Video and transcript from Hailey Temple’s talk at Austin’s 2nd Annual Facilitator Summit, Control the Room
Please join us for the Control the Room 2021, which will be held Feb. 2-4, 2020. You can find out more and buy tickets here.
This is part of the 2020 Control The Room speaker video series.
In February we hosted the second annual facilitator summit, Control The Room, at Austin’s Capital Factory. We launched the summit last year in partnership with MURAL to create a space for facilitators to gather, break down the silos, and learn from one another.
The three-day summit is a rare opportunity to bring together an otherwise unlikely group of highly experienced and skilled professionals across various industries and crafts—from strategy consultants and negotiators to Scrum Masters and design thinkers.
Anyone interested in deepening their knowledge on how to successfully facilitate meaningful meetings and connect with other practitioners is welcome. Together, we dive into diverse methodologies, expand upon perspectives, and learn new insights and strategies that enrich our expertise.
This year we had the pleasure of welcoming 24 speakers, all innovation professionals, who shared their insights and strategies of successful facilitation.
Hailey’s presentation focused on designing online meetings for “distributed people with a purpose.”
Through an interactive activity, she explained that the reason online meetings feel weird is that there is a disconnect among participants. To combat this, Hailey offered several ways to bring participants together in online meetings, including defining why the meeting is online, keeping the meeting short and straightforward, incorporating icebreakers, and using MURAL’s concept posters to help individuals organize ideas during the session.
Watch Hailey Temple’s talk “Designing Online Meetings for Distributed People with Purpose”:
Read the Transcript
Thank you. Oh my goodness. Hi everybody. This is wonderful. All right. So we’re nearing at the end of our time together today in this wonderful home space for facilitators. So I wanted to give everyone one last chance to make a connection with somebody in the room. Maybe someone you haven’t gotten the chance to talk to yet, you’ve wanted to, but just been super busy. So what I’d like you to do is stand up. You’ve been sitting for a while, shake it out and do like some jumping jacks. Go for it, shake it out. All right. And what I’m going to give you is 20 seconds to meet somebody in this room you haven’t talked to yet, but you’re not going to introduce yourself as you. You are going to introduce yourself as your alter ego. It could be your superhero name. It could be you after a couple of drinks at the bar. It doesn’t matter. Think about it 20 seconds, go.
It sounds like a lot of you guys are doing this already, but take a moment and share something meaningful with that person. Maybe a reflection about today, something that surprised you, but take a moment, maybe like 30 seconds and share that with one another.
Now, your final part for this. I want you to turn around and face back to back with your new friend, your new alter ego friends. Back to back. Yep, perfect, just like this. And I want you to continue sharing, if you haven’t already, share that meaningful moment with them for 30 more seconds. Go ahead.
Now you can have a seat. Go back to your seats if you haven’t already. All right, so I want to take a moment and just kind of like unpack that. And also you can introduce your real name if you haven’t already, or you can just keep yourself mysterious, that’s fine too.
So how was that? Fun, playful, interesting. Okay. Tell me why.
The altar ego was really fun. Something really quick that wasn’t actually me but was still part of me.
That inspired to think and do… Go on a similar track.
Nice. Cool. What else? What about that face to face and then turn around? How was that for you guys?
More intimate? Which one was more intimate?
The back to back.
Okay, interesting. Tell me why.
Well, it’s like you’re kind of touching each other’s back, and you kind of have to get close so you can hear each other. So you’re not facing in this interaction. So its actually like a secret .
Interesting. Thank you for sharing that. Okay. Very cool. All right. Anything else?
I thought the back to back was awkward [inaudible 00:03:23].
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And you’re like, you don’t know this person, you don’t even know their real name. It’s like this weirdo. All right. Thank you guys. I think I love the different insights. That’s a really interesting one about the intimacy piece. But I think that a lot of us think about online meetings, like how you mentioned is, they’re kind of awkward. We talk about face to face and we love being able to help build connections with people and establish the sense of trust. And then I think realizing a lot of our talks today, the reason that online meetings feel weird a lot of times is we feel that sense of broken connection between people. And honestly, as facilitators… I’m going to shift this over. Nope, I’m not cool. We feel like this. We fucking hate online meetings a lot, and we hate facilitating them. And I really can’t blame anybody for not liking online meetings because how many of us have been in a meeting and we’re trying to build that trust, that connection for people. And someone’s going to say, “Oh, I have this really great idea.”
“Sorry, your wifi is disconnected, trying to reconnect you now.” And you’re like, “Cool, great, thanks.” That completely breaks. That sense of trust, that connection, that momentum that we’ve built with people in that session. And we kind of want to do this, you can feel like we’re on Swanson, like fuck all this, we’re going to just throw it away, goodbye.
But how many of us have also been asked to host an online meeting? To facilitate one? A lot of us here. Oh yeah, this guy can’t come, can you just do it online? No, I really can’t. But let’s face it. We have more of these online meetings. We’re working in an online world and we can either choose to say no and defer, or we can evolve. Evolve, how we practice, evolve our craft, evolve our mindsets. And today, I want to share some nuggets of wisdom with you from my experience, facilitating lots of online meetings, honestly messing up facilitating a lot of online meetings and then gracefully recovering and like, I’m fine, and share that with you today. But before I do, I need you to let go, let go the feeling that online meetings are the ugly stepsister to face-to-face meetings, because online meetings really have an important place in this world. We talk about diversity. It brings people together from different perspectives on a problem to solve it together when they can’t be the same room. It reduces the amount of time we’re traveling to face-to-face meeting, so think about fewer greenhouse gas emissions, more time spent at home with our loved ones.
So if you’re ready to evolve with me, let go of that feeling. Let me share some ways that we can evolve how we meet online and build meetings with purpose.
First, we can define why we’re really meeting online. Priya Parker’s book, buy it over there, it’s amazing, the Art of Gathering, opens with a really simple question, why do we… It says gather, I promise. Gather. I love this question. I ask it for all of my meetings because I use that response to shift how I’m going to build that agenda, how I’m going to design that experience. And just like we need to evolve, this question needs an evolution for an online world. Why do we really gather online? Why online? Maybe it’s because there’s no more budget for the company to have people traveling to meet face to face, so online meetings are the only option. Why online? Maybe because an executive needs to be in one continent and we need to be in another side of the world having our meeting together, but the team still needs to make important decisions for the next quarter. Why online? Maybe there are no more conference rooms for your team to meet. And I’ve been there a lot before, and suddenly you have to figure out how to still get that work done.
So think about maybe some online meetings you’ve had this past month or so. Did you know why you were really meeting online? Have you ever asked someone who you’re facilitating a meeting for why it’s happening online? It isn’t always obvious. But sooner we ask and not the better, we are prepared to design an experience that considers those dynamics and considers the mindsets and feelings of the people in that digital space.
Next, we can keep it short and simple. The technology and the methods. I can guarantee you, people are not meeting online for you to do a lengthy technology demo, and to go through all the little nuances of how this tech works. I think in face to face meetings, we rely a lot on meeting norms that have been established through our world. We have to help people have a seat, stand up, write something, peel the sticky note. But in online meetings, we’re inviting people into this new and really uncomfortable space. And even if it’s just for an hour long meeting, it kind of disorients them. But as facilitators, we have the ability to help people build confidence, to feel really excited to work together. And we also have the ability to help people who might feel uncertain get or even resistant, build that confidence and have this foundation to start collaborating with People.
First, I like to start with giving people only the need to know information to accomplish a first task in a meeting. So I refer mural, it’s a digital and visual collaboration tool. And when I invite somebody into the tool for the first time, I tell them two things, know how to navigate in and out, zoom in and out of a space like this, which is called a canvas. It gives them a sense of place in a pretty crazy online space. And I tell them how to add and contribute content through sticky notes. That’s it. Don’t worry about anything else going on on the side. Focus on the meetings and the conversations we’re having today.
I also like to give people a little digital desk, because if I launched you into this giant canvas, it’s daunting. Where do we start? But if I give someone a desk, it’s a little home base for them to start feeling comfortable to contribute to the conversation. So you can see, I add pictures, I add some blank sticky notes for them to add in. I’ll add their names. It’s a space for them to feel comfortable to come back to if they’re daunted by the work.
Remember, we are hired. Our job is to help create meaningful discussions, not to teach people the technology. So the shorter and simpler, the better
As facilitators. We also need to make time for play as much as the work because the playtime gives people a chance to establish connections, it creates trust, it builds energy is needed. So how do we do that today in meetings, in face-to-face meetings?
Icebreakers. Yeah, exactly. Energizers, warmups. And they are awesome for online meetings because we need those connections when there’s a huge barrier of a laptop in front of you or whatever. But they also are kind of like your little facilitator hack. I talked about creating confidence and giving people kind of like a base to work off of. And warmups are a really low risk exercise to get people engaged and to start working.
So at Mural, we have an example of this is, we have online meetings with over 100 people. We have company all hands. And so they look a lot like this. They’re pretty chaotic. It’s a lot of floating heads. But we need to get people focused on the task at hand for that day and into the tool to start working. So here’s a warm-up we used recently in an all hands meeting. We invited everybody into this canvas and we said, share what shoes you’re wearing today. Put it in the canvas and tell us what they say about you. But I want to make sure people knew how to behave in this technology with the canvas too. So I took a picture of my shoes, in this case, I was wearing these compression socks. I put them in the canvas and I said, “Here, add a sticky note with your name, add another one of what these shoes say about you. And in my case, I said, “I’m a 95 year old woman trapped in a 20 somethings body.” So true.
And so people did stumble. It took some time at first, but it was pretty incredible to see what we were able to create together in just a couple of minutes. And honestly, I’d rather they were struggling this little easy warmup then later on, when we’re making really essential decisions together as a team.
It also creates a really fun element of play. You can see we literally enjoy trolling each other at Murals, and people are like, “Those are Lucas’s ugly ass feet.” We actually found out one of our designers in Argentina makes her own shoes and she wants to launch a shoe line someday. And so those are incredible moments that we don’t get with people around the world when we’re not able to meet between coffee breaks or at a water cooler or something. So play creates those moments and opportunities for us.
You can also use the time between meetings. So I’m talking about real-time work and asynchronous work. People think that since I’m a remote worker, I must work insane hours of waking up at 3:00 AM to meet with people around the world, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s how my team gets work done between and during meetings. So we’re planning an event and my team wants to get together to have important discussions about the events that we want to launch. So we scheduled one hour for us to meet at a time that was convenient for everybody to answer those essential questions. Why have this event? How do we think you want to accomplish this event? How is this going to help the company accomplish their goals?
About 15 minutes before the meeting ended, I gave the team homework. I said, “We have kind of a scaffolding for this event. Now I want you to create your vision for what this event should look like, and we’re going to share this event vision when we come back together.”
So I shared the instructions with the team. I said complete this before the next meeting. And if people had questions for me between meetings, they could ask me on Slack or just reach out for help, and we could jump on a call together.
In the next meeting, I was able to have everyone present their concept posters, this is called a concept poster, share out what their vision was with the team, and have the rest of the group capture feedback. So you can see those little digital desks there for people to share feedback.
So real-time work and asynchronous work is an essential part of working with distributed people, because it considers the fact that people don’t always have their most creative moments when they’re in that meeting. If someone’s working at 8:00 PM and someone else’s working at 8:00 AM, they might not be at their creative best. So if you use the time between meetings, you give people a chance to step back, reflect and bring their best creative work forward.
Finally, I love online meetings because they are the place to work visually. Visuals tell stories. Visuals clarify concepts for people. But I believe the visuals belong in every part of an online meeting, and here’s why. First of all, people have incredibly short attention spans in meetings. I have multi-tasked in a lot of my online meetings. Have any of you done that? I think we’re pretty much all guilty of it, it happens. And so I like to create an online meeting experience that’s more engaging.
Imagine I invited you into a meeting and the agenda looked like this. What story am I telling you? Can you see the direction, the flow of this meeting we’re going to have today? It’s much more immersive and engaging for someone to sit through and collaborate in something like this, versus a boring PowerPoint or word document.
I also love to use visuals to show versus tell. So in all of my meetings, I try and capture gifs or gifs, if you’re a psychopath, to show people how to work in the tool. And this saves me a lot of time explaining mechanics of the tool, but also again, shows people how to behave in this online world.
We also have visuals because they’re responsive. We don’t really have control anymore over how people can join our meetings. And I think visuals are a really powerful way to anchor people in a conversation. I love the lightening decision jam, if you guys have seen this before, this sailboat analogy, because it really… No pun intended, anchors people around the conversation across different devices.
I believe that as facilitators, we are creating stories. We’re creating stories where we have the opportunity to lead people through an experience, and we get to have these characters go in and out of this experience with us. And we have the choice to make that a textbook or an awesome engaging, colorful picture book in our meetings.
So when I talk about evolution, these aren’t breakthrough crazy things. I think I’m taking a lot of what’s been talked about today and just trying to flip it, adapt it into an online world. And I really believe that that’s my… What I contribute to the craft of facilitation that we’re all here to enjoy and celebrate and to learn from.
So when you have an online meeting, maybe the next week or month, I want to challenge you to think about how you can evolve your practice. Because when we keep it short and simple, we reduce the barriers for people to jump in and get engaged. When we make time for play, we create a chance for connection. When we use the time between, we consider that people have different creative bests at different times of the day. And we work visually, recreate stories and lead people through an experience.
So I couldn’t share all of my nuggets today with you, but if you’re curious and excited to learn more about online facilitation, you can come up to me, you can check out these references here, I wrote a blog post about this a little bit more too, and we have a facilitator’s guide over at the Mural desk for you to keep exploring this space.
But guys, if we are going to continue facilitating meetings and controlling the room, let’s evolve together. Thank you.