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Welcome to another episode of Agilité Marketing Channel
I hope you are all well.
Aujourd’hui je ne suis pas seule derrière le micro. J’ai le plaisir de recevoir Paule André, créatrice de la société InnerFrog with whom we will discover or rediscover the world of visual facilitation.
For the record, I met Paule about ten years ago during a network activity. We were young entrepreneurs. At the time, I was not at all familiar with visual facilitation. I was immediately attracted by this great tool. So I wanted to share it with you with a real expert, as she has been practising her art for over ten years.
Paule, to begin with, what is visual facilitation?
If I had to summarise visual facilitation, it is about communicating using a mix of drawings, texts and applying different structures from those we are used to. It's a way of communicating but also of thinking, of studying. It is therefore a tool that can be used in different contexts depending on the needs of each person.
You have a fairly technical and technological career path. For the curious who want to see your profile on LinkedIn, they will see that you have held positions as Web Developer, Business Analyst and Project Manager. So, when you have a career path like that, how do you come across the world of visual facilitation?
To be completely honest with you, LinkedIn doesn't always tell the whole truth. It's clear that this is my background but before that, what you need to know is that my first degree is photographer.
I'm basically a visual person, so it's always appealed to me. I never worked as a photographer. I went straight to a Master's degree in Business Management. That's what took me through the different jobs you mentioned.
And how did I end up in visual facilitation? After 14 years in multinationals, I felt like I had a job that didn't make sense. I had moved up the hierarchy quite a bit. In theory, I was supposed to be able to give meaning to my teams and I found myself unable to do so. So I looked for a job that would suit me. I wanted to leave the IT world because I had fallen into it more by chance than by choice. I had the opportunity to follow training courses and I followed a course on visual facilitation.
And what attracted you to this training on visual facilitation?
What appealed to me was the ability to communicate very complicated things with a simple little diagram. And the ability to align different points of view by making people draw.
I had been in hundreds of meetings in my previous life. We would come out of meetings and not always understand each other and I realised that visual facilitation was really a tool to make sure that everyone understood the same thing at the end of the meeting. For me, it was magic.
To become a visual facilitator, you need to have drawing skills?
No, you don't. I'm not a drawer at all. I used to draw as a child like everyone else . And then I rediscovered the interest of drawing as a communication tool.
In fact, you don't have to be good at drawing, you have to be good at visual communication and that's different. Everybody can draw a triangle, a square. Everyone can draw a house. Then there are artists who draw more complex and more beautiful things but to get the term house across, the basic drawing works very well.
And it's not just the drawing, it's also the structure, the way the information is organised and all that. It's a long way from drawing. I always say that people who can draw well are not necessarily good visual facilitators. It's better to have a structured mind, a spirit of synthesis and analysis, and to learn to draw what you need to facilitate, than to be a king in drawing and perfect in illustration but not be able to summarise, to have difficulties in understanding and knowing how to structure. Or spending too much time doing things that look nice but in the end don't help to communicate.
For people who think "that's interesting, I'd like to try it but I'm not creative at all". Where do you start? What is the path for someone who is interested in this discipline?
It depends a little bit on the person. For most people, a little training can get them started straight away. Others need to have someone explain it to them and see for themselves that it works by practising.
Otherwise, there are plenty of books on the subject that allow everyone to learn the tool at their own pace, because with a book, you can take your time. But afterwards, it's mainly by confronting what you do with the eyes of others to improve that you can really become better.
You talk about training courses and books. In the years that you have been in this position, have you put in place any operating tools?
So we've written a book on the subject "Le b.a-b.a du Sketchnote". By the way, if your listeners are interested, I'll send you a code to offer them 15% off the price of the book.
We wrote a book that covers the basics. It's a compilation of the notes I gave in training. We have compacted all this into a book so that people who don't have the time or the possibility to follow a training course can learn by themselves.
And then we have in-house training but they are not necessarily open to the public. The only thing we do for people who are really interested is that we give one-to-one lessons by video in sessions of 1.5 to 2 hours with a minimum of 3 sessions. Otherwise, we travel to companies and schools to give training to groups of several people.
Who is visual facilitation for? What kind of clients do you have?
I would rather ask the question: "What kind of client do you not have?
In our clientele, we have requests for training from job seekers, teachers, trainers, leaders, managers and directors. So it's a very broad spectrum. I have already had lawyers in my training courses.
Any public may be interested. I have trained computer scientists. I will train in high schools, in universities in France.
I think it's a tool that can be used by anyone who is visually aware of things and is tired of reading and sharing information by sending 55-page PowerPoint or 15-page documents. Especially when you send the document and you already have the feeling that the people on the other side are not going to read them.
For some people it is frustrating. All of these people may have an interest in taking a closer look at visual facilitation.
Can visual facilitation also be used to facilitate meetings and brainstorming in society?
Absolutely. In fact, this is also one of the services we offer: visual facilitation to lead team meetings with a very specific objective. For example: defining values, reviewing the planning for the next five years.
In these cases, we have a classic facilitator role. Our big difference is that our leverage is visual. We use drawings a lot to make sure that everyone has the same understanding of things. In addition to small-scale workshops, we also offer to facilitate symposiums or conferences for several hundred people, where we use visuals as a lever to get messages across.
When we do visual facilitation in this context, we don't just use drawing. We can draw on photos or come with drawings on balloons. We'll come up with things that will get people out of their habits. What changes is that people will be challenged and that will attract them in general. We also have this role within the company InnerFrog.
I guess there's a lot of preparation. You don't arrive at the venue with a blank page and Stift and say, "Here we go, I'm going to freestyle.
When you go to a company with a defined delivery objective, there is clearly some preparation. We create a real plan that we will review with the client and adapt eventually. For one day of animation, we can schedule to 3 days of preparation. This requires a lot of work upstream in addition to the day of the event itself.
On the other hand, in the context of conferences or seminars, we come as a silent reporter. There, we have a mobile wall which is the equivalent of several flipcharts clipped together on which we unroll a large sheet of paper. And there, we listen to speakers, trainers, lecturers and round tables. We do not interact with them at all. We just stand there silently listening and transposing everything they talk about in a visual way onto a big paper. It serves as a support for those who have listened (and who sometimes didn't listen to everything or tended to stop at one part of the presentation) in order to have an overview of everything that was covered by the event. And here we are not always prepared. We often arrive on the day and all we have is what the participants receive. The agenda, the programme, the names of the speakers, the titles of the talks. We haven't seen their presentations in advance. We don't have any more information and this is really what we call live, it's without a net.
Do you have any favourite topics ?
One of the things that really interests me about visual facilitation is the fact that the subjects are always changing. I tend to get bored quite quickly with things that come up again and again and go into detail.
That's one of the things I don't miss about my old job. Here what I love is to go out and discover lots of different topics. We cover the environment, beauty products, new company launches. We cover calls for projects for NGOs in Africa. What interests me is to go and discover areas that I don't know at all.
As you know the mission of the Agilité Marketing platform is to help marketers and teams spread their wings by training them, giving them information and content on agile marketing, creativity and serene marketing. Do you think that visual facilitation can be a good tool to achieve these goals and this mission?
For those who are really going to find that the tool works for them I think it's a very good tool. If only for their personal reflection. Being able to put everything you have in your head on paper and being able to present it to others in a visual way, being able to pencil in live when you're with a client to explain how you see things (rather than just talking), is already a real tool that can help some people to stand out eventually in the way they present things. And then you talk about teamwork and agility. I clearly think that, in the context of teamwork, showing what you're talking about, to make sure that everyone is aligned and has the same understanding of things, can be valuable. I think there are quite a few marketing companies that are perhaps already using it intuitively, without always realising it.
Even if we are still using, as we said earlier, an excessive amount of PowerPoint with 150 slides...
PowerPoint is a fabulous tool when you know how to use it. PowerPoint has an annotation feature that allows you to annotate live, to add things into the diagram freehand. And I think that already using this feature that is offered in the latest versions of the program allows you to do much more dynamic things. After that, it's clear that when you make PowerPoint by "copying and pasting" texts from Word documents, PowerPoint won't save you.
Finally, what can we wish for 1h30 and Paul André in the months and years to come?
I hope that we can continue to grow and continue to spread this tool as a tool to be put in everyone's hands. Clearly we're specialists, it's our job, and there are a lot of things we do that the average person won't use on a daily basis. But I think I want to continue to "teach fishing" to all the people who are interested by putting the tool in their hands. And then, when they have more complex needs or they want to go further, let them turn to us because we can take them to another dimension again because that's clearly our specialty.
Basically, I just want to keep going. It's been a great ride so far. We're meeting a lot of nice people. The diversity in the people we meet, in the activities we do. The days follow one another and are not the same and that's what I love about my job.
You spoke earlier about escaping from routine. I think this project has helped you to do that.
Two short questions to finish. You were just talking about the market and the positive evolution. Your company is based in Belgium. Do you do visual facilitation exclusively in French today or does the company allow you to do it in the other languages of our beautiful little country and in international languages?
We personally work in French and English. We work a lot in both languages. English is not a problem. I've lived in the United States and worked in multinationals, so I'm very comfortable with English.
Concerning dutch language....I see part of our job as translation and if you don't have a good command of the language, it's complicated. I don't know Dutch. So I don't want to position myself as an expert in a language I don't master. We do things in French and English and translate them into Dutch. It often happens that we translate cold.
Then I work with partnerships when I need Dutch-speaking partners. It happens quite often that I set up projects where I need French speakers on one side and Dutch speakers on the other, so there is no problem.
Last question: for those who would like to see your work and that of your company, where can they go?
The easiest way, I think, is to follow our Facebook page. It's the one we update most often. After that I admit that, it's the price of fame, we have enough work and therefore not enough time to post everything but to have an overview of our Facebook page or follow my personal profile on LinkedIn. We also have a presence on Instagram. For those who are really more curious and want more concrete things, they can send an email to [email protected] and then I can send them the link to the drive on which we have documents.
We have come to the end of this show. Thank you very much, Paule, for letting us into your world as a visual facilitator. It was a real pleasure to share this moment with you. I was delighted.
As for you, dear agilitators, I'll see you soon for a new episode. Until then, I invite you to visit the platform agilite-marketing.com to discover new content and by the way, don't forget to subscribe to the great newsletter for more exclusive tips.
And above all, keep spreading your wings🦅