Friday, August 29, 2008

How to Go About Getting into Visual Facilitation

An ArtRage forum member sent me a message asking me how she could get into doing visual facilitation for a living. I figure my answer to her might be worth sharing. And maybe we can have some dialogue about my thoughts that might open it up and make it a bigger topic for us all.

Here's the main part of my letter to her (with pleasantries removed)...


Good to hear that there's another person interested in doing this! It's an absolutely awesome rush to do!

Okay... Fundamentals...
1. Are you well-read, well-versed in non-fiction, specifically business stuff, psychology, marketing? You'll need to pump up your knowledge in these fields.

2. Are you able to concentrate fiercely well for long stretches, listening ardently to new information, synthesising patterns from it, picking out fascinating details pertinent to the greater whole?

3. Can you multi-task? REALLY multi-task? When you're doing a visual facilitation, you're doing lots of things at once. I've described it to someone as 'flying a helicopter while holding two simultaneous, in-depth conversations'. I think I might revise that description and add a second helicopter to the mix.

4. How do you prefer to work -- traditional media or digital? This is a far-reaching fundamental choice. Sounds from your skill-set that you're digitally comfortable.

You haven't mentioned whether you use a tablet pc (or Wacom Cintiq), or if you're using a Wacom tablet?

Tablet PC is my preferred route. There are currently three machines in South Africa that I can recommend... Toshiba Portege M700, Asus R1E, Fujitsu T5010.

Portability of your setup is of paramount importance. Heading out to some remote conference centre should not induce muscle strain or back pain.

Working on traditional media limits what you can offer to your client. Most of the visual facilitators around the world use traditional media. I so so so don't recommend it. No edge. No instant distribution. However, if you MUST do it that way, go for it.

5. Are you willing to expose yourself to a roomful of people by making art live, before their very eyes?

I assure you, you are totally naked when your stuff is appearing live, in real time, on a huge screen next to the speaker's screen. They're watching your every move.

If you have ANY fear of public humiliation, you're going to find visual facilitation pretty hardcore.

If you're comfortable to do some really nice work on the odd occasion, with mostly clodhopper ATTEMPTS at brilliance most of the time, with people watching you frown as you hit the eraser button on ArtRage, then you'll thrive. It helps if you're an exhibitionistic showoff with immense amounts of self-confidence.

6. Are you happy to spend a lot of time doing free gigs for high profile audiences in order to establish a name for yourself? Do you have the chutzpah to inveigle yourself into events as 'the visual facilitator', even though you weren't invited, they've never heard of you, and you don't wanna pay the entrance fee? Do you have the ability to earn an income elsewhere to allow you to take a year to build this up into a business? Are you willing to learn and adapt what you're offering based on the gigs you do?

7. Do you have a winning, magnetic, persuasive personality?

8. Do you have the ability to look someone in the eye and say without shame or embarrassment or hesitation, 'I charge R12 500 per day for what I do.'? If you're blushing at the thought, convert that blush into a warm, fuzzy, delicious feeling of anticipated joy and liberation.

9. Are you comfortable with technology as a means of disseminating information about yourself? I use Twitter as my main communication tool in the world. I've been a blogger for about 6 years. I've had a website since the internet came to South Africa. I use Flickr as my primary portfolio tool. And so on.
Regarding the actual 'How' of your question, I recommend just sitting in on some event or other, and pushing yourself into doing a live visual facilitation without screening your work or standing out from the crowd in any way. Just draw what you hear. Get a feeling for how much work you need to do to be on top of things. Do more of these.


Do you have anything to add? Disagree with anything? Can you enhance anything?

I'm a visual facilitator. You can see some of my work online at And my profile as a professional member of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa is at

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Animated Roy Talking About Visual Facilitation

Wow on two counts!

1. CrazyTalk 5.1 allowed me to make this animation from a drawing. And it took less than 5 minutes to do. I'm blown away by that!

2. YouTube has introduced a new feature -- video annotations. The little speech bubble containing the link to my visual facilitation portfolio -- -- is one of those. Astounding.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

'I believe I can fly!' -- starring Jacob 'Laduma' Zuma

Here's my latest little bit of messing around in CrazyTalk 5.1. This is a pic I made of Jacob 'Laduma' Zuma back when controversy hit him really hard. (Please don't confuse him with Zu-Ma Se Poes. Different politician.)

I'm experimenting with some ideas that Conrad Koch and I have been discussing. This is one of those experiments.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

2008-08-13 Randburg Court 22 -- I am the law

Oh yes. The magistrate in yesterday's court is INDEED 'the law'. What he says, goes.

When he said to Bill's lawyer, 'I'll make the decisions here,' he meant it.

And what he probably meant was, 'Don't come in here with your juvenile attempts at bullying me or your ex-wife or anyone else. I've been hearing cases of abuse in the Domestic Violence Court 22 for longer than I care to think about. And I know EVERY trick. And you guys are amateurs. Bill -- the FACT that you're a lawyer, the FACT that you BROUGHT a lawyer with you, the FACT that you act all obsequious in my court while your ex-wife stands proud and states the facts -- THESE facts mean YOU are NOT the LAW.'

He served the protection order with no revisions. And also pre-issued a ready-signed warrant for the arrest of Bill Morris for any transgressions of the many clauses in the protection order.

Neat, huh?

This pic was drawn in court in my Moleskine while Jennifer was at the stand. I then scanned the pic, brought it into Photoshop CS3, where I added captions and colour. On my Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet pc.

Randburg Court 22 -- Magistrate says, 'You're protected.'

Thanks, Magistrate!

Jennifer and I went to the Randburg Magistrate's Court yesterday. Court 22, to be precise. The court dealing with domestic violence.

Our buddy, Big Bad Ed, joined us. He knows the inside of a courtroom. 'I hate these places,' he said. 'I've been in them way too often.'

Ed tells us an anecdote about a judge who once said to him, 'You're a one-man crime-wave.'

Ed replied, 'Thanks, your honour.'

And the judge responded, 'It wasn't a compliment.'

Ed was with us because we decided to manage the situation. Her ex-husband, Bill Morris, was expected to turn up to contest the protection order Jennifer was having finalised by the court.

According to the affidavits on public record in the court yesterday, William 'Bill' Morris was a wife beater who pressed his wife against the wall, then hacked the wall with an axe just inches next to her head. Amongst other things.

The magistrate heard Bill's smarmy and incompetent lawyer, Bradley Brazington saying things like, 'If it pleases the court, your worship, my client would like to set aside this order.'

To which the magistrate replied, 'Does your client need to come to the complainant's residence or place of work for any reason?'

To which Bradley Brazington Esq said, 'Uh... no... uh... your worship.'

And so, the protection order was finalised. With Bill Morris turning a deep red at the incompetence of his lawyer, and the idiocy of his own game plan ringing in his ears.

For godsake... the bloke arrived with his lawyer's satchel! Bill, not his lawyer... Bill himself brought the satchel.

What was he thinking? 'I'm a lawyer! If I bring my lawyer's satchel, it'll impress the magistrate, and he'll let me off! I'm a member of the legal profession! We stick together!' Is that what he thought???

Sheesh. What a misguided loser.


The protection order was served. And we now have a pre-issued warrant for William Morris's arrest, should he dare break any of the terms of the order.

And of course, Big Bad Ed is always waiting in the wings.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Using CrazyTalk 5.1 to Make a Talking Animated Self Portrait


I made a quick self portrait in ArtRage to test out my newly purchased piece of software -- CrazyTalk 5.1.
  • Opened CrazyTalk.
  • Imported the painting.
  • Placed the Mouth, Eyes, and Nose points.
  • Masked out the background with a single click.
  • Recorded a voice track.
  • Chose an emotion.
  • Published.

The entire process took less than five minutes. And the little 30 second vid below is just the tip of the iceberg. There's so much more I can do with the software.

Suffice to say that I'll be finding a way to incorporate this into my visual facilitation practice.

The little speech bubble containing the link to my visual facilitation portfolio online is something new to YouTube -- video annotations. You can place them wherever you want in a video. Also amazing. Very useful. Makes YouTube a very good teaching tool.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

An apology for giving offence to the 27 Dinners dudes -- specially to Mike Stopforth

Yo Mike (and everyone who creates 27 Dinners)...

I apologize for making my comments on Monday night's 27 Dinner at Primi Piatti sound smug and blunt and horrid. They really weren't meant to be that, and they weren't meant to be an attack.

In my head, as I was writing, I thought I was being witty, provocative, informative, constructive. Reading back, I actually sound like a frothing dick. Hopefully I'm no syphilitic Mugabe.

I saw Vince's post, saw the comments there, saw that people were offering feedback, and saw that the feedback was being received. So I wanted to add to the pot.

As you know, I'm a big supporter of the spreading of knowledge for free. Everything I write and draw that's not under a commercial contract is open source. So for me, 27 Dinners is an awesome initiative.

My comments probably come from a primal part of my brainstem. I've encountered really bad presentations all through my business life. Even the MOST creative ad agencies and communication houses LOVE 'death-by-powerpoint'. And it frustrates me that so many people continue to embrace poor visual communication.

It's always reallllllllllllllly tricky for me to put my neck on the block by offering critical feedback of events. My income derives from the very people I'm being critical of. And I know nobody likes to come across as sucky. And I know that sucky is a completely personal judgement call.

When you mentioned my makeshift 'screen', at first I was jolted in a negative way. I thought, 'Sheesh! I was doing my best!' About one second later, I thought, 'Fuckit. Mike was also doing his best. And everyone at the 27 Dinner also did their best. Including the drunk American.' And then, about nine seconds later, I thought, 'Mike's right. I'm putting myself out there as a professional visual facilitator. And I didn't even bring my own screen. Shoddy, Roy, shoddy.'

The only reason I didn't buy the same screen you have from Makro on Sunday is that I found it won't fit in my car (I'm in a Mazda MX5, and I need something a bit more portable to get in there along with my other equipment).

So I'm on the hunt right now for something that folds up, rather than something that rolls up. What I'm primarily visualising is one of those round screens, much like the sun guard you get for cars. You know the kind of thing... a metal rim that kinda bends into a small, flat disk, with the screen folded into it. Any ideas where to find such a thing?

So to everyone who I probably offended, I apologize for the offence.

At the same time, I do believe that we can all up our game. More than that... we MUST up our game. Myself included.

Blue skies

Sunday, August 03, 2008

27 Dinners Jozi -- How Can Speakers Be More Engaging, Audiences Better Behaved, and Everybody Happier?

This is a slightly edited version of a comment I've left on a blogpost on MORALFIBRE:

In the post, Vince talks about his experience of the last 27 DINNERS ( evening, at which I did the visual facilitation and live-blogging. Several people have responded in the comments to some of the less-than-desirable elements of the evening. (Luckily, my visual facilitation seems to have been well-received. Phshew!)

The stuff I'm talking about below pretty much all comes from my own experience as a speaker, standup poetry performer, street performer, salesperson, and corporate communications practitioner. I know that some of what I have to say might seem a little blunt, and possibly a tad harsh, and might make me a bit unpopular. At the same time, this stuff does need to be said.
Roy Blumenthal, the visual facilitator here.
If I'm not mistaken, the 'irritating American' was Brian Carl Brown, Chief Operating Officer of Are we talking about the guy who spoke about the golf day that noone wanted to attend??? If so, then yeah... Brian Carl Brown's yer man.

His colleague came up to me while I was wrapping up my drawing and live-blogging of the event, and proposed that Blue Catalyst and I might do some business together. I thought it would be a good idea. And we agreed to have talks about talks.

Shortly after the chat, Brian cannon-balled up to me, and announced, 'I think my colleague might not have gotten the point across. We're an NGO, and we don't have big budgets for our events, which are free.' Blah blah blah, poverty, blah blah, etcetera. 'So actually, we can't afford to pay you R8500 for a half-day's visual facilitation, or R12500 for a full-day. We haven't got money to pay you for the freebies. But if you do those, we might be able to get you some paying gigs. You get my drift?'

At that point, I was no longer listening. I work for a living. And the guy's attitude was actually pretty sucky. (But I think the presence of alcohol at events like this is a MAJOR contributor to the crapheadedness of some of the people present.)

Kate... You really really really really need to take a look at Garr Reynolds's site, PRESENTATION ZEN. Seriously.
  • One concept.
  • One slide.
  • One picture.
  • No words, or VERY few words. Three or four words max.
  • Your slide is a billboard for an idea.

  • It's not an academic treatise to be read and mulled over.

  • A presentation is real-time.

  • It gives people the argument, supported by the facts.
Your presentation was very dense, and difficult to follow, for me.

I was also pretty alarmed at what I assume MUST have been my mishearing a stat your quoted. I THINK you said that the average black South African attends two funerals a week. If that's the case, I REALLY have to see your sources. And you really need to quote those sources. And you need to qualify what that stat actually means. I'm surrounded by some fairly average black South Africans, and, anecdotally evidenced, they absolutely DO NOT attend even two funerals a MONTH. let alone a week.

Re the cultural bias of the audience... hmmmm.... nope. GONG. That's spurious. Your presentation needs to be targeted at the people you're talking to. So if you're talking to an audience of whitey business people, you'd best find the argument that speaks to those people. Show the business-types video footage of the amazing response you're claiming your black audiences give you. Deliver on your premise.

I support Vince's reading of your argument. I feel you're making several untested and unsupported assumptions, and you're really not making that argument 'come to life'. (Yeah... pun intended.)

I like Jason. I know him in the real world. But I don't think his preso cut it.

It started promisingly, with some really cool, simple, single-minded, focused slides, that we pretty much pictures illustrating a single point he was making. From around his third slide, the discipline disappeared. And he fell into the trap of cramming way too much stuff onto the slide, with almost NO logic to how things connected.

A presenter must NEVER have to apologise for the contents of their presentation being unreadable. Dammit. Those slides that he kept apologising for would have been unreadable in a pitch-black room on a high definition television screen. If you can't read your own slide on your computer screen, how the hell are we going to see it on a pasty big screen?

Jason also fell into the trap of telling us WAY too much about his topic. He brain-dumped his knowledge on us. And used ultra-lame examples to ground it. Google and iPhone are NOT great examples of UI. They are great examples of very specific points about UI.

Hone it down, dude. Choose ONE topic, and tell us about that.
Charl has stated in tweets and elsewhere that he felt his presentation was weak.

I think he's probably being a tad hard on himself. For me, his talk was passionate, engaging, real, and grounded. I felt that he was sharing his thoughts with me as a conversation partner. He wasn't brain-dumping. He wasn't spewing facts and figures. He wasn't making unsupported arguments.

What he WAS doing was putting his expertise and experience on the table, and inviting others to share in his interpretation of his own successes.
Case study stuff.
Very nicely done.

One thing ALL of the presenters can learn about is microphone technique.
Here are the rules:
1. ALWAYS do a sound check. ALWAYS. Do NOT simply grab the mic and try to be audible. Every mic requires a specific approach to getting the best sound out of it. Did anyone else feel their ears disintegrating at the plosive 'p' sounds cranking out at full volume? That's avoidable. And easy to deal with.

2. NEVER tell an audience that you don't like using microphones. CHARL! We're there to HEAR you. Make it a JOY for us. We're not interested in your discomfort. And we're not interested in excuses. You HAVE something valuable to say. So embrace the platform, and do it.

3. Most microphones can be dealt with in one of two ways. EITHER put the mic in your hand with your fingers curled up just below the ball of the mic. Then extend your thumb out, and place it on your chin. This puts the mic directly in front of your bottom lip, an inch or so away from the pop-cap. MOST mics work best like this. Keeping your thumb extended in this way keeps the mic in position, and reminds you that you're talking to an audience who are hanging on your every word.

OR, put the mic ON your cheek, touching the corner of your mouth. Yes... that part of your mouth that gets little white spit flecks when you get old. Angle it slightly towards your lips, and keep it pressed to your skin. This only works for some mics. But when it works, it completely removes plosive pops.

4. PROJECT, people. Just cos you've got a mic doesn't mean you can talk like someone with emphysema. Projecting comes from working your diaphragm. Go for voice lessons if you can't get your voice to carry to the other end of a boardroom. And speak into the microphone with booming clarity, enunciation, and conviction.

Mike... this is directed towards you as the Joburg dude.

The organiser of an event needs to control the event. You must not be embarrassed to tell obnoxious winos to shut the fuck up. It's NOT acceptable for speakers to be whooped at. It's not acceptable for drunk Americans to hog the mic for a golf-day that geeks aren't interested in. It's not acceptable for a venue to allow a rowdie party upstairs to noise-out a gig. It's the organiser's duty to deal with these things. Throw people out if you have to. Call a halt to proceedings until things are sorted.

Speakers... YOU have a duty to pause in your talk if the conditions make it impossible to be heard. BUT... you also have a duty to make sure that your talk is fascinating and captivating. SOMETIMES people fidget and chat because the content and/or delivery of your talk is crap. Face this as a fact. Of course, sometimes, it's just the presence of a loud-mouthed drunkard overpowering an otherwise appreciative audience. Don't get so caught up in trying to deliver your message that you fail to see what's happening.

Desperation in a speaker is contagious. And becomes disastrous quite quickly. Learn how to deal with interruptions. Read up on heckling, and how standup comics deal with it. If you don't, you're letting yourself down. More importantly, you're letting your audience down.
Ban alcohol at business networking events.

The number of puke-smelling breaths that blasted into my face as people leered over my shoulder into my tablet-pc all merges into a nightmare swamp of inebriated dumbfuckery.

I have nothing against people getting plastered on their own terms, in their own environment. But when they're attending a geek dinner, aimed at helping them expand their circle of acquaintances, I'd really ask them to question their methods if those methods include quaffing industrial quantities of free wine.

What's the deal? Are they so poor they can't afford their OWN wine? Are they so low on self-esteem that the only way they can derive enough bravery to speak to another person is if they're falling down with pissedness?

Ask yourself this: If YOU were blasting YOUR wine-fumes (vomit-smell, by the way) into someone's face, would you expect them to take you seriously as a business contact? If so... drink away. But stay away from me. If not... then decline the refill of the Stormhoek blogging sensation.
I wonder if the zero-pricing of the event isn't building in an ethos of 'I'm here for myself only, and there are no consequences to me acting like an ass-wad, and I'd love to guzzle eight litres of free Stormhoek plonk, and I'll make a noise if I wanna, and I'll grab the mic when I can'?

Maybe if people were paying for the event, they'd take the speakers more seriously?

What if people were able to get a sliding scale refund based on the crapness of the speakers?
If all three speakers are collectively voted as crap by the audience, then they get a full refund.
And speakers get a cut of the proceedings, so that they are incentivised to deliver great material. (They can give those proceedings to a charity, if they're not in it for the bucks.)

I've been to two 27 Dinners now. Jon Foster Pedley's was the first, and he had the discipline of using Pecha Kucha ( as the basis of his preso. And that made it work really powerfully for the audience. This past one also worked for me, but only cos I was working overtime at trying to pull out salient bits in my visual facilitation. I think if I'd been a member of the audience, the only talk I would have paid attention to would have been Charl Norman's. The other two were simply not gripping enough, and not polished enough, and didn't contain enough of an argument to be compelling.