martin hoffmann

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Learning to sketch – Introduction to Visual Facilitating

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What makes a training appealing? We’ve all heard the rumors that perception is increased the more senses are activated. As much as I would usually try to make my trainings interactive and peer-orientated, my communication thus far mainly relied on verbalism. Yes, I’ve been using flipcharts, but more for note taking. So it was about time to increase the communication leverage in this area as well. Therefore, a little introduction to visual facilitating.

My first encounter with visual note taking or facilitating was around 2008. Back than I was working together with Anna Lena at the European Science Parliament in Aachen. She was one of the first people I met who had a stronger approach to using her markers than just low lines and bullet points. Ever since I was amazed what people are able to do with markers, and also live. There is a nice little introduction to moderation and presentation with pictures here.

Still, I quickly learned that my artistic skill set isn’t developed enough to actually use this methodology. Already a couple of years I bought some better pens, yet quickly realising that I wouldn’t be able to actually find my access to it. But my interest didn’t vanish, thus, when recently training for VDI here in Magdeburg, I gave it another try – and I was amazed how much my training improved by properly preparing flipcharts beforehand and using more iconic elements. Yet, I also realised how little I was able to express myself visually.

Suddenly, a training came around. The LKJ Sachsen-Anhalt offered a training on visualisation in moderation this week, and I happily signed up for it. Besides a general recap of how to use a flipchart, it was a very interactive training. We learned how to draw basic symbols, figures, etc. And apparently I used markers wrong all the years (the chisel tip should be next to your thumb). The learning effect was quick and amazing. But obviously there is still a way to go.

My first approach to visual facilitation

So, what is next? Well, the problem isn’t necessarily the drawing. Most of the figures are rather simple. The problem is more the visual thinking. And coming from these simple, pre-made illustrations, there is still a long way to go for mastering visualisation.

There are different variations on what do to with this methodology. As said, learning experience is increased when using more than just speech or text. Therefore Visual Thinking is developing as a way to simplify complexity but also for teaching. Dave Gray gives some really good introduction and examples to it.


Another field that is highly impressive is Graphic Recording. This is when processes or content is visualised parallel, ideally live. Benjamin Felis gives some nice examples. I think my first encouter with that form of visualisation was the RSA Animate, a highly interesting series of animations where they take speeches and sketch them for YouTube. An impressive speech by Sir Ken Robinson, one of the great thinkers on learning, was what I saw and I was blown away by both the content and the visualisation, because indeed the animation helped me to grasp the content better and easier.

Obviously, this is a level of visualisation I am not aiming for, although the skills would be desirable. But at least I got a starting point. I guess I am off buying some markers now…


My first approach to visual facilitation © Martin Hoffmann


Author: hoffmann.martin

cultural engineer and education hacker | interested in design, media, politics, learning, teaching, understanding

One Comment

  1. Hello.This post was extremely motivating, especially because I was browsing for thoughts on this subject last Thursday. abafgddbebbc

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