A conversation with Lauren Green, Owner and Executive Director At Dancing with Markers.

“So the hypothesis is if facilitation were a wider skillset for more people, would we have better meetings, better, more intentional meetings, and better conferences and events? And I think it’s a good hypothesis, but it’s making a lot of assumptions. Because it makes the assumption that people actually know that they have a gap, which means you have to make them consciously incompetent to go back to that. And how do you do that? How do you say, “Hey, this conference kind of sucks? Can we make it better for you?” So I find myself in that situation all the time. How do you kind of awkwardly slip in there that they’re not doing it right?” –Lauren Green

In this episode of Control the Room, I had the pleasure of speaking with Lauren Green about her facilitation journey.  She shares how Organizational Development has changed over the past few decades, how dance has influenced her practice, and how to incorporate more movement into your meetings.  We then discuss why a wider range of leaders need facilitation training and the importance of strong participant communication before and after meetings.  Listen in for practical tips to improve your hybrid meetings.

Show Highlights

[1:45] How Lauren Got Her Start In Organizational Development.

[8:20] How To Bring Movement Into Your Facilitation Practice.

[16:20] Why More Leaders Need Facilitation Training

[30:10] Nuances Of Hybrid Meetings

Lauren on LinkedIn

Dancing With Markers on Facebook

Dancing With Markers on Instagram

Dancing With Markers on Youtube

Dancing With Markers on Twitter

Dancing With Markers on LinkedIn

Dancing With Markers on Pinterest

Meeting Type Quiz

Planning Hybrid Meetings for Facilitators eBook

Facilitating with Visuals Course

Communications Template

About the Guest

As a certified virtual facilitator, certified coach, experienced visual note-taker, and effective leadership development trainer, Lauren Green believes in the power of visualization to support productive and dynamic group processes and knowledge management. Lauren has an extensive toolkit of modalities for designing inclusive, engaging and productive sessions, whether they are held in person, online or in a hybrid/blended format. Lauren is the owner and executive director of Dancing with Markers®, a team of visual practitioners who hold space for individuals, teams and organizations, as they work towards their vision and achieve their goals. Lauren holds a master’s degree in Organization Development and Knowledge Management from George Mason University. Lauren is an International Coach Federation certified coach and an MBTI® and EQi (emotional intelligence) Practitioner.

About Voltage Control

Voltage Control is a change agency that helps enterprises sustain innovation and teams work better together with custom-designed meetings and workshops, both in-person and virtual. Our master facilitators offer trusted guidance and custom coaching to companies who want to transform ineffective meetings, reignite stalled projects, and cut through assumptions. Based in Austin, Voltage Control designs and leads public and private workshops that range from small meetings to large conference-style gatherings.

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Full Transcript

Douglas:  Welcome to the Control the Room podcast, a series devoted to the exploration of meeting culture and uncovering cures for the common meeting. Some meetings have tight control, and others are loose. To control the room means achieving outcomes while striking a balance between imposing and removing the structure, asserting and distributing power, leaning in and leaning out, all in the service of having a truly magical meeting. Thanks for listening. If you’d like to join us live for a session sometime, you can join our weekly Control the Room Facilitation Lab. It’s a free event to meet fellow facilitators and explore new techniques so you can apply the things you learn in the podcast in real-time with other facilitators. Sign up today at voltagecontrol.com/facilitation-lab. If you’d like to learn more about my new book, Magical Meetings, you can download the Magical Meetings quick start guide, a free PDF reference with some of the most important devices from the book. Download a copy today at voltagecontrol.com/magical-meetings-quick-guide.

Today I’m with Lauren Green at Dancing with Markers, where she uses visual tools to facilitate, coach, and create meeting artifacts. She is also the author of the recently published e-book Planning Hybrid Meetings for Facilitators and the online course Introduction to Facilitating with Visuals. Welcome to the show, Lauren.

Lauren:  Thank you so much for having me. I listen to the show and it’s really such a joy to be here, so thank you.

Douglas: Absolutely. And as usual, let’s start off with how you got your start in this work.

Lauren:  Sure. So I am actually a second-generation facilitator. My mother was a facilitator. She worked for a government contractor for 20 to 25 years. So I knew about the world of facilitation, the world of organization development through her. And I went from being a professional dancer, jazz musical theater contemporary, into communication. So I made a pivot after my professional career into communications. And something about that transition to the workplace was really difficult for me. And I was always fascinated by why things were the way they were in organizations. And why can’t I touch that? And is this my fault or is this just culture?

So that fascination evolved into moving into a master’s program and organization development. So I went to George Mason and I felt that master’s in 2016. And like most folks from the organization development field, you sort of find where you want to play. And it’s usually a choice between maybe longer-term consulting and change, and often shorter-term facilitative engagements. And I really liked more of the latter. In particular visuals, I discovered the power of graphic facilitation while I was in grad school and said, “Okay, this is dance. This is communications. This is OD. I found it. This is my thing. Let’s do it.” So the light bulb went off and yeah, that was about seven years ago. So I worked with a team for a while. I worked with the OGSystems now Parsons visionary team, which is still very active and still very much a part of that network. And I’ve been independent for about three years.

Douglas:  Excellent. I want to come back to the fact that your mom was a facilitator. You’re a second-generation facilitator. It’s almost as rare as a second-generation astronaut. So I want to hear a little bit about your impression, especially I was already formulating this curiosity and then I hear that you have a master’s in OD. So I was already curious to know what you thought of when you looked at your mom’s work in OD back in the day, compared to the way things are done today. What are some things that you’ve seen change? And I guess there are maybe three tiers now, because it’s what you learned from your mom, what you learned in school, and then now what you’re noticing in practice.

Lauren:  This is a good one. I have the answer right on the tip of my tongue for this. And I think you’ll have thoughts on this too. And the thing that started happening in my mom’s career over the last 10 years, and she’s retired now, is the reduction of investment in leadership development programs. The replacement of what was one to two week plus multiple times a year, send people away and really immerse them in self-development, particularly when it comes to leading and managing others. It just doesn’t happen anymore. Some of the military groups still have those programs, and I see a difference. I see a difference in the leaders who I work with who’ve had that and the ones who don’t. And a trend that I think has happened as a result and maybe you’ve seen this is this bent towards coaching now. And I’m a certified coach. So I fundamentally believe in the power of coaching, but coaching does not replace leadership development.

So maybe you’ve seen these RFPs that go out for huge coaching initiatives. I mean, I’ve seen RFPs go out for, “We need to coach 200 people.” And you have to go, why is this happening? And what is going on in the cultures of these organizations? And my personal opinion, this is not tested. So somebody please research this is that over time, the de-investment in leadership development programming has left a gap and coaching is the hot thing. So that’s what we’re doing. And it can work, but it’s not the only answer.

Douglas:  So for our listeners, when you think about the difference between leadership development and coaching, how would you define the essential differences or how would you differentiate the two?

Absolutely. And actually, I would really love your answer on this as well. That leadership development, the way a lot of the programs are structured is leading self. So understanding yourself at a deeper level. What triggers you, what are your tendencies, preferences are. Leading teams, understanding group dynamics, and leading organizations. So understanding communication strategy and change management. And coaching is a skill set that involves listening, asking questions, and coming to the table with inquiry rather than advocacy. So those skills are important in all things, but you often don’t get the models and the big picture understanding of systems that you get in the leadership development program. I’m curious what you think about this.

Yeah. I think to me it’s definitely the curriculum, right? Because a coach doesn’t typically bring curriculum unless that’s their style and that’s what they’ve been brought in to do. Maybe the coach that’s been hired as a trainer. So they’re doing this combination of training and coaching. But yeah, if it’s pure coaching, you’re right. It’s just listening. And also it seems to be very targeted at a challenge someone’s facing. And to your point, if they’re not been exposed to the models, if they don’t know what to look for, maybe they’re blind to the challenge. It’s sort of like what is that model? Which is you’re unaware of your incompetence.

Lauren:  Oh yes, this is good. First, you’re unconsciously incompetent. You’re unconscious. And then you become aware that your incompetence and then you’re consciously competent. And then you start to grow your skills. So then you’re consciously competent. And then when you don’t have to think about it anymore, then you’re unconsciously competent.

Douglas:  Yeah. So I feel like to your point if folks are in that zone of being unconsciously incompetent, and we’re just throwing a coach at them, then they don’t even know what to bring to the coach.

Lauren:  Absolutely. And by the way, this is Noel Burch. Actually, I’ll give it to you. I drew this for my leadership development program because I love using this as a startup principle. So if you want to put this in the show notes, I’ll send it to you.

Douglas:  Awesome. So I want to talk a little bit more as well about the professional dancer experience. And of course, the name when you said that I was like of course Dancing with Markers. It’s pretty awesome. And I never knew for a fact that there was a personal dance connection, but even the name kind of conjures up this concept up to kind of play and even inviting and embracing emergent qualities. Which is to me when I think dance, there’s this kind of dance with what’s happening. Right? And this kind of reactive and being okay with the emergent. So I don’t know. I’d love to hear your thoughts around how your experience with dance and just how you embody the name.

Lauren:  Thank you so much for that. And thank you for the beautiful explanation. That’s absolutely what it’s meant to embody in terms of the meaning and how it applies to facilitation because there’s absolute, in a dance there’s leadership and followership when you’re dancing. And then there’s the felt experience of being a facilitator in the room. And then there’s how you bring movement into the space, which is even harder when you do virtually, but not impossible.

So for me, the connection point and maybe a life mission is how do you bring more movement into facilitating? And how do you bring more facilitation and good group practices into dance? And I have always found that different dance environment, and this would be similar to sports teams are also in desperate need of better group dynamics and even training and team building. And a lot of kids have a hard time with different experiences in these programs. So this sort of goes both ways.

I’ve always struggled with bringing more movement into facilitation, and I’ve talked about this with different people before. Because using our bodies or asking a group of people to use their bodies is such a vulnerable experience. I mean, dance is one of the most intimate things that we can do with our bodies. So how do you bring movement into a program with an environment that may or may not have side ecological safety? Then you have to find ways to bring movement in that is safe, and it’s maybe a little bit more approachable. Like stand up at your desk, turn your camera off, and do a stretch. Maybe that’s all it is.

So I think that I had different experiences with dance that were a little rough, but shaped me in some good ways. So I’m very passionate as a result of that, about positive team dynamics. But what about you? Have you ever been on a sports team or anything like that where you’ve kind of experienced some various dynamics at play?

Douglas:  I’m immediately brought to this pandemic that we’re all in and how so much of what we did prior to early 2020 was embodied. Then we became these squares of video feeds and always would tell these stories to people around us. If you’re in a room with people, you’re moving around, you’re leaning over, you’re getting up and putting something in the trash can just to get rid of nervous energy. But when you’re in a Zoom call, you’re kind of stuck because you’re inherently following the rule of thirds. Even if you don’t even know what that is, right? Because you want to be in a good frame.

So I agree. As much as we can have something embodied, even if it’s not asking people to do something super serious, how can we as leaders design in something that’s really simple? I love the stretch, stretch and share are what we call it. And that’s a fun one on model turn-taking, right? Because everyone shares a stretch and then they call the next person. But there are tons of ways to get up and just grab something near you. And it can be very simple little games that can drive a lot of connection.

Lauren:  I totally agree. I think it’s got to be simple and approachable because that’s what people feel safe doing. Occasionally, you’ll get a special group where you can do something a little bit more interesting. I love working with dancers. I do a couple of workshops a year with different dance groups, and I love working with dancers because they’re just so excited to do anything movement-oriented. The fun one if you have a really good group is similar to what you just said. I call it flocking. If we were in a room together, we would have people stand in the middle of the room, and everybody facing the same direction. A person in front, whoever’s in front starts to lead a stretch or a movement. And as they start to turn, then the front of the room changes. And whoever’s then in front picks it up and does the next movement. So you kind of have this connection you have to really tune into, the group dynamic. So that’s flocking.

But you can do that on the camera just by having somebody start and then maybe vocalize okay, I’m passing it to such and such a person, or even have the facilitator type into chat. “Okay. It’s this person’s turn,” if you don’t want to verbalize, so then you can kind of do some interesting thing. And anything you do in the room, there’s an online version of it. It just takes a little creativity.

Douglas:  Yeah. I agree. And it’s not always about just translating. Sometimes we have to listen intently or just ponder the intent, the purpose. Because we might have to adapt it because the situation and the environment are different. One of my favorite Zoom ones is to prompt people to think about a person that they trust the most, or if you needed to catch a ride to the airport who would be the first person you would call? And then having everyone point to that person. But the cool thing about Zoom is no one knows who anyone else is pointing to.

Lauren:  Yeah. The anonymity that you can achieve in an online meeting is a benefit in some ways.

Douglas:  Even that simple pointing is a way to embody. We’re forcing a little bit of movement. I really miss the human histograms. Did you ever do this in person?

Lauren:  Yes, I did. That was actually the first time I ever facilitated, I was 17 and I did one for a school project. They’re so fun.

Douglas:  Especially ones that require some conversation. Because to your point, it’s simple. It doesn’t require much vulnerability. You literally just, “Everyone line up by birthday.” And then people had to start talking to figure out okay, well I know if I’m in the summer, I’m probably over here somewhere, but I had to start talking to a few people to figure out where exactly I line up.

Lauren:  Yeah, exactly. And then you’re bringing the environment in as well. Yeah.

Douglas:  So much fun. And then I think any of this stuff, the real magic trick is when we can tie it to the content. Whatever we’re working on, if the prompt, or the goal, or whatever we’re having them embody or move around helps them have an epiphany around the work. Then now we’re cooking with gas.

Lauren:  Do you ever have anything on your desk that you fiddle with?

Douglas:  Yes.

Lauren:  What is it? Can I ask?

Douglas:  So many things. In fact, I’m fiddling with a Paper Mate Flair medium tip pen right now.

Lauren:  Really? That’s so funny. I’m always holding a pen. I’m always holding a marker, but this is getting into a different direction with it. And I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on this, but Kinesthetic Modeling and the work by John Ward. He would have boxes of scrap he called it, put it out on the tables. And there’s sort of this meta-level of observation that you can do as a facilitator to see how people interact with the things that are on their table. Or even getting into Lego serious play and how do you build the system with the materials that you’re given? So I just always think it’s interesting the online version of that is what’s on your desk that you’re playing with? And what is that bringing up for you? For me, this pen, there’s something about holding a pen, holding a marker that I just feel more confident when I’m doing it. It’s almost unconscious.

Douglas:  I love that. We have a game we love to play called touch blue. And we call it to touch blue because a lot of times we just start with the color blue. But find something that’s blue. And then we pick our favorite object that we see on the screen, and whoever is holding up that favorite object gets to pick the next color, and then they pick the next winner. And it’s a fun way to bring the environment in and a little bit of movement because you got to get up and go move around your room to find those things. And usually, stories erupt. Right? Because people are like what is that? And then they have to share and talk about what it is.

Lauren:  People love it. You get folks that just don’t want to do the Energizer and icebreaker stuff, but it just changes the meeting. And you’re right. Making it purposeful is really key. So what was that experience like of storytelling and how would you like to bring that into our discussion about our strategy? So there’s always some way to creatively tie it together. But that’s a question I’ve gotten sometimes. So I’m curious how you handle the project lead or the leader who says, “No, we don’t want any of that icebreaker stuff.”

Douglas:  Well, one anecdote to that is to not give them the agenda. And never use the word icebreaker. I don’t typically use that word.

Lauren:  I don’t either.

Douglas:  But for instance, I’ll say, “Okay everyone, we’re going to get started.” And then I just facilitate a thing and everyone enjoys it. And I think another anecdote is to make sure everyone always knows why we’re doing something. So I’ll say, “Hey, I just want to wake everyone up real quick,” you know? And then they know, “Okay, I see why we’re doing this.” So setting the expectation is really powerful.

Lauren:  Yep. You just kind of do it. We’re going to do a thing. The purpose is this. Here you go.

Douglas:  That’s right. That’s right.

Lauren:  Maybe with slightly less sarcasm.

Douglas:  This has all been a really great buildup to something that we talked about in the pre-show chat that I want to make sure we have time to talk about. And that is this need for a broader awareness of facilitation skills. And not only when it comes to making meetings feel more engaging, thinking about the energy in a meeting, how people are showing up, or how we take care of the people. But also to your point around leadership development is a major gap for a lot of people right now and how facilitation itself is such an amazing form of leadership development. Just focusing on our people, how we can support them, and how these tools can make us be better leaders just is a huge opportunity for companies.

Lauren:  Absolutely. Absolutely. So I fundamentally believe that facilitation should not be this secret sauce skill that … I wish that I have even had facilitation skills in undergrad working on group projects. Just this idea that it’s reserved for a special group of people while I know we’re so special, it needs to be a skill set that’s wider. And I see applications and gaps as I’m sure many of you who are listening could think about, “Who is my life would benefit from a little bit more facilitation skills?”

And leadership is a big one. Leadership, not that leaders need to be jumping up and facilitating their three-day offsite. There’s always a need to have a facilitator who’s got a big toolkit of modalities who can come in and lead these transformational experiences. But just the ability to be able to actualize this thing we call collaboration and inclusion, these buzzwords that a lot of … we talk about them as values, but we don’t know how to actualize them. The way we do that is through facilitation and through how we create space. So that’s my shtick these days. It’s something I’m really excited about. And I think that can be triggering for some people, but I’m really curious what your thoughts are.

Douglas:  Well, it’s funny because when we were in the pre-show chat, you mentioned this might sound odd to you or counterintuitive as a facilitator, to think about this facilitation of the masses. And it’s 100% in our ethos. And I would like to point out a quote we have in the book Magical Meetings, and it goes like this. There’s no such thing as bad meetings, just bad facilitators. Because if you’re calling a meeting, it’s your responsibility to make it awesome. And when people don’t take that responsibility seriously, or don’t learn critical facilitation skills or critical gathering and meeting skills, that’s what’s making this problem systemic. And I agree with you that if we can change that, then we have the ability to make massive change across companies, institutions, organizations, and groups of all kinds.

Lauren:  I know you had Mr. David Sibbet, the godfather of graphic facilitation. I love that episode. I know you had him on recently. The leader of a little organization called The Grove Consultants. And their OARRs chart, O-A-R-R, outcomes, agenda, roles, rules, the four things you always start any meeting with. Just that, just that little something can change a whole meeting. Just starting a meeting, right, and closing a meeting right.

I think that a lot of this is not, it’s not super intense or complicated, but it’s these little things that project managers and leaders can do to ensure that people know why we’re here. And at the end, what we’re leaving with and what’s next. And just imagine the types of organizations and teams, and profit even we could have if our meetings were run more effectively.

Douglas:  Yeah. I mean at the end of the day, we spend most of our lives in work. Even with a good work-life balance, these are good chunks of our days, five of our seven days of each week in work. And if we can make that more enjoyable and the meetings are at the epicenter of all that time we spend together. And I think you’re right. It’s not about having a giant library or repertoires of lots of skills. I mean certainly, people can specialize in those directions, but there are some really simple moves that people can make. I mean, how about just clarifying purpose and making sure everyone knows before, the minute it hits their calendar, why we’re gathering?

Lauren:  I actually have a communications template. It is on my website. If you search Dancing with Mural, you’ll probably see this. I have a communications template that you can grab. It’s a Google Doc, but I know it’s in that blog. And I do the comms for anybody I work with because I don’t trust anybody to send out good comms. And I think, it’s just a simple template fill-in-the-blank. Here’s why we’re meeting. Here’s where our facilitators are. Here’s the goal. Here are the logistics. Please make sure you do these things. One, two, three, boom, boom, boom. And if you want to be a super overachiever and you want, here’s a sandbox from Mural you can play with. So just something like that. And I always write it for my clients because I believe that when you don’t send good communications beforehand, it does affect the outcomes of your meeting. Because people don’t know why they’re there.

Douglas:  100%. It’s amazing to me whenever I look at the engagements where we handle the scheduling and all the outreach and comms to use your word versus the ones where the client does it. And it’s night and day. And to the point where we’re pretty particular now that let us just take care of it.

Lauren:  Yeah. “Let me just take that off your plate. Let me send that for you.” I’ll send that to you as well. I’ll send you the links if you want to include them.

Douglas:  Yeah. We’d love to put that in the show notes. We’ll get it in there for sure. The other thing too is I’m a huge fan of encouraging people to rename their meetings. In fact, one of the templates of Magical Meetings is let’s look at our purpose and think about is it clear when people see that on the calendar what this is?

Lauren:  Yes. Yeah. It should be clear. And the title, I listen to Amy Porterfield’s podcast Online Marketing Made Easy. Love it. She’s all about marketing, but she’s also about mindfulness and not killing yourself while you’re trying to do it. And she talks a lot about the importance of the subject line. And in this case, the meeting title. And it should be clickbait. People should want to come to it. I don’t know how you do that with your weekly tag-up. But if it’s something special, put a little bit more intention behind what you’re calling it so it’s clear and interesting.

Douglas:  I think the inverse is true as well, right? Because if someone doesn’t belong in the meeting or they’re not going to get value out of it, they can tap out too.

Lauren:  Right. Right. That goes back to Mr. Harrison Owen’s Open Space. The Law of Two Feet, if you do not feel like this is valuable, then it’s up to you to exit and make better use of your time. Now that’s a little controversial. I don’t know if you could apply that to all meetings. But I just wonder if meetings were run better and more clearly, that people would feel like they actually had fewer meetings on their calendar and would really understand and know what it is that they’re meeting about.

Douglas:  100%. I’m a huge advocate of making meetings optional. Because then that’s a great signal on what people are finding value in. And if they’re not finding value, that’s a huge signal.

Lauren:  Yeah. So there’s these general meeting skills. And then there’s also a gap in how we do conferences. And you see a lot of panel speaker Q&A, panel speaker Q&A, that kind of a model. But then if you actually ask the organizers what their goal roles are, they’re things like, “Well, we want everyone to feel like they’re able to share their knowledge and wisdom.” Well, that’s not a panel. That’s an Open Space. That’s a World Cafe. So even exposing conference organizers to these tools that they could be using or bringing a facilitator to engage is also a big gap, because that’s really how you create a learning organization communities of practice is through those types of modalities.

Douglas:  So relevant. So on point. I think it hits on many different fronts. There’s a lot of cross-sectionality between different industries and different techniques. And that was something I noticed around facilitation. Every industry has its own little flavor. You’ve got design thinking, you got the architecture folks, you’ve got the OD folks, you’ve got the game-storming people. And there are some folks that have crossed over in the different spots, but you’ve got a lot that just stays in their lane. And there’s a lot of potentials to cross-pollinate. Are the conference people actually tuning to what’s happening over here with game-storming for instance?

Lauren:  Absolutely. There’s so much cross-pollination needed. So the hypothesis is if facilitation were a wider skillset for more people, would we have better meetings, better, more intentional meetings, and better conferences and events? And I think it’s a good hypothesis, but it’s making a lot of assumptions. Because it makes the assumption that people actually know that they have a gap, which means you have to make them consciously incompetent to go back to that. And how do you do that? How do you say, “Hey, this conference kind of sucks? Can we make it better for you?” So I find myself in that situation all the time. How do you kind of awkwardly slipping in there that they’re not doing it right?

Douglas:  I think it comes down to a core facilitation skill modeling. We had to demonstrate. Right?

Lauren:  Absolutely. I’m curious when you talk about modeling if you can think of an example or story where you had successful modeling with a group.

Douglas:  Oh gosh. Well I was thinking about our conference, right? We try to run our conference differently and we do our thing. So anyone that attends that certainly is going to go, “Well, that’s different.” How might we do our conference or how might I take this back to my company and say our user conference could be a lot better than this? Or whatever. Right?

Lauren:  Absolutely. Yeah. That cross-pollination. Did you find that you had kind of a mix of audiences who were able to attend?

Douglas:  Well, yeah. We had folks in the room and folks virtually, which was an interesting thing this year around supporting hybrid, which was I would say much more difficult than virtual or in-person. Right? Because you’re running both simultaneously and there are integration points. It was really interesting being able to support both and connect to at various points in the day.

Lauren:  Absolutely. Yeah. And I would love to hear your learnings on it. I put out an ebook Planning Hybrid Meetings for Facilitators. And I have a one-hour workshop that goes with it. And I start both by saying there is no silver bullet for the hybrid. It’s just more work. It’s more thought process. And I think that facilitators were being asked to lead meetings that are hybrid and format without very much thought like, “Could you just do this in hybrid format? We’re just going to have two people come in.” And it can be very startling for many, very stressful, and really hard to know what to do in that scenario. So I’m really curious what you think about hybrid, A. And then B, what you’re telling fellow facilitators when it comes to how they might proceed.

Douglas:  My joke is always that hybrid is hybrid. So basically, you don’t know what kind of hybrid we’re talking about. Are we talking about two different offices that have 50 people in the meet that need to be connected? Are we talking about one group of five people that are distributed virtually and then a couple of people in an office? Are we talking about five different offices that are networked together in some way? And then also, those different distribution models are how people are geographically distributed. But then how is the content, and the needs, and responsibilities distributed? Because if you’ve got two offices that are in a hybrid session but each office is responsible for different things, then your breakouts could be designed such that when you’re in the moments of working on the specific things, it’s just in-person. And you only need to program hybrid stuff when they come together in those moments that punctuate togetherness across the different roles. So it really matters so much around the distribution, the makeup, the goals. And what’s trying to be accomplished. To your point, there’s no silver bullet because you have to think through all those different components. I’d also say that hybrid is not a live stream.

Lauren:  Yes, absolutely. Yeah. That’s not what we’re talking about. When you say hybrid meeting, we’re talking about a meeting. There’s something that we have to work on together. Live stream is easy. That’s easy.

There’s a group that I’m about to submit a proposal for, and they really want a hybrid meeting. And I’m going to tell them not to do it. And I feel very nervous about that because I know they really want it, but there are factors and cultural implications of their organization that I just think that they’re going to have more trouble if they try to do their events that way. Because one of their issues is concerns about inclusion. And even along the lines of racial inequity. And I just get curious about what happens if everybody who registers and comes in person is white, and everybody who’s online and tends online as a person of color. And then what dynamic does that play?

And I just think that the hybrid format can create some inequities that if you’re not really, really tuned in to the process, could actually further the gaps. So it’s sort of in this particular situation, I’m thinking that they should really level the playing field and have everybody on the same platform. Have everyone be remote. You have to consider almost the perception that it creates by doing it hybrid. You sort of think, “If we do a hybrid meeting, we’re being more inclusive because anybody can do whatever they want.” And if you’re not really careful and intentional about it, it could have the opposite effect.

Douglas:  Yeah. Being attune to that inequity is pretty critical. And I would say that it’s sometimes, these second and third-order effects that we don’t anticipate. And it’s important to think through those. Right? What does that mean? Do we need to think about our invitations and what we ask of folks? Because certainly having a segregated meeting doesn’t feel like a progressive move.

Lauren:  You got to be careful. It’s being intentional. So I developed a meeting quiz. I would say it’s still in a pilot phase, but it’s an online quiz. It is about 12 questions. And then it tells you should be an online meeting, in-person meeting, a hybrid meeting, or you don’t have enough information yet? And I think I’ve had about 150 completions, and I get about 40% of the results to turn out online, maybe 30% hybrid. And I’m trying to remember. And then maybe 15 or 20% if I’m doing that way. But the 15 or 20% turn out to be in-person. And then a handful the rest are question marks.

I think that’s kind of interesting because what I try to do there is really create a resource for facilitators to kind of protect us a little bit. So the hope is you give it to clients and you say, “Here, take this. Let me know what it says.” So that you don’t have to do quite as much advocacy, but it helps the groups that we’re working with really think through okay, is this going to be the right format? And should it really be something else?

So I’ll send you that link as well. And I’ll say this. If it doesn’t churn out the result that you were hoping for, let me know because that’s good feedback. And I just want people to be thinking through these core questions.

Douglas:  Yeah. It’s really cool. I’d love to see it. I’ll check it out myself, and we’ll make sure to get it in the show notes. Because I think it’s a question a lot of people are having.

And I’ll just throw one other little point and get your thoughts here before we wrap up. And that is when we put together our thoughts around hybrid and try to formulate some of the ideas, to me, it was all about the point of engagement. And if we were to just throw a bunch of people in a room and then have some people dial in remotely and we just kind of threw them in the Zoom. I mean, even we weren’t just segregated based on different demographics, etc. There’s certain inequity just in the lack of preparation and the lack of supporting people equally across the methods of engagement, right? Because if the people in the room are using sticky notes and everyone remotely is just chatting in Zoom, how is that equal? How’s that a shared point of engagement. Right? So whatever tool we use I believe needs to be shared so that if someone is providing input ideas, capturing insights, it’s immediately visible to someone in-person as it is to someone remotely. And we have that shared understanding that’s kind of in sync.

Lauren:  An absolutely. And it’s just about planning for it. A very common hybrid model is everybody in the room except for a couple of people. And I think if you have that model, then using sticky notes on templates is okay, as long as you have somebody who can represent that person.

I actually got kind of clever with this if I don’t say to myself. I was inspired by Sheldon from the big bang theory. I stuck an iPad on a stand and I had it joined as a Zoom meeting. And then that was the remote participation in the room. So I call it Mani the meeting mannequin. I have two now and one’s Mani, and one’s Pedi. And I didn’t come up with that. I wish I could take credit, but so I have these meeting mannequins. And they’re kind of fun, especially if it’s just a few people online. And then you make up for the rest of it by having somebody write for that person on their stickies or wheel them around so they can see. So you can kind of get away with it that way.

If you have a bigger ratio of people online though, a shared platform is more important. So then you have to think through okay, does that mean that we need to have a laptop in every breakout group so that if you’re sitting in the room, you can be on Mural? Or does that mean that whatever it is, a Google Doc or something where people can have this shared collaborative space so that we’re not even worrying about the stickies, it’s kind of that shared virtual space?

And then you have to ask, “Okay, if we’re employing that much technology to make this happen and it’s getting really complicated, are people in the room even going to feel the benefits of being in the room?” So you have to ask yourself each of these questions. And that’s what I was kind of doing with the book. I try to say okay, what are really the questions we need to be asking and let this shape our planning process?

Douglas:  Awesome. Well, I can’t wait to check it out. I haven’t had a chance to download it yet, but I’m going to do that soon. And we’ll make sure to get it in the show notes, along with the quiz, and also the Dancing with Mural article you mentioned.

Lauren:  Yep. I’ll send you that. I’ll send you the comms template, the quiz. And the Burch model, since we covered that.

Douglas:  Yeah of course. We’ll get all that in there. But before we go, I just want to give you an opportunity to leave our listeners with the final thought.

Lauren:  Well, would love to connect with you. The Dancing with Markers community on Facebook, you can find us there. Also putting out a lot of content on the blog these days. So definitely check out our blog. Our toolkit has a lot in it as well. It’s where you can find the ebook. So if you go to dancingwithmarkers.com, you can click on our tool book, find our ebook.

But the other item that folks might be interested in is knowing that I’m a visual facilitator, I actually have an online course Introduction to Facilitating with Visuals, which is a comprehensive course for facilitators who want to add visuals to their practice. So not just drawing, but how to improve flip charts, how to design templates, how to design templates. And Mural. How to draw live and on the fly even when you’re in front of the room, and some visual energizers in there as well. So you can check that out.

But otherwise, I think the final thought is just to keep sharing your skills. What can you share with somebody this week that’s just going to help them build their facilitation practice?

Douglas:  Excellent. Yes. Please do check those things out, and we’ll have some in the show notes as well for easy access. And Lauren, it’s been such a pleasure chatting today. Thanks for joining.

Lauren:  Thank you so much for having me. It’s been awesome. I’ve been wanting to connect with you for a while. So this is super fun.

Douglas:  Thanks for joining me for another episode of Control the Room. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive updates when new episodes are released. And if you want more, head over to our blog where I post weekly articles and resources about working better together. Voltagecontrol.com.