I often use images and pictures to open and close meetings and workshops that I facilitate. Images can give individuals a way to express their emotions, to think from a different perspective, and to offer opinions in a non-threatening way. Images draw on the imagination, encourage creative thinking, and can bring about light-hearted laughter and thoughtful reflection.
I recently facilitated two sessions with a non-profit board to develop a strategic plan. At the start of the second session, I invited participants to draw an image to depict what stood out for them from the first meeting, held about five weeks earlier. Here’s a collage of their images.
The words they used, when explaining their images, included:
- Working together
- A place of connection
From this simple 10-minute activity, the participants quickly brought the first session into their minds, had a chance to recognize their feelings about the work in the first meeting, and understood how each of them felt. We moved into the next discussion with a sense of unity.
Closing a Session by imagining an image
To close a recent three-hour session, I asked participants, What image comes to mind when you think of our work today? I invited them to think of an image, describe it, and explain how it represented the work from the session. I was surprised and thrilled to see how quickly the participants called out that they were ready with their images. As context, the group had been meeting for over a year, usually once a month. They were dealing with contentious issues and seeking positive ways to work collaboratively. They had talked about trust, reconciliation, community, racism, discrimination, unity, planning, vision, goals, and actions.
The images they described included:
- Fireworks – we work with energy, things are exploding in a beautiful way
- Forest and trees – we are all connected; orderly, yet creative
- Elk – majestic, strategic; wise decisions
- A seed is germinating and starting to grow
- Circle of friends
- NFL coach making half time adjustments
- Somewhere between stones moving and water moving – sometimes we move quickly, other times slowly and we need both
- Buffalo – respect for each other and our work
- Mountain peaks and valleys as we continue our journey of successes and challenges
Images can be provided in many ways: concrete ones such as VisualsSpeak, GroupWorks, and Wise Democracy pattern language cardshttps://www.wd-pl.com/; imaginary ones as explained above; participants drawing images as I describe; and through a graphic recording of a meeting or workshops.
Discover the power and beauty of images as a facilitation technique.