Archive for the 'events' Category

Nov 18 2014

Good Suggestions for “Fixing the Q&A” Session

whatsyourstoryerealitiesThere is a useful post on the HBR blog by  that is a good follow-on to yesterday’s post about webinars. Thomas talks about the mismatch between the intention for interaction with the audience, and the poor design of most Q&A sessions that happen after keynotes or talks. Here is a snippet, then I have some amplifications below.

Some solutions to the Q&A dysfunction already exist. Some hire a professional moderator or use software tools to crowdsource the questions. Others experiment with radically new ways to run events, such as the unconference movement. However, those solutions are often expensive or time-consuming to deploy, making them infeasible for many types of events. Here are four techniques that I’ve used with great results, and that can be deployed without any kind of preparation:

  1. Do an inverse Q&A. An inverse Q&A is when I the speaker pose a question to the audience, asking them to discuss it with the person sitting next to them. A good question is, “For you, what was a key take-away from this session? What might you do differently going forward?” People love the opportunity to voice their thoughts to someone and unlike the traditional Q&A, this approach allows everybody to have their say. It also helps them network with each other in a natural manner, which is something many conferences don’t really cater to.
  2. Ask for reactions, not just questions. When you debrief on the small-group discussion, insisting on the question format makes it awkward for the people who just want to share something. As you open the floor, specifically say “What are your reactions to all this? Questions are great, but you are also welcome to just share an observation, it doesn’t have to be in the form of a question.”
  3. Have people vet the questions in groups. An alternative to the inverse Q&A is to ask people to find good questions in groups. Simply say, “Please spend a minute or two in small groups, and try to find a good question or a reflection you think is relevant for everybody.” Then walk around the room and listen as people talk. If you hear an interesting reflection, ask them to bring it up during the joint discussion, or bring it up yourself.
  4. Share a final story after the Q&A. Given that even the best-run Q&A session is unpredictable, it is best to have the Q&A as the second-to-last element. I always stop the Q&A part a few minutes before the end, so I have time to share one final example before getting off the stage. That way, even if the Q&A part falls flat, you can still end your session with a bang instead of a fizzle.The above methods can help you turn any keynote into a better experience. What other techniques — ideally simple ones — have you seen or used?

via 4 Ways to Fix the Q&A Session – Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg – Harvard Business Review.

The first thing I really want to amplify is the focus on questions – thinking about them and forming them more intentionally, both from the presenter and from the people formerly known as the audience.  Crap questions generate crap responses. People seeking to be heard often respond in kind with crap responses because they were so busy getting ready to speak, they weren’t listening. So we also see a relationship between crap questions and poor listening. As a speaker, it is your/mine/our job to bring value by offering good questions and to both role model good listening when we hand off the mic, and to make it easier for people to listen well.

How do we make it easier for people to listen well?

  • Present well. This is covered well other places, but if we are rambly (spell check suggested “brambly” which also fits!), unclear or just off point, we will have lost the audience well before the Q&A. Why not aim for having people SO EXCITED by the time you finish speaking…
  • ...so that the only solution is to let them have a conversation. Start with table or pair conversations so this energy can be unleashed, rather than squelched by passing a single mic and constricting/controlling that energy?
  • Harvest. The presenter’s job is then to harvest what was generated out of all that energy, and Thomas’ suggestions are spot on. You can also do post it note harvests, capture visually, among many options. The point here is you steward, you become of service.

One response so far

Nov 17 2014

Beyond the Webinar

The earthLet me confess right up front: I really don’t like webinars. Too often they feel “done unto me.” I am powerless, at the mercy of the organizers. I may have access to a chat room (Thank Goodness!) But more often than not, these are content delivery mechanisms with token participant interaction in the form of crowded Q&A segments or polls with varying degrees of relevance. What is worse is that I have been a perpetrator of these practices so I continue to try and change my evil ways.

Changing ingrained habits requires some reflection – of self and of the state of the practice of these so-called “webinars.”  Recently I had the chance to offer feedback on a webinar I experienced as a recording.  I’ve edited/generalized my thoughts to share. In a follow up post I’ll reflect on my own practice — this is where I need to cut to the bone!
1. Us/Them: It is logical for an organizer or organizing agency to want to  appear well prepared for sharing their work. We all like folks to know we “did our homework.” We get our slides spiffed up and appropriately formatted for the webinar tool we are given. We time our remarks. We practice speaking clearly and at an appropriate pace.

The challenge this presents is that the end product puts the speaker and/or the organization at the center. We create an us/them dynamic before the event even starts. Think about set ups where the only ones who can use the voice tool to communicate are the organizers. Those who bear the presentation file are in control of the message. The tool administrator(s) control the process (i.e determining that they speak for 60 minutes, then there is Q&A.)

The use of a one way style of presentation reinforces the power dynamics of the speaker/expert/organization as central, and everyone else as “audience.” All too often, the audience is never heard. Is that a good use of precious synchronous time? Why not send out a video or narrated PowerPoint? An online gathering is time better spent as a multi-directional mode of “being together” — even online. This does NOT diminish the importance and value of content we “deliver” to others. Here are some options to consider.

Options:

  • Move away from meetings that are primarily broadcast which holds control with the presenter. Sharing information is essential, but synchronous time should always have significant multi directional interaction. For my colleagues in international development, I think everyone has values of inclusiveness and shared participation. We have to “walk this talk” in webinars as well.
  • Small things can create or break down us/them.  For example don’t just show where you are on a map at the start of a webinar, add dots for all the participants and their locations. Better yet, use a tool that allows them to add their own dots. Help the group see not only you,  but “we” – all the people working together about something we all care deeply about.
  • Because we lack body  language online, it is useful to really scrutinize our language.From the wording in the slides and by the speaker, consider changes in language so that it is more inclusive of the participants.

 

2. Strive for  good practices for learning/engaging online. Webinars in general run the risk of being even less engaging than a dark room face to face with a long PowerPoint. There is a saying in the online facilitation world “A bad meeting F2F is a terrible meeting online.” So we need to be even more attentive to how we structure online engagements to reflect a) how adults learn b) the high risk of losing attention (especially due to multi tasking) and c) the cultural and power diversity inherent in your group. Quality content is important, but it alone is not a reason to use an interactive platform — you can deliver content in many ways. Choosing a synchronous mode, to me,  implies interaction.

Options:

  • Consider keeping online meetings to 60 minutes. If not, do a stretch break every at 30 and 60 minutes. Say “let’s take a 60 second break.” Stand up, stretch, look away from the screen and give your body a moment of respite. We’ll call you back in 60 (90-120) seconds (sometimes a bio break is useful!)
  • A useful rule of thumb is to break up information presentation with some means of audience engagement/participation every 7-15 minutes. Use polls, chat, “red/green/yellow” feedback mechanisms, hand raising, checking for understanding, etc. This may mean you have someone facilitating these other channels if it is too distracting for the host and speakers. (Over time it does get easier, but practice is critical!)
  • Take questions approximately every 15 minutes vs holding at end. People stop listening carefully and are thus less prepared to ask questions after longer periods of time. (They are also more prone to multitasking, etc.)
  • Don’t just deliver information – use narrative. Stories hold our attention better than a series of bullet points. In fact, ditch those boring slides unless you are using the printed information to make it easier for people coming from a different first language.
  • Deliver the useful content in a different manner and use the webmeeting entirely for questions and interactions. Send a recording introducing the team. Send a narrated PowerPoint about the topic. Keep these content packages smaller. For example, if you were trying to give an overview of a portfolio of projects, you could break it up into some sub packages. 1) about the team 2) strategy, 3) project descriptions, 4) monitoring and evaluation strategy, etc.
  • Secondary tip: Do not think of these information products as polished products — don’t waste energy overproducing. That sucks the human element out of it. Imperfection is a door to engagement… seriously. Moments of uncertainty, tough questions — these engage the participants.
  • Stay relaxed as a narrator and speak at useful pace for understanding, particularly for those who have English as a second (or third, fourth) language. Keep that human touch. Add little bits of personal information and affect. Be human.
  • Let participants ask question verbally, not just in chat if possible. While there are many technical complications and sometimes the burden of accents on unclear audio channels, voice brings again brings in that human element. (Video does too, but there are bandwidth considerations. When you can, consider using it.)
  • Encourage collective note taking in the chat room or with complementary tool. When people share this task, they listen more carefully and the begin to learn about each others strengths and insights as people add additional information or annotations.
  • When someone asks a question, note who asked the question. This helps everyone see that people are heard, even if the audio option is not practical (for various reasons, no mic, etc. )  At the end of the call, specifically thank by name those who asked questions to encourage the behavior for future interactions.
  • In Q&A sections, consider a visual to help people pay attention. Use the whiteboard for noting the questions, answers, links that refer to what has been spoken about, etc.

There are a few ideas. What are yours?

Also, here are some previous posts about similar issues:

No responses yet

Feb 11 2014

Liberating Structures for Knowledge Sharing

Last Friday I was lucky to be the Mid Atlantic Facilitator’s Network February speaker. Of course, instead of talking about something I was totally comfortable with, I decided to explore the application of Liberating Structures to knowledge sharing, AND to explore the use of the structures in an online “webinar” environment. Nothing like jumping off the bridge. But the water was wonderful. I owe a lot to the hosting team (thanks Dana and Fran), the daring participants who were willing to push their use of Adobe Connect a bit further than normal, and the support of the wider LS community of users.

Here are the cleaned up slides. I included cleaned up versions of the chat transcripts in the respective “harvest” slides (which started out blank).

We are building a nice bunch of people who want to experiment more with Liberating Structures online. If you are interested, check out our LinkedIn group and join us!

via Liberating Structures for Knowledge Sharing.

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Sep 11 2013

A Focus on Online Facilitation During International Facilitation Week

peterblockquestionTim Bonneman blogged yesterday about the International Association of Facilitators “International Facilitation Week.” He pondered…

I wonder if anyone is planning any events related specifically to online facilitation.

I started to comment on Tim’s blog, but realized the length of my response suggested I blog here and link back, so here goes…

Hiya Tim,

I think this is an excellent idea and, alas, for me, the timing sucks. I have put a red line on my to do list promising myself not to bite of anything else. (I’m doing an action research project on how to usefully evaluate the socio-technical stuff associated with organizations’ “collaboration platforms!!” And yes, i bit off WAY more than I should have! See this previous post)

But I think your idea is really good and that there is a network of people out there that would benefit from a week of distributed connection, learning and reflection.

Online facilitation practice has  diversified since I jumped in in 1996. Some of those sub areas have matured. For example, the practices around “online community management/facilitation” have had great stewardship by folks such as the Online Community Roundtable (Shout out to Rachel Happe and friends) and others, and there have been really interesting developments in the facilitation of learning online (see Tony Carr’s work and kudos for pulling together some seminal work around facilitation of learning at University of Cape Town in South Africa). There new generation of online community people who are (re)discovering practices us old timers used back in the early online facilitation days, and adapting and expanding them in new ways and for new contexts.

The proliferation of tools, particularly tools that enable connection outside of bounded groups (such as Twitter, Facebook, and previously the emergent networks that were formed BETWEEN blogs and commentors) has led us to an era that is not just about online group facilitation, but online network stimulation and facilitation. June Holley’s work in network weaving (which to me is still a lot about bounded groups but working in unbounded spaces) is an example.

These tools have also greatly expanded the possibilities of dispersed collaboration, but  I have to say, this seems like an area where a few have succeeded (some wildly) and many have been left with grand dreams that turned to empty promises. I think this is because we are talking about facilitating both between people and between organizations and their politics, policies and structures. So we have a blend of facilitation and organizational development, if you will.

So the field is rich for reflection and ripe for dreaming.

Nancy

8 responses so far

Jul 18 2013

2013 Public Graphic Facilitation Workshops – 2 in Canada!

As usual, Michelle is more organized than I am and got a post up PDQ for our upcoming September workshops.

Registration is Open!

Locations and dates: Rossland, B.C. (September 23-24) and Vancouver, B.C.* (September 26-27).

Rossland Worskhop Pricing: $850+GST (5%)

Rossland Workshop Registration: Email: michelle.k.laurie@gmail.com

Vancouver BC Details: *Please note the Vancouver workshop is being hosted by BC Campus & The University of British Columbia. For details and registration, contact them directly: http://scope.bccampus.ca/course/view.php?id=377

Drawing on Walls at the 2011 Graphic Facilitation Workshop in Rossland, B.C.

Workshop Description:

This experiential workshop takes place almost entirely at the drawing surface. We’ll start by warming up our drawing muscles and silencing those pesky inner censors. Next, we’ll build into the basic practices of graphic facilitation and recording. We will pay attention to preparation, the actual visual work, and follow up including digital capture of paper based images. Finally, we will devote time to participatory graphic approaches, practicing and giving peer feedback. You can expect to go away with icons, ideas and approaches which you can use immediately, as well as ideas about how to hone your practice.

See Sylvia Currie’s great video from the 2011 workshop here!

See our Harvest from the 2012 workshop here!

Looking for the nitty gritty on what the workshop will cover? Download the details: Rosviz_Tools_Takehome_List

When might we use this practice?

Sometimes our imaginations are sparked by a visual where words fail us. Think about when communities plan and imagine their futures, when teams consider the possible outcomes for their projects, when groups create maps to track their progress. These are all opportunities to use visuals to engage and deepen community dialogue. You can use visual thinking to improve teamwork, communications, meetings, build engagement and to plan work. Step out of the PowerPoint rut! Or at least ILLUSTRATE your presentations!

Who should attend?

Facilitators, project managers, team leaders and members, town planners, teachers and anyone who would like to engage others beyond words.

Please note: You do NOT need previous experience or have to consider yourself an artist. At some level, we can all draw and use visuals to enhance our communications and engage diverse audiences.

Testimonials from 2010, 2011 and 2012 participants:

“I am still on cloud 9 after the Graphic Facilitation workshop. Thank you soooo much. I feel recharged after that! You two are such great facilitators. You were willing to bend over backwards to ensure we were comfortable and enjoying ourselves/ learning to our full potential. There wasn’t a moment that I was not completely engaged during the workshop. “

Maddy Koch, Community Planning Assistant (2012 workshop participant)

“The graphic facilitation workshop that Michelle and Nancy provided for Alberta Agriculture staff in fall 2011 was fantastic! They began by setting the stage through careful preparation with the intention of the participants knowing it would be a safe place to learn, stretch their abilities and try new things. And it worked. Participants found the workshop to be energizing, fun, and interesting, but most of all useful. Everyone walked away with ways they planned to incorporate the concepts into their daily work to better engage co-workers, partners and clients. From using it in everything from agendas, minutes, flipcharts and handouts; to ice breakers, meetings, and team building; to note-taking, brainstorming and other planning processes; the graphic facilitation techniques are here to stay. A huge thank you to Michelle and Nancy for lighting the fire!”

Sharon Stollery, Ag Industry Extension Branch, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (2011 workshop)

“What the rosViz11 gave me was the permission to draw without having to be an “artist”. Such joy! Thanks Michelle & Nancy.”

Laurie Webster, Consultant with Cognitive Edge and 2011 Graphic Facilitation workshop participant

“The workshop with Nancy and Michelle has inspired me to think more visually and to use graphics – mostly hand-drawn – in new ways that replace handouts and PowerPoints, resulting in more dynamic conversations.”

Lynne Betts, Communications Consultant (2011 workshop participant)

“I have so many good things to say about the workshop I don’t know where to begin!”

- Sylvia Currie, Curriculum Development and Academic Growth, BC Campus (2010 workshop participant, 2011 mentor)

“I really thought the workshops was useful for me, and I’m not an artist. In a short period of time (2 days) I was able to learn simple and effective techniques to communicate basic ideas using symbols, easy figures, and colour. What I really liked about the workshops was that it was BIG. Big paper, whole body movements, large images. I’ve always drawn on small pieces of paper and this was a whole body experience!

We also did some great listening exercises where in a short period of time, we had to illustrate big ideas (that were on an audio recording). It was a lot of fun and a new challenge.

Overall, two thumbs up!”

- Rachael Roussin, Consultant (2010 workshop participant)

“Thanks for doing this again, Michelle (and Nancy!!). I highly recommend it!”

- Beth Sanders, Populus Community Planning Inc. (2010 workshop participant)

Past workshops have been lots of fun! Click here to see my 2012 blog summary. Click here to see my 2011 blog summary.

We can also travel to you so let me know if you want to see one happen in your region!

Detailed Agenda:

Part 1: I CAN DRAW – Hands-On Writing on Walls

In this session we’ll touch the paper, play with the pens and loosen up our drawing muscles. We’ll address the basics of “drawing on walls” including starting shapes, lettering and some initial iconography. We’ll cover basic techniques and tricks that enable any of us to draw as a way of capturing and communicating ideas with each other. We’ll ask ourselves some questions, such as “What if you draw your notes instead of wrote them?” “Visually captured what is happening at a meeting or in a classroom?” “Engage people beyond words and text?” How would that change the experience for you and others?

When we get tired, we’ll spend some time looking at the work of diverse graphic facilitators, see how books can inspire us and play a bit with materials. Dress for mess!

For a sense of a very short I CAN DRAW session, here is 6 minutes from a lightening fast 45 minute workshop at Northern Voice in 2009.

Part 2: Using Visuals With Group Processes & Facilitation Methods

In the afternoon we’ll explore how visuals can enhance group processes such as planning, meeting and evaluation. We’ll do mind maps, mandalas and simple flip chart enhancements that you can immediately use. We’ll look at the use of visuals with some specific group facilitation methods such as World Cafe, Open Space, Appreciative Inquiry, and others. This part of the workshop includes lecture, conversation and lots of hands on experience. We’ll explore practical applications while we continue to learn to write on walls, the base elements of the practice of graphic recording and facilitation.

Part 3: More on Graphic Recording

Writing on Walls at the 2010 workshop

The second morning we’ll focus on traditional graphic recording (actively listening and capturing what is going on in a group, rather than using graphics as a facilitation device). We’ll review and practice how to listen for key ideas, iconography, and organizing space. We’ll do a number of practice drawings then review our own work. We will hold several practice sessions in the safe space of the classroom. This time will prepare you to record confidently in real work settings.

Part 4: Participatory Graphics and More Practice

Building on our drawing and exploration of visual practices in whole group processes, we’ll experiment more with participatory graphics.

Participatory graphic from Moose Camp sessions, Northern Voice 2011

This is when the pen goes into everyone’s hands, not just the graphic recorder’s. When people “make their mark” it changes their experience and ownership of the experience. It can open up how they talk and think about things.We’ll look at a range of participatory visual practices including methods such as visual icebreakers, “River of Life,” Knowledge Tree,” and other examples. Think about your group’s situations and needs and we can work to imagine practices that might help your real work!

We’ll intersperse our learning sessions with practice and feedback periods. We’ll finish by looking at some of the resources available to “visual practitioners!”

 

Preparation:

  • Come prepared to get your hands dirty.
  • Dress is comfortable clothes that can get dirty and you won’t be sad if they are stained.
  • Bring a pad of paper or journal to take notes – unlined is terrific.
  • Bring a digital camera to record the fruits of your labor.
  • We will supply the basic materials for the 2 days, but you may want to purchase in advance your own set of materials. Details available upon request.

About the Facilitators:

Nancy creating a visual agenda for the day, 2011 workshop

Nancy White: ”I am a learner, mom, gramma and chocoholic. I founded Full Circle Associates to help organizations connect through online and offline strategies. My practices are diverse, including online interaction designer, facilitator and coach for distributed communities of practice, online learning, distributed teams and online communities, doodler and visual practitioner. I have a special interest in the NGO/NPO sector and the emerging practice of using communities and networks for work and learning. I blog at http://www.fullcirc.com/, teach, present and write on online facilitation and interaction, social architecture, social media and visual practices. I am co-author with Etienne Wenger and John Smith of Digital Habitats: stewarding technology for communities (http://www.technologyforcommunities.com). Lately not only do I like to draw on walls (graphic facilitation), but I spend a lot of time cooing over my grandkids!!! For more about my visual practice see http://www.fullcirc.com/about/visual-and-graphic-work/.”

Getting physical at the 2010 workshop

Michelle Laurie is your key contact for more information. “I have a passion for helping organizations and partnerships communicate as well as improve the way they create and share knowledge. I focus on strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation, facilitation and engagement. I have been successfully incorporating visual thinking into my work particularly with the use of participatory graphic exercises and visual aids. I also use visuals in my personal life for planning weddings, newborns and other fun things! My areas of expertise include sustainable development, collaboration and learning.”

RSVP : Please email michelle.k.laurie@gmail.com to confirm your participation and find out more details!

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