Master Facilitator Journal

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0466, November 16, 2010

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Dear Friends,






Upon returning from a government meeting a friend related to me a very grim scenario that I know happens everyday all over the world. Twenty people were invited from around the country to attend a two-day meeting intended to foster understanding and cooperation between organizations. The collective cost for this venture? Around $30,000. The value? She told me she could have gotten as much from a collection of presentations in an email and saved the stress that comes with two days of travel and two days in a high-stress, smog-filled city. She also said that much of the time was used to market the group on an offering that most of them were not interested in or able to take advantage of at this time.

In this week's article, Ban Status Reporting Meetings, we review a meeting scenario shared by a reader and offer some tips to shift information-sharing meetings to be more collaborative collaborative in nature. I look forward to your comments as always!

Journey of Facilitation and Collaboration (JOFC) Workshop. There are about four slots left in our next Journey of Facilitation and Collaboration Workshop coming the week of January 10th in Madison, Wisconsin. Check out this opportunity to learn an Integrally Informed Approach to Facilitation and Leadership that will help you find and facilitate flow with your groups. Click here for details and registration!

Blessings,

Steve Davis

Founder, FacilitatorU.com



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The Point


Ban Status Reporting Meetings
Don't waste people's time to meet for meeting's sake.
Take the time to prepare truly collaborative processes.


Skill


Upon returning from a government meeting, a friend related to me a very grim scenario that I know happens everyday all over the world. Twenty people were invited from around the country to attend a two-day meeting intended to foster understanding and cooperation between organizations. The collective cost for this venture was around $30,000. The value? She told me she could have gotten as much from a collection of presentations in an email and saved the stress that comes with two days of travel and two days in a high-stress, smog-filled city. She also said that much of the time was used to market the group on an offering that most of them were not interested in or able to take advantage of at this time.

This is not to say that creating events that allow people to get to know each other and create opportunities to collaborate, it's just that most of these meetings are conducted using an old, worn-out, soul-sucking paradigm.

Here's another story I received the other day from one of my readers, Ann Laidlaw, that again fits into the category of "Meetings that Kill"...your time, your energy, and your spirit.

I've "inherited" this project from a full-time facilitator in a hospital who is going on maternity leave. She's already done a lot of agenda building with the team who've decided that prior to any strategy work or planning, they want to get to know each other better. Consequently, the agenda they've agreed upon for this one-day meeting consists of five 45-minute presentations, from each team member recounting their various specialties. From these presentations, they hope to get to know one another's strengths, goals, issues, and begin creating a Commonalities, Uniqueness, Themes workpage. And perhaps to start finding spots where they can leverage each other's work for overall team productivity.

My challenge as a facilitator is to take an already agreed upon agenda and make it interesting and interactive. I am afraid that 45 minute presentations will be very dry and we will lose people by the 3rd presentation. There are also eight very influential group members who refuse to do any "fluffy stuff"!

What I have thought of so far is to challenge this team to form small groups of two to plan presentations that will be creative, unique, such as skits, use of props, drawings, testimonials, and stories. I could create a cheat sheet for them on various things they could do to make the presentations interesting. I thought that those who refuse the fluffy stuff could choose powerpoint to do their presentation and others could choose something else. Do you have any ideas for me here?

As a consultant and coach, Ann was smart in that she knew the process needed to be adjusted and reached out for help in time to make some consultive suggestions to her client. We look forward to hearing how this meeting turns out. Here are some suggestions I sent her and I hope you share these with others who are considering invoking another "Powerpoint Purgatory."


Application


Typical status reporting meetings are a colossal waste of time, yet way too many meetings are still run this way. One of the reasons I believe this happens is because most people are nervous or downright scared about standing up in front of a room to present. So they rely too heavily on a Powerpoint presentation style which far too often means "reading" their powerpoint slides...ARGGGH! I applaud your sensibility that this is off course Ann. Here are some suggestions:

  • Make sure that the people invited to this meeting clearly know it's purpose, what's expected of them, and what they can expect to leave with. In fact, ask for inputs from these attendees as you craft the meeting agenda so that they have a stake it its design. People invited to a meeting without knowing these things shouldn't have come in the first place. If they do show up, they'll be unprepared, which degrades your meeting's effectiveness from the start!

  • Keep information sharing to an absolute minimum "during" the meeting. Get this information out there "before" the meeting and encourage people to come prepared by already having read the material. Request that all material packages be distributed to attendees well before the meeting with an executive summary of no more than a page or two. Give them a format for this summary so that it includes the pieces of information that people really need and want to know.

  • Pure status reporting is redundant. In this age of easy access and sharing of information via fax, email, and the Internet, why are we still status reporting? We can all read, right!? In fact, most of us can read at least five times faster than anyone can talk. So let's not spend time doing that for each other.

  • Ask each "presenter" to design their time to assure "collaboration" from the group rather than presentation (which they've done in written form before the meeting). The opportunity for collaborative work is the most legitimate reason to hold a meeting anyway, so let's use it for that purpose!
  • Offer your help in designing and/or facilitating these sessions. For example, you might suggest participants start by sharing something of their vision and passion for the work they do and then seek input, ideas, feedback on their goals and issues, or whatever serves the particular meeting purpose. Suggest this be done in small groups where inputs are recorded followed by a large group debrief. Collate all inputs on separate flipcharts labeled, for example, Commonalities, Uniqueness, Themes respectively, and perhaps add an "Other" flipchart to catch inputs that don't fit but that might be useful.
  • Provide an uplifting and functional environment. Why are we still serving coffee and donuts and other assorted "junk" foods at presentation meetings? I think because they help anaesthetize us to make the boredom tolerable. If we stop holding boring meetings, we don't need to tranquilize our victims. Have some healthy, hydrating foods at day long meetings like fruit, salads, bottled water, plain yogurt, etc. Scrap the conference tables and set up the room to facilitate communication and collaboration versus lecture and power trips. Assure that the climate controls provide a relatively constant, moderate temperature, or find a venue where this is possible. And finally, please invite people with colds or flu to go home rather than passing it on to everyone else!
  • Ask for help designing the meeting if you need it. If you're not a facilitator, and even if you are, and you feel stumped as to how to design an energetic and collaborative meeting, there's no shame in asking for help. In fact, you show respect for your participants by asking them how they'd like to spend their time in a meeting and by designing sessions that make the most of it, you respect them even more in a way that will inspire their gratitude.

Do you need help designing a meeting and can't find anyone to bounce ideas of off? That's what I'm here for! Send me an email and let me know how I can help.


Add Your Comments


Action

What will you add from the suggestions above to your workshop planning checklist? If you're a participant, offer this article or suggestions from it to the meeting planners to contribute to a more dynamic and collaborative gathering. I look forward to your comments, insights or feedback about this article. Please click on the Add Your Comments and tell us about your experiences or if there's something we've missed, we'd love to hear from you.


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