Using “the clock” on telecons

Someone asked me the other day to remind them how to use the “clock” technique on telephone conference calls. So I dug out some old image examples and put this together and created a short (under 2 minutes) podcast. The lower images are based on a template one of the Online Facilitation alumni, Ray Guyot, made for us. Thanks again, Ray! Full pictures can be found on Flickr.

Teleconference Call Facilitation Tips

The Clock

“The clock” can be used on conference calls to help people get and keep a sense of place and participation in a disembodied conf call. It can be used with structured online chats as well. Ask every one to draw a circle on a piece of paper and mark the hours like a clock. Then, each person is assigned a spot on the “clock” as they join the group. So the first person is 1 o’clock, the second 2, etc. If there are more than twelve, start adding 1:30, 2:30 etc. Use this initially to create a speaking sequence for intros, and then use it to ensure everyone speaks. Participants can make notations by names and use it as a visual tool to match names/voices/input. If you are doing multiple rounds of “speaking” vary the “starting position” on the clock.

We want to use this in a workshop, so any feedback and suggestions for improvement are appreciated!

Edit: March 17th – Ray Guyot has graciously agreed to share his clock template. Ray Guyot’s Telephone Clock Template (pdf) Thanks Ray

14 thoughts on “Using “the clock” on telecons”

  1. nancy, it’s interesting to hear your voice – i’m so used to your visual impact! really glad you blogged about this – quite liked hearing about the technique at northern voice.

    you have a lovely voice, very soft and friendly. the sound quality, especially at the beginning, was a bit muffled. i don’t think it matters much, though, unless you have ambitions to be known as a technically perfect podcaster.

    thanks for the short length. my auditory attention span is extremely short.

  2. Hi Nancy,
    You asked for feedback and I have to say I don’t like the clock facilitation technique. It’s really boring for me to listen to one person trying to get everybody else pictured in their mind. I don’t have any need to imagine people sitting round a large round table, and I don’t think it helps them to interact with others who are virtually neighbours around the clock in any way whatsoever. All it does is give the facilitator something to talk about everytime a new person joins, so you end up getting too much of the facilitator speaking for no particularly good reason.

  3. Andy, it is always good to get different perspectives. Yes, indeed I have had people tell me that they find the technique incredibly useful and, like you, a distraction.

    That’s the challenge of facilitation – what choices do you make that serve the group without alienating too many of the individuals within the group.

    I will often use the clock early in a series of calls, but let it drop off once we get our rhythm as a group. I think it also depends on the level of experience and comfort of the group in using a group telecon.

    As they say, your mileage may vary!

  4. This was a great idea! I have never thought of organizing thoughts from a phone conference this way. Every other month I have a conference call involving 20 people so many times it gets pretty confusing. I will suggest this to the president of our organization.

  5. I see this as a nice option for organizing notes from meetings in general, whether it is online or not. The beauty of the circle is that you can have people-specific notes on the fringes and group decisions / action items in the middle.

    The added benefit for online meetings is that it does help you visualize “who is in the room”.

    I suspect if I dug into the research field of computer-supported cooperative work, I would find studies that showed this as an effective technique to build into online conferencing tools. Maybe someday all of the major online meeting tools will have something like this built in.

    Thanks for sharing this Nancy – see you at BGSU soon enough!

  6. Hi Nancy
    It is difficult to see the images clearly – or big enough to read. Can you tell me what is recorded in the centre of the clock in each of the quadrants. Is this simply a place to record notes?

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