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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0096 | April 15, 2003
6,500 Subscribers

picture of Steve Davis, editor of the Master Facilitator Journal.

From the Publisher: 

Hello MFJ Readers. 

Our feature article in this issue "Humor Your Workforce with Meeting Merriment," is by Ann Fry and Les McGehee of, a virtual university that specializes in humor and lightness in the workplace. The article briefly explores the negative reception new ideas often receive in meetings and some simple suggestions on how to lighten things up and encourage innovation.

This is the final week to register for our next offering of the "Random Acts of Facilitation" teleclass running from April 21st - 25th. This is a 5-day teleclass, meeting from 1-2PM EDT daily and is a great introduction to facilitation. If you think any of your colleagues may be interested in this course, please refer them to the ad at the bottom of this issue or to

We've also just added a new version of the journal available each week in pdf format free of all ads. These can be easily printed and used in your workshops and trainings or for distribution and education within your network. Click here for details.

If you or your colleagues are interested in submitting an article for consideration, please email your ideas. I'd love to hear from you.

Have a great week... 
Steve Davis


Humor your workforce with meeting merriment

The Point

We are going to continue having these meetings, every day, until I find out why no work is getting done.

-- Unknown

The note reads, "Meeting today at 3:00, conference room, entire team must attend." "Oh, please -- not another meeting!" you think.

Your stress level skyrockets, your workload gets postponed and you rethink the value of anything you might even consider offering at the meeting. You quickly repeat the meeting mantra handed down through the years: "It's better not to say anything, it's better not to say anything ..."

You wish it didn't have to be this way. Sound familiar?

meeting can be called to discuss, to brainstorm, to punish or to do just about anything else. The idea is that a face-to-face, interactive session with individuals and team input is valuable.

The problem is that the team or the individuals introducing an idea in a meeting often are made to feel as if their ideas aren't valuable at all. The new idea often has to prove itself before it even can get all the way on the table. Scrutiny doesn't wait. Introducing ideas in meetings can be like sending the untrained into war.

Here's an example: The meeting is convened. Your team leader opens the topic of discussion and asks for input. You have what initially seems to be a great idea. You don't know whether your team will think your idea is weird or too new. Or maybe your idea isn't new. You feel insecure.

You begin to describe your idea, but right after you start, one of your teammates mentions a reason why your idea isn't viable or smart. It gets dropped. You feel like the problems with your idea were the focus, not the value in it.

Frustration sets in and you keep your mouth shut for the remainder of the meeting. You have learned that new ideas are risky and quickly criticized, so you vow to play it safer at future meetings.

For this and other reasons, many -- if not most -- meetings tend to slowly discourage input over time. Our skills at analyzing and judging overwhelm our skills of acceptance and encouragement. This is especially true of innovative or out-of-the-box thinking. Ideas are shut down instead of heightened.

The good news is that meetings don't have to be that way. How do we defeat this depressing meeting scenario at a time when new ideas are more important than ever? There are many ways to ensure meetings are more positive and productive.


Here are four fun pointers that you can use immediately.

1. Have an appropriate environment.

Choose a location suitable to your group's size. Small rooms with too many people get stuffy and create tension. A larger room is more comfortable and encourages individual expression.

Lighten up the room with a box with toys inside to spur creativity, reduce stress and build teamwork. Also, food is a great way to help establish a lighter environment. Serve light refreshments -- they're good icebreakers and make people feel special and comfortable.

2. Start each meeting by letting someone tell a joke.

Or you could have everyone answer the following: "The funniest thing I've seen at work is ..." or "Wouldn't it be fun to ... ."

Give a little time to get the creative juices flowing. If time is an issue, then you can do what one organization does by having all the meeting members stand and laugh for one full minute before they start. This helps to boost energy for the remainder of the meeting.

3. Go to the bag.

Upon arriving, everyone at the meeting should jot down a simple, fun and short break idea on a slip of paper. These could be things such as "Everyone shake hands and compliment each other for 10 seconds -- go!" or "Everyone stand up and stretch and yawn out loud for five seconds."

The anonymous ideas are put into a paper bag or a company product and left on the table. When the meeting gets too heavy or stressful, someone announces "Time to go to the bag" and picks an idea for a 30-second activity. This is a humorous touch that isn't time-consuming but does help remove the meeting doldrums.

4. "Yes, and ..." exercise.

Here's one of the most fun and positive techniques to get the best out of the ideas offered at a brainstorming meeting. This "proactive agreement" exercise involves embracing and heightening ideas.

Every idea is treated agreeably and encouraged for a brief time as if it's the best idea of the day. You actually start each comment with the words "yes, and." This is done with high energy to expand on the idea offered. A little playful exaggeration is useful here; it pushes the envelope.

Once you have these exciting ideas on the table, you can do the more serious work of analysis. I've seen incredibly innovative, advanced ideas come out of this technique. It's much more adventurous to go too far than it is to inch forward timidly.

Your analysis skills are better applied after the brainstorming, not during. Our analytical mind gets "worked out" plenty on the job already -- it's the agreeable, accepting parts of our minds that need to be purposefully exercised.

Ideally, business meetings should be positive community-building experiences that include fun along with the hard work. Your next meeting doesn't have to bring back boring memories of why you hate them. Introduce some of these light, humorous ideas into your meetings, and pretty soon people really will want to attend meetings.

About the Authors: This article is by Ann Fry and Les McGehee. Check out his website at


Use one or more of the creative meeting ideas above in your next meeting. I'd love to hear what shows up for you. Please email us your comments.

Humor University

Humor University is a virtual university where people in business organizations can major in how to make their work and life full of positive humor and fun.

Change-driven, stress-prone organizations need creative, resilient employees more than ever before. All Humor University workshops, keynotes, and teleclasses are a combination of fun unique games and thought provoking activities designed to reduce stress, enhance creativity, and improve teamwork and morale. Every program is customized to your business entertainment needs, and they are guaranteed to get the audience actively involved, laughing and learning how to apply humor and fun to energize your workplace. The Humor U. faculty is dedicated to eradicating the dreaded disease of "terminal seriousness" by teaching and providing you the resources on how to add humor and fun into your life and work.

cartoon image of a talking man.

Reader Survey 

What is your favorite facilitation scenario? 

What we're asking about here is for you to reflect on what group situation you are most excited or adept at handling? For example, I love dealing with disruptors. I usually acknowledge them for participating, find out what they want, i.e., discover the motivation for their behavior, and help them adjust it to better serve the group.

Please send us the scenario and how you would handle it. Please send your responses to ../contact.html and I'll share with you all the inputs received. 

If you know someone who might benefit and enjoy this newsletter, please send this link to a friend.

About the Publisher
Steve Davis is a Facilitator's Coach helping leaders enhance their effectiveness through the application and perspective of facilitation. Please email or call me at 805-489-4130 to schedule a Free exploratory session, or to share your suggestions and ideas for the journal. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading!

In the Spotlight

New 5-day Teleclass
for new facilitators and change agents.

Skills and attitudes for the new facilitator or group member who wants to get their group into serious motion.

Random Acts of Facilitation, 5-Day Teleclass

This class will meet for five consecutive weekdays April 21-25, 2003 to cover 25+ facilitative actions you can take to empower and move groups forward. This course is for beginning facilitators or group members that simply want to know more about facilitation so that they can make the groups they are a part of more effective.

How the 5-Day Format/Training works...
1. You dial into your class every day for 5 days (Mon-Fri) for a 45-minute focused training segment using a conferencing bridge.
2. You work a 25-point checklist during the 5 days (about an hour a day of study and field work) which you complete by Friday afternoon, or sooner if you wish.
3. During the week, you may access the instructor via email for help or situational questions.

5-Day Random Acts of Facilitation Training Agenda...
Here's what you'll be learning and doing during the 5-Day course...

Introduction to the Facilitation and Self Facilitation Skills.

1. Create the Ambience.
2. Share the Dream.
3. Get Facilitation
4. Juggling.
5. Me First.

Relating with compassion and understanding.

6. Be Ignorant.
7. Make Smiles Happen.
8. Hold 'em High.
9. Acknowledge the Elephant.
10. Turn on Your Crap-Detector.

Group Dynamics and Facilitation

11. Build the Container.
12. Build trust.
13. Mine the Unexpected.
14. Evolve Your Team.
15. Honor the Process.
16. Facilitate Full Participation

Organizing and Presenting yourself confidently, professionally, and authentically. 

17. Prepare for Success.
18. Get Real.
19. Make Experiences, Not Speeches
20. Watch the Body Talk.
21. Be your message

Intervening to shift group energy

22. Tame the Tormentors.
23. CareFront.
24. Use the Struggle.
25. Break through barriers.
26. Facilitate from Within.
27. Embrace Facilitation as a Master's Path

Benefits to you of participating from the 5-Day Random Acts of Facilitation Training...
1. Get a great introduction to the concept and practice of facilitation skills if you are contemplating becoming a facilitator, team leader, board member, manager, mediator, etc.
2. Never waste another minute in an ineffective meeting again.
3. Learn how to challenge and empower every group you come in contact with.
4. Learn skills to help groups make quantum leaps in their effectiveness.
5. Be a catalyst for positive change in your community.

Also included with your training...
In addition to the 5-Day training described above, you also receive:
1. Free access to the participant-only website (lots of resources, forms, etc.).
2. Free access to the RealAudio version of the 5-Day training.
3. Free copy of the Portable Article Bank ($29 value).

Pricing and Dates...
The full cost of training/access is only $79 for MFJ readers ($89 for the general public) including a free copy of the Portable Article Bank ($29 value). Everything you read about above is included. And, we offer a 100%-satisfaction-guaranteed guarantee.

Please click here and you'll be taken to the teleclass registration page. Register there and you'll see your discount computed and applied as you check out. Immediately upon completion of your registration, you will receive an email with instructions to access the course and free article bank. This course is limited to 20 individuals, first come, first served.

About the satisfaction guarantee
If, for any reason, you are not satisfied with this package, simply email us with a request to refund/credit your credit card in the full amount and we will do so immediately. It's our policy to do this and we honor this in every single case. (Why? Because we are sensitive to the fact that you are buying an e-course/product from us and we feel that if this package isn't EXACTLY what you expected or wanted, that you should be able to get 100% of your money back. This policy completely removes the buying risk for you and keeps our customer-satisfaction rates extremely high.)

Real Audio Testimonials
Click here for a one-minute audio testimonial from several participants on the final day of the teleclass.


Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal. Look for your next issue on April 22, 2003.


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