I thought it would be fun to write out a typical day in the life of a visual practitioner. Every on-site day with clients is some version of these activities, regardless of whether we are doing Graphic Recording or Graphic Facilitation. Ideally I’m checked into the hotel where the event will be held the night before, which allows for some onsite prep ahead of time. Sometimes this is not possible, and everything onsite must be completed that day, which makes for a long and adventurous day!
This was one of those days. When this happens, it’s essential to load up everything in my vehicle the night before. And I do mean everything! So when the alarm goes off at 3am it’s just a quick shower and then I slip into the driver seat and hit the road with hot coffee in hand. Partly to avoid any traffic and partly due to allowing for enough setup time (it takes around 2 hours to fully setup for a day).
On this particular day I was traveling into downtown Washington DC, and though I found the location just fine by 6am, there was construction at the described drop-off site for my supplies. So, in coordination with my onsite contact we found a parking spot around the other side of the building, and schlepped my paper rolls, foam board walls and markers across and around the construction and into the proper door to go thru security. Except that security was just getting in and hadn’t been given a heads up about my presence there that day so they were definitely surprised but good-naturedly adapted. I would love to have photos of this, but as you can imagine it wasn’t the opportune time.
We made it thru security and up to the right floor and room. Which in this case turned out to actually be a bump-out in the hallway in front of the elevators. Sounds totally awkward but in fact it worked perfectly: plenty of wall space for murals, plenty of space for participants to move around and engage as we moved thru our day.
As soon as all my supplies were up in the right space, I ran back outside to find parking in a garage for the day. Not easy to park a cargo van in the city: many garages won’t even let you inside. After a few tries, I found one that fit, and sweet-talked my way inside to snugly park in the only space that would fit, and barely at that. Then I ran back a few blocks to my onsite venue to setup everything. I think that was where I lost my scarf, but who can say for sure?
Approaching the building from another direction this time required me to find another path thru the construction. Got a few amused looks as the guys now coming onsite were surely wondering what I was doing running around thru their site, but I finally found the proper back door where the friendly security folks waved me thru their system.
Back in the hallway location for the day, I prepped everything: rolling out the paper on each foam board, then setting up and filling my markers, and then when my other colleagues arrived, connecting with them and arranging the room together to have the best setup of tables and chairs in the space for the type of work we were doing that day.
In this case we were using a super cool twist on Graphic Facilitation: we were gathering information from participant interviews in the morning, then assimilating it into a single large visual model, and presenting it back to everyone later that same day. A very tall order for me to produce on the spot, but the type of challenge I love!
As we finished our setup and put our heads together to reconnoiter and get grounded with each other before launching into the meat of the day, some participants were showing up for the day looking surprised as they exited the elevator into our impromptu setup for the day, but it worked well to pique their interest for later when they’d be doing the work with us.
We kicked things off promptly, and kept it moving thru our morning sessions with focused intentionality to collect the participant info and keep on track with our timeline. After this fast paced start, we thanked and released all our participants to the other work awaiting them and proceeded to brainstorm, prototype and construct a final model of the information we had gathered that morning. We had to drive ourselves thru this part of the day as well, in order to be able to deliver the large visual back to participants at the end of the day. Come to to think of it, this process is interesting enough that I could write a whole case study about it!
But back to our day: at the end of our presentation of the final visual model (always enjoy this part: feedback is such a gift!), it was time to breakdown everything and debrief our day. I always sit down with my colleagues and clients at the end of an event to touch base about how it went: what worked, what we’ll do better next time, and what’s next.
Following this meeting, it’s time to breakdown everything. All the paper comes off the foam boards, is stacked and rolled up in 2 separate packages (murals to be digitized and blank paper: I always double paper the wall or foam boards so there’s no bleed-thru on the wall and a better writing surface when I’m working). Markers need to be capped and bagged correctly, foam boards stacked and all of these supplies carried out to the van.
Which was in the distant parking garage still, so I ran over to get it, scooched my way slowly and carefully out of the garage and back to that day’s venue. This is the other time I may have lost my scarf, but who can say? At this point, I just pulled right on into the construction area, and gratefully accepted the security guard’s offer of assistance to carry out all my foam boards, paper and markers to the van.
Traffic getting home was likely to be pretty heavy at this time, so I instead of heading right home, I parked on the street in the first open spot I found, and set out for a little walk around the city to decompress from the long, intense day. I might have even found a nice patch of grass and had a cat nap.
The drive home eventually wasn’t too bad: mostly I was just so tired I felt wired so I kept scanning the radio for songs to which I could sing loudly (and quite surely off key) to keep myself awake. Once home I then unpacked the van, prepared the murals for digitization the next day, and finally lay down to rest up for the post-event activities the next day.
This was a one-day onsite meeting, but often the meetings are 2-3 days in a row at retreats or conferences . Regardless of the event’s length, day is a new and exciting adventure, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
So, now you know a little bit about what it’s like when I go onsite to work with clients. I’m excited to work with YOU onsite, so connect with me today to explain what issues you’re dealing with and we’ll create a unique solution specifically tailored to you!