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How will you now look differently at meetings?

Posted on June 29, 2006

Bu Joan Eisenstodt

There is a wonderful facilitation tool ("Q-storming" (tm) ) coined by Marilee Adams (author of, among other books, "Change Your Questions, Change Your Life") that is a great way to begin to challenge yourself and those with whom you plan meetings to look at meetings differently.  In Q-storming, one asks questions. It thus differs from brainstorming where answers are given.  If we begin to ask simply "Why are meetings done 'that' way?" and someone says "Because we always have" it is time to ask more.

If we begin to observe our own learning - if we read what others like Jeffrey Cufaude and Sue Pelletier and Art Shostak and others have written about learning and creating communities at meetings, if we observe people in meeting and non-meeting settings, we can begin to take these observations and learning experiences and  make meetings more dynamic and on target for the audiences we want to attract.

Tyra Hilliard, who  posted after the "I Hate Meetings" "gurublog" the other day has some great information that she said I can share here:

"We remember…

  • 10% of what we read
  • 20% of what we hear
  • 30% of what we see
  • 50% of what we see and hear
  • 60% of what we write
  • 70% of what we discuss
  • 80% of what we experience
  • 90% of what we teach

Tyra went on to say: "This interesting article on visual learning by Marcia Conner suggests that to enhance learning, we drop 90% of the words from our PowerPoint slides.   http://www.fastcompany.com/resources/learning/conner/013006.html   To me, the key is that some people learn very well from PowerPoint (like me – a visual read/write learner).  Others find it distracting and annoying (like kinesthetic and some aural learners)."

If you take what Tyra has said, and examples of others, and your observations and begin to Q-storm, you might wonder: If we set the room in concentric circles of chairs with aisles every 5 chairs, how would the dynamics of the group, of learning, of building communities, change? When people leave a session before the conclusion of the session, where do they go and why?  What impact does their leaving have on their ROI? On the organization's ROI? Will they continue learning and if so how?  Was it the learning facilitator's [speaker's] style that drove them away? If the content wasn't matched to their needs, what might be done differently?  Did they need more discussion or an opportunity to share their knowledge [that is, teach] during the session?  After a general session, what would happen  if, instead of going to disconnected breakouts, we had facilitated discussions about the applications to our work of the content from the general session?  How do those who attend our meetings learn?  When do they participate? When do they sit back and close down from participation?

Jeffrey Cufaude chuckles at me and says that I must really care about learning and meetings - that I keep trying even when the obstacles seem so great.  I do and I will continue until facilities [listen up facilities!] begin to teach sales and service and management and owners about how set up impacts adult learning so that meeting space sold for a meeting is sufficient in size and scope; until meeting planners become more aware and more willing to challenge the status quo of meetings as we've always known them; until our industry professional organizations and publications take a look to Art Shostak's article and examples of schools for learning examples at meetings. And until .. well, until I am no longer alive. 

Don't though count me out even then: I am sure I will be the "Ghost of Fabulous Meetings" who will come back to nicely haunt your meetings and move the chairs into circles from the awful theatre and schoolroom sets.



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Kathleen Zwart

Joan posed this question "After a general session, what would happen if, instead of going to disconnected breakouts, we had facilitated discussions about the applications to our work of the content from the general session?" and I wanted to share what we did during our Leadership Development Program several years ago.
We rolled it out first to our officers then, several months later, to the directors. Both groups listened to the same presenters - primarily well-known outside facilitators.
The officers were tasked with creating Action Teams to work specific issues utilizing the learnings from the sessions. Many of the plans created by these teams were later implemented throughout the company.
When the directors participated in the same program, each day we invited officers to the meeting for the last hour of the day. We broke the directors into however many groups we had officers to sit with - about 10-12 per group. Each officer then facilitated discussion around what was presented that day (this was a two- week-long program spread over 2 months). They encouraged the directors to immediately think about how the learnings could be applied to their specific jobs and situations. They shared what their Action Teams had been able to accomplish by utilizing the learnings. The directors were encouraged to start their own Action Teams to begin immediate use of what they were learning in the program.
The feedback from both the officers and directors was that this was the most beneficial training they had ever received. When the officers worked in their Action Teams they were able to put to use what they had learned. These learnings were again reinforced when they became "teachers" for the directors. The directors were then encouraged to share with their direct reports as they created their own Action Teams.
We have tried to continue this type of interaction whenever possible as it has proven to be the best way to learn and retain.
I'm also a facilitator for the Franklin-Covey 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and one of their concepts is the Teach-to-Learn. This encourages participants to teach each other during the class session but also to share the concepts with others in their lives. I have heard from many participants weeks after the session that they finally "got" a concept when they taught it to someone else.
Some great ideas presented by Joan - as usual. Thanks for allowing a great forum for us to share and exchange ideas.

MaryAnne Bobrow


I know you are a fan of Q-storming and I agree that a tool like this is needed. I use another tool that I prefer called Appreciative Inquiry which produces similar results.

Regardless of the tool used, the need for "asking better questions" is prevalent.

I chuckled when I read the quote from Tyra. There is a huge poster in the Lied Library training center on the UNLV campus that lists all of this! I love it.

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