Marcel van Hove
Graphic Recording .

Introduction into Symbolic Thinking by Antonio Meza (Part II/II)

This is the second part of the interview with Antonio Meza. In the first part we talk about Antonio’s life story and his career as an NLP (neurolingoistic programming) trainer and coach. We looked at the combination of NLP and graphic facilitation and how to record sessions using an iPad. In the second part Antonio gives you an introduction into symbolic thinking.

Everyone uses symbolic thinking and we don’t have to learn it. For example a person with hanging shoulders and a sad face would be seen as not resourceful while a person on top of the mountain in superman posture would be seen as very energetic. Here it doesn’t matter whether it is a real person or a stick figure drawing.

Symbolic thinking describes the process of creating an internal representation of a situation, scene or thought. We use all of our senses to imagine a situation and create our own internal representation. Every person is different so that everyone creates his own emotional reaction about the scene.

Understanding the concepts of symbolic thinking makes you a better graphic recorder as you can use those metaphors to tell more engaging stories even about the most boring topics. Just ask what the topic means for the people in your story and find the right metaphor.

Graphic Recordings of Spark the Change Conference 2015 in Melbourne

Hello Changemakers,

I uploaded the graphic recordings of the Spark the Change conference in Melbourne. It was a wonderful day where we learnt a lot. Those thirteen graphic recordings are a combined effort of Donna McGrath, Christiane Anderson and me over the full day of the conference. Each letter is one fabulous talk by a stunning speaker. It was a pleasure to record those talks.

I hope the recordings help to remember and make the things you learnt stick!

Spark the Change Conference Melbourne 2015

If you like to download high resolution JPGs just download them from flickr directly. I would appreciate if you spread the word about Donna’s, Christiane’s and my work if using the pictures on a different platform. In addition, those drawings are not rocket science! Everyone can learn it! Please check out my bikablo® visual facilitation trainings and join in at one of the next trainings.

And here is the video to get a feeling for a one day graphic recording gig.


What is visual facilitation about?

Let’s say we have a group of people who share the same working context, meaning being in the same meeting and aiming for the same desired outcome . Have a look at my video to understand how it’s working:

Creating real exchange between people

This hot air balloon acts as a symbol for sharing the same context. As the facilitator I have one key assumption which is, that best collaboration can happen if we create real exchange between people. What I mean is basically showing more of ourselves to each other. If we do that we exchange much more than just content – we create a real emotional relationship! Drawing together is a great way to achieve that emotional connection.

Desired change or outcome

I think real exchange is actually the only way how organisations can do change and create an engaging culture that helps them to thrive.
Coming back to the group being in the same meeting: What this group wants to achieve is to come to a desired outcome or do a change together.

The progress during the meeting is not linear, often the meeting has many ups and downs and hopefully ends successful. This is where the role of the facilitator comes into play. So let’s have a look at the facilitator first.

The role of a facilitator

As a facilitator I’m a guide that leads the group through these ups and downs. The facilitator is not part of the group, he is not working in the content, he is more the creator of the working environment so that the group can have this real exchange and collaborate well. So what is now a visual facilitator doing?

The visual facilitator

Listen, capture, reflect back like a mirror

As a visual facilitator, as the word says, we make things visible. We listen to statements, quotes and ideas, but we also look for hidden things, like emotional positive reactions or conflicts. We are able to raise awareness around that in a neutral way.

A good friend of mine, Martin Haussmann, says: A visual facilitator is like being the marker – being the pen for the group.

So we bring onto this canvas what the people say and through drawing it we reflect it back to the group. We are acting as a mirror for the group process and help them through that change.

We are quite often not completely aware what the detailed discussion is about and that is not needed because we’re working a bit underneath the content layer. In this way it doesn’t replace meeting minutes. We create a richer picture but not a detailed summary.

Ten meter wide drawing

Let’s say we capture a 2-day conference, then it could be that the screen is 10 meters wide. In the beginning of the first day it is almost empty, it might have a headline or a topic on it. However through the progress of the days we capture what happened and by the end of the conference we have created a timeline of insights.

Graphic Recording of a the Activate Agile Session


A facilitator is in charge of the dialogue, the exchange in the group. He creates the space for collaboration. That’s true for the visual facilitator as well but he also captures the insights on a big screen and reflects them back to the group to inspire them to work further. Through that we create a visual summary of what has happened. We actually make the dialogue visible.

If you liked what I just explained, or if you need a visual facilitator just shoot me an email or call me. If you want to learn it yourself come to my next visual facilitation training class. And follow me on twitter

  • Visual Facilitation Fishbowl

The visual facilitation fishbowl

Visual notes help us to remember and to structure our thinking. A visual facilitation fishbowl combines the strength of visuals with the facilitation format of a fishbowl.

Facilitating big group discussions

Facilitating big group discussions can be challenging. Especially when you want to discuss one specific topic in the middle. You need to be an experienced facilitator to keep the conversation running and everyone engaged. It gets even harder if the topic has many side tracks and you as the facilitator have to decide which side track is important for the discussion and which one needs to be shortened. To make this a group decision and keep the discussion flowing the fishbowl format is worth a try.

The Fishbowl technique

The fishbowl works with two concentric circles of chairs in the room. One small inner circle (4-6 chairs) where the speakers sit and drive the conversation and an outer circle (many people) where the audience sits, listens and thinks about new ideas .

The rule of the fishbowl is that only the people in the inner circle are allowed to talk. If you are sitting in the outer circle and would like to add something to the conversation you need to stand up and walk from your seat in the outer circle towards the inner circle. If all chairs are occupied in the inner-circle you line up and wait until someone stands up and offers you his chair. Normally that doesn’t take long. As soon as you sit you can add your point to the conversation.

The visual facilitation fishbowl

It may sound a bit difficult to do but with a bit of practise the group moves its way into collaborative visual thinking!

So what is a visual facilitation fishbowl? The visual facilitation fishbowl is very similar to the normal fishbowl and all the rules apply. However two things are different:

  1. 1. The u-shape circle:
    Instead of two closed circles, you turn the inner and outer-circle of the fishbowl to an open circle (u-shape circle) and place a pinboard at the opening of the circles.
  2. 2. The outer circle:
    The outer-circle is not in the passive listener role – in the outer circle you turn into a doodler or scribbler. You write down and draw insights you have while you are listening carefully. As soon as you have a visual note on A4 paper finished you bring it to the front wall so that everyone can see and read it. These sheets of paper provide a flow of insights for everyone. The inner-circle can relate to them which helps to lead the conversation. If you have an insight on paper you would like to explain, stand up with your drawing, join the inner-circle.
    (The picture is taken during an in-house visual facilitation training where we practised graphic recording in a visual facilitation fishbowl setting.)

Become a visual thinker!

If you think you can’t draw – you are welcome to join my bikablo® visual facilitation fundamentals training (Level 1.1). No drawing skills required!

Discover how much Visual Facilitation can help to do discussions and achieving goals . If you are having any questions, please feel free to contact me via Mail or Phone.



Graphic Recording of Agile Australia

Last week I had the honour to create a graphic recording for Activate Agile session of the Agile Australia 2014. It was a really nice day which brought students and future employers together.

Students and employers together

Seven great and inspiring agile professionals across different companies described their daily work-life in their agile companies. The audience were mostly students and were invited to ask questions to the panel on stage. Awesome idea of the organizers to bring the graduates of the future together with great employers.

Graphic Recording – Check out the video

The stop-motion video below summarizes the 2:30 hours of lightning talks, question and answers sessions from the seven inspiring Melbournians on stage! Check it out!