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Facilitation

In the olden days, external advisors would be called in whenever there is a problem to be solved.  Proposals would be reviewed, contracts negotiated, references checked, and the engagement would begin. The consulting team would show up, diagnose the source of the problem, and help the management team focus exclusively on getting rid of the bad.  Then the real problems would begin.

The problem with this traditional problem-solving model is that the focus on the bad means that the everyday good is ignored. And while the “bad” problem may be solved, inevitably new issues come up because less “good” is being done.

Enter Appreciative enquiry, an alternative facilitation process.  This approach focuses on what’s good – what’s right – and seeks to do more of it. In this way, the bad is “pushed” out. As someone who has facilitated groups using both traditional and appreciate enquiry processes, there is a huge difference in the minds of the participants.

  • When the focus is on dissecting the problem – when the focus is on the bad… everyone feels bad. The problem looms large.
  • When the focus is on the good… everyone feels good. They feel that they can take on the world.  And they do.

While this description is necessarily simplified, the concept is a powerful one – and illustrates how a simple change in methodology can have a dramatic influence on the outcome.

This week’s action plan:  If you were managing a team, which would you prefer – a group that felt beaten up, or a group that felt they could accomplish anything? This week, before jumping to the solution to your next problem, consider how an appreciative enquiry process might be used.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register. 

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com
:  Professional credentials site

www.108ideaspace.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

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One of the biggest drivers of efficiency (and cost-savings) over the last decade has been the growth of virtual team meetings. Who hasn’t received a request to join one, using a technology from Webex, Gotomeeting, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, or one of the dozens of other systems that allow remote connection, screen sharing, and video.

Yet, despite their promise, virtual meetings do have their problems:

  • Disengagement:  Attendees are often distracted, splitting their attention with other activities while pretending to be present at the meeting. (Have you ever heard the click-click-click of others typing during the meeting?)
  • Technology gets in the way: Poor sound, plugins that don’t work, too-slow internet connections, and corporate firewalls can distract from the meeting itself.  (Or maybe everything was working, but the presenter was unfamiliar with the platform.)
  • Remote noise:  Often attendees “participate” remotely themselves… from Starbucks, while driving, walking the dog, etc. Beyond the issues of noise, many of these venues are not conducive to real participation as attention is divided, or they can’t refer to their notes.
  • Used for wrong purpose:  There are times when in-person meetings are better than their virtual cousins; examples include new staff orientation, project kick-offs, interactive workshops, and strategic planning meetings. Generally speaking, when the meeting objectives include building new relationships, require significant interaction, or are just too long, in-person is more effective.

With this as backdrop, here are 20 ways to improve the effectiveness of your virtual meetings:

  1. Put the meeting login information within the calendar and your meeting request.
  2. If a person is unfamiliar with the meeting platform, use the platform to have a one-on-one meeting with them beforehand, to make sure they are ready.
  3. If you aren’t that familiar with the technology yourself, do a dry run.
  4. Record the meeting if it is for training-oriented sessions, but be mindful that recording other types of meetings may stifle open conversation.
  5. Send out an agenda that requires each attendee to “own” a section.
  6. Require participants to do some preparation.
  7. Let participants know the materials they should have with them during the meeting.
  8. Speak to key participants about your expectations re participation.
  9. Share a Google document so that everyone can see the minutes and add back-channel comments live.
  10. Ask one of the participants to take minutes. They can even do it within the shared Google Doc.
  11. Start the meeting early, both to iron out the technology, and to allow for any pre-meeting conversations to take place.
  12. Use video so attendees can see each other.
  13. If you are using video conferencing, zoom in to the speaker so that that remote attendees can see who is actually speaking.
  14. Actively facilitate the meeting by pulling feedback from those who are quieter.
  15. Use a headset so that your hands can be free.
  16. If one participant’s line contains background noise, ask them to mute themselves when they are listening, and un-mute while talking.  If they can’t do this, do it for them.
  17. Use the chat functionality to encourage back-channel conversations.
  18. As the moderator, use chat functionality to prompt specific attendees to address an issue that is being discussed.
  19. Use online polling for straw polls and increased interactivity.
  20. Summarize the action points and next steps, gaining agreement.

Great virtual meetings are just like great in-person meetings – they only are effective if planned and executed well.

This week’s action plan:  While being “virtually effective” doesn’t sound like a compliment, it is.  At your next virtual meeting, choose 2-3 items from the above list; when you do, you will be more successful changing your attendees to participants.

Meetings Insight:  These tips aren’t just for virtual meetings: how many do you incorporate into EVERY one of your meetings?

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com
:  Professional credentials site
www.108ideaspace
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

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