:
He is particularly good at data analysis consulting...
~ Dan
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Mark Haas CMC FIMC says...
Posted Thursday, December 15, 2011
Dan, The periodic table of graphical styles is one of my all time favorites and a regular source of inspiration when the tired graphical formats won't do. It is a little old and a few of the links re broken but it is still a go to source.

As for the blog, apparently Kris has little to do in his day job to prevent him from exploring a lot of intriguing sites and applications.

Thanks for weighing in.
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