I calculated one time that I have spent one year of my life on conference calls. If you are like me, the worst thing you can do is to be on a conference call where it was unproductive. My measurement of a good and valuable conference call is that every participant feels as though they contributed and it was worth their time to be on the call. Here are some basic tips for those leading conference calls to get the most of their participants’ time.
1. No agenda – no meeting. Would you get in your car and start driving without knowing where you are going? No! Of course not. So why would you join a conference call that you don’t know why you are on the call or what the expected result of the meeting is. Agendas should be sent out in plenty of time for the participants to have time to complete any tasks assigned to them. If you have not assigned any tasks to anyone, and are not expecting them to update the group, then why are you having the meeting?
2. Leaders need to be inclusive. If your meeting consists of the leader of the group talking more than 50% of the time, I would like to suggest you send a memo instead of hosting a meeting. The reason for meetings is to engage the total group in working together to complete a task, mission or objectives. If your group is not engaged and volunteering to help with the projects that are on the agenda, then the committee needs to have a discussion about its priorities and what is important to everyone and the organization.
3. Respect those who show up on time. When you state that a meeting is starting at 8am, for example, the meeting leader should be on the call ready to go by 7:50 am for those who are on early. The meeting should start promptly on time and late arrivals should be acknowledged at the end of the meeting. DO NOT STOP and re-iterate everything that has been said when someone arrives late. Offer to stay on the call and “catch them up” at the end of the meeting. If you continue to start over, people will start to call in later knowing that you are starting later and they won’t miss anything. Also it disrespects those who do show up on time. Things do happen and people are late and always will be. Staying on to coach them on what they missed helps them and also honors the group that was on time.
4. Use technology that is available. There is technology that will make your calls better that doesn’t cost you any money. An example is startmeeting.com has an online screen display for the meeting leader (host) that shows you who is on the phone. You can watch as people join the audio call and call out their name, saying hello. It will give you a record of the length of time that someone is on the call. Using technology, you are able to see who is creating that background noise and mute them. They will get a personal voice memo that says “You have been muted”. You can then un-mute them in a few minutes to see if their background noise has stopped. Lastly you can record the calls and share them with those who were unable to attend. Have you ever considered just sending a recording of the call for your minutes?
5. Come to a conclusion at the end of each meeting. Have a wrap up portion of the meeting. Confirm who is doing what, when the next meeting is and how you will track actions and follow up. In a future article we will visit options for tracking action items.
You have seen them. They are the people that always have a different opinion. They know the ONLY way to do something. They don't want to even consider another way. We have all worked with them. Everyone wants to know how do we deal with that type of person?
Before you can deal with that type of person, you need to look at why do they take that hard stance? What is it that makes them feel that they are right?
Generally, people take a difficult stance for one or more of the following reasons:
These are just a few of the real reasons that people behave in a difficult manner. I believe there are underlying issues for most people when they behave in this way. Your meetings need to be structured to mitigate these behaviors. You may not be able to prevent them all but you can certainly start to establish a process to reduce them. Here are just a few suggestions.
One of skills that is growing in demand is "facilitation" skills. To be adapt at designing and facilitating meetings takes training and research. ICA-USA and ICA-Associates, Canada have spent decades developing facilitation training based on successful implementation of those methods. Consider taking one of the two upcoming classes offered by ICA-USA and ICA-Canada. ICA-USA ToP TM Facilitation Methods will show you two methods (Focused Conversation and Consensus Workshop) and one process ( Action Planning). The ICA-Canada class will show you how to determine the "right" people to have in the room, develop agendas, room set up, flip chart tips , 72 activities to use in your meetings and how to deal with difficult people.
More information on the "Meetings That Work" course from ICA Associates of Canada can be found at http://www.ica-associates.ca/product/meetings-that-work/
For information on offerings in the Florida area, visit our training page on this website at Face-to-Face
No matter how much you prepare in advance for a meeting, each person has different expectations of what would mean a successful outcome of the meeting. Each participant brings with them their own experiences, knowledge and ideas. If you give participants an opportunity to share their idea of what success looks like, you will not only give each of them an opportunity to have their voice heard and know what a successful outcome would mean to them.
Example: If you are facilitating a meeting to evaluate a current practice for improvement, some potential outcomes may be: "Identify what practices need to be change, added or deleted" or a different outcome may be, "Create a who new set of practices" . If someone is anticipating the project to be completed at the end of the meeting and the actual outcome is just a "step" in that direction, they will be disappointed.
The following exercise will help you to gain clarity on what the participants expectations are of the meeting.
Procedures in person:
Procedures for virtual meeting with and without break out rooms:
Attribution: Canadian Institute of Cultural Affairs Meetings That Work, Jo Nelson's Meeting Tools, IAF Methods Online Database, Rosemary Pell, Pell & Pell Systems, Inc. Ontario Canada
For more tools like this consider attending the Tallahassee location of Meetings That Work, 2 day workshop developed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs Canada. This is the first time this class will be offered to the public in the USA.
Virtual meetings are becoming more common than in person meetings today. I personally facilitate over 20 standings meetings per month for committees or training opportunities. My goal is to engage each person on the call and make them feel as though they contributed to the outcome of the meeting.
I was once a participant on a virtual call and I was able to mute my phone and vacuum my office without ever having to un-mute. The presenter read each of the slides on the screen and I didn't even have to look at the slides. I often wondered why they didn't just send them out to everyone to view on their own time. If they were worried that no one would view them, they could offer a contest for answering questions related to the content. I felt that it was a waste of my time and hope to lead a meeting like that.
Here are some quick tips for your next virtual meeting or training.
At the conclusion
Meetings less that 20 people with participant audio
Keeping participants engaged
Practice and use available technology
Meetings without participant audio
Of course, do not offer a dial in phone option, you don't need one. I have been on a call where you had to dial into a phone line but were never un-muted. I could have listened through my computer speakers and text any questions.
Use polling questions to keep participants engaged.
Ask participants to answer questions using a chat box. Some platforms (Adobeconnect) will offer multiple chats that can be topic specific as well as person to person private chats.
What tips do you have to add to this list?
Nothing could be further from the truth, but so many times that is the impression we give people when we refuse to seek others opinions and input.
Many times we “think” we know the answer to our questions. Therefore, we don’t ask. We feel that we understand other situations so well that we don’t need to ask them. We don’t need to survey them. We don’t need to tell others what they think is important.
When you don’t seek out feedback you are missing out on….
When you fail to ask others what they think, you are short-changing yourself. You have only one set of experiences to base your assumptions on….your experiences. Everyone experiences life differently, has different realities and different answers. It is up to you to invite others to share their point of view and their answers. You may even surprise yourself with the answers you receive. You may find out you really don’t know it all.
What is your meaning of ICEBREAKER? For most, it is an activity designed to familiarize the group with each other. Sometimes it goes like this. “Tell me your name, your role and why you are here today?”. Be careful that you don’t start the the meeting off with data that everyone already knows. If you are facilitating a group of people who know each other, you don’t need to introduce them to each other or ask them why they are there. Most likely they are there because someone told them to come and I”m not sure you want to start off your meeting with those answers! You don’t want them to say, “here we go again, another stupid meeting”.
Keep in mind the participants, and their familiarity with each other. The ice breaker is meant to get people used to speaking aloud in the group and to be comfortable with their voice. If someone speaks during a meeting in the beginning, they are more likely to contribute throughout the meeting.
Designing a meeting is like writing a play. Each scene is carefully crafted. The difference is that the actors write their own scripts! You, as a facilitator need to consider what do you want the group to achieve at the end of this meeting and how do you want them to be different or evolve as a result of this event.
Design your “icebreaker” to have meaning that contributes to the outcome of the meeting. If you are meeting over a project that has just been completed, your “ice breaker” can be a discussion around what do the participants remember most about the project. It could be a reflection on how has this project completion affected them or their departments?
If you are looking for “ice breaker” activities, consider the “reason” you are doing it. Is there a communication problem with the group? If so, an ice breaker than brings to light communication problems that can then be discussed as a group, and takes the “blame” off the group for having bad communication. They may recognize habits they personally experience during the discussion and debrief and you can then develop a list of what makes “meaning and effective communication”?
Think about each of your activities and write down on paper, what do you hope to achieve by each one? It will shed some sun light on your design and keep your ice breaker from melting in the sun.
Dougherty, Inc.2388 SE 17th Terr., Homestead, Fl 33035Phone: 888-400-1029 Email: Laurie@Dougherty-Inc.com