You are currently viewing [Ask us!] Can you keep a secret? Handling Confidentiality as a Graphic Facilitator or Graphic Recorder

[Ask us!] Can you keep a secret? Handling Confidentiality as a Graphic Facilitator or Graphic Recorder

Recently, a new client of ours asked how we’d handle confidentiality and sensitive information captured during Graphic Recording and Graphic Facilitation. The solution to this FAQ? It doesn’t always have to involve “redrawing” charts or skipping this valuable process of drawing out and drawing together people and plans. [This article has been expanded for 2018.]

Granted, our work is about making ideas that are heard, seen. But there are great ways we as Graphic Recorders and Graphic Facilitators can work with clients on sensitive and confidential information, while setting positive boundaries. Some good practices that I have personally found useful include:

Before the Event or Meeting

  1. Offer to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with the client. This actually helps you especially at the contracting stage, as your client can now share important details about the project with you, to help you better assess and plan for the project needs. As with all legal documents, you’ll want to read through the fine print in the NDA to both protect your interests as well as the clients. For example, with more “all-encompassing” NDAs, you may need to negotiate with the client that non-identifying and non-specific visual elements (sans the written content) that you draw in the process of work can be repurposed by you.
  2. Exercise caution if you are working with third parties. Sometimes, the client may task you to take care of other associates or collaborators (who may or may not be engaged by you) for the project. You can either protect the client and yourself by getting these collaborators to sign an NDA with you, or have them respectively sign the same NDA in their personal capacities with the client. As a negative example, I was once involved in a high-security project where I had to coordinate and brief another graphic recording team that the client had hired separately. The lead of the other team, out of convenience, lied that the rest of his team had signed the NDA already. When I checked with the rest of the team whom thankfully I knew, they said they hadn’t signed anything. I very nearly violated the NDA by sharing project details because of one man’s unnecessary lie.
  3. If there are parts of the programme that you know beforehand should be off-records, suggest keeping the graphic recording(s) concerned for internal circulation only. Don’t assume the client knows better. Do them a service and check with them, as they may sometimes neglect to include this as a disclaimer, leading to participants leaking the information into the public domain.
  4. Clarify, if necessary, whether the NDA with the client includes keeping quiet about the client’s identity and the event name. Most times, you can still add the client to your publicly known clientele, even if you cannot share your output from that project.

During the Event or Meeting

  1. Remind the event/meeting host to inform participants of the use/ circulation policy for the graphic recordings, That is,  if this hasn’t already been settled before the event. There have been instances where (to my blessing) I got to share my work publicly, because participants weren’t forewarned and leaked it out before I did. In larger and more porous organisations, for example school networks, having your work seen and photographed by a large group of teachers or students is almost as good as releasing it to the public.
  2. If the client or presenter asks for something to be off-records, respect that and skip that segment. You can discreetly work on an earlier part of the chart, provided that the group is aware that you are not scribing what’s off record. Don’t worry about empty spaces. That can be easily be covered with a unifying visual element, or cropped out during post-processing.

After the Event or Meeting

  1. Was there something that got on the graphic recording that shouldn’t have? Make use of digital image editing (e.g. photoshop) to edit out sensitive information without re-drawing everything. Here’s how I usually do it: immediately post-event, I would invite the client and participants to take a look at the work and ask what else would be important to include. In other words, frame this “check-in” positively as a opportunity for constructive feedback. They might also chip in with necessary edits for accuracy.
  2. Respect your agreement with the client. Share graphic recordings only after the client agrees, or when the charts get released into the public domain. An example: I worked on a closed-door conversation between government leaders. Later, the client shared one of the charts on facebook. I was alerted to this, and went ahead and shared that post on mine too. 🙂


What has been your experience dealing with client confidentiality? Share in the comments below!
Have a burning question about Graphic Recording and Graphic Facilitation? Ask us at hello [at] picturepeopleplan [dot] com or leave a comment. You might just see it answered here!