Valuable work gets done in the breaks when running workshops
I’ve been running a large event kicking off the collective working capability for several parts of a multinational company.
There were people representing 4 organisations each of which had annual turnovers of several hundred million pounds.
I thought I’d share what happened. We had to think on our feet a lot….
- Developed the workshop bringing 20 or so people together to develop collective working capability over two days.
- Spent weeks planning the event
- Planned down to the minute (we had expected highly structured, task oriented types present)
- On the day the plan got busted within the first 5 mins when the client asked for something different than I’d been told – ok we fitted that in.
- Then these tasky, structured types started to get more creative and overran our timings, so we ran with the energy in the room and made space for this.
- Did more prep in the break re-planning on the fly (this was possible because we’d put all that work in beforehand)
- The end of the event we got real success achieved everything we set out to.
So why am I telling you all this?
In the feedback session we asked what had gone really well about the event, where the real value was
The answer – It was the tea breaks where we got the most value
My inner reaction for a microsecond – OH NO!
[for those of you that facilitate you'll know the mind works in the fast lane where you are stood up there]
Then it suddenly occurred:
- Yes they were right, the real value was in the unstructured dialogue when people were relaxed
- But if I’d just brought them together for a tea break :
- They wouldn’t have come
- Nothing would have happened
- So the structure is needed to get things started
- Then allow space for people to start to feel safe
- Then allow time for all that relationship building stuff to kick in
- Stand back and try not to interfere.
Learning for me..
- Build in longer breaks, let people talk
- Allow space when people in the room get energised
- Your plans can change
- It’s the result for the people in the room that matters
The event was such a success we’ve been commissioned to take it to other parts of the organisation.
I’m now busy planning more overseas trips
Funny old world isn’t it.
Consultants Anon is one of the groups I’m facilitating and is going from strength to strength.
It is a non-profit making organisation and designed to keep a group of expert consultants in a wide range of fields at the cutting edge of thinking.
We have people involved from all over the UK and also in Europe.
Meeting physically is an option for some but we cannot get everyone to attend each meeting due to the distances involved.
We are playing with mixed physical and virtual meetings using skype video conferencing, this is what we have found so far:
- Mixed physical and virtual meetings work well and increase the participation in the group
- We have people present in a meeting room and virtual attendees using the Skype group video conferencing facility on a laptop.
- As a facilitator I found you need to make an extra effort to mention the vitual member’s names when inviting comments as they find it hard to judge when to make a comment.
- The cameras built into laptops are ok for 1:1 conferencing but not for group conferencing
- Using external ball webcams works much better – better image resolution and the built in microphones give better sound for virtual members.
- The speakers in laptops are surpisingly good and virtual members can make themselves heard.
- The group video conferencing kept crashing on us and this was the main drawback
Our next meeting will bring virtual members in on individual laptops as this seems more stable for video conferencing.
If you are reading this from Skype please feel free to comment.
I have recently been facilitating a few virtual meetings using Skype and they have gone rather well.
For example in one meeting we had 15 people in the “room” from several locations in Europe and picked up on a few learning points I’d like to share:
- The first thing was not to assume that the time was the same for everyone, central Europe was an hour ahead of the UK and this needed to be made clear in setting up the meeting.
- If people call you on Skype while the meeting is in progress you place one call on hold while you answer the other call and this can confuse people.
- As facilitator, you can save a lot of confusion by making it clear that you will call everyone and bring them in to the meeting.
- The technology enables people to join in from smart phones such as the iPhone. This is fine but I have found that people are less likely to be aware of the background noise which can overwhelm the meeting – ask people to mute their microphone when not talking. This solves that problem.
- One of our members could not get the microphone to work. Keep an eye on the messaging facility (IM) because we brought this person into the conversation by asking questions on their behalf.
- Copy and paste the IM record into a word processor as once you have closed the virtual meeting call you will lose all messages. This helps the note taking.
- Oh and finally if you are facilitating make sure you have the latest version of Skype. you can tolerate version differences if you are a member but if you are the facilitator of the call it can cause call dropouts and interrupt the flow.