A Magical Meeting Story from Tricia Conyers, a creative change agent, learning experience designer, and remote work facilitator from Trinidad and Tobago.
Welcome to Magical Meetings Stories, a series where I chat with professional facilitators, meeting practitioners, leaders, and CEOs across industries about their meeting culture. We dive deep into a specific magical meeting they’ve run, including their approach to facilitation design, and their tips and tricks for running meetings where people thrive.
Today’s story is with Tricia Conyers, founder of Island Inspirations Ltd., remote work facilitator, and learning experience designer out of Trinidad and Tobago.
I spoke with Tricia about her Learning meeting, the reason behind it, and how she imagines her meeting changing in the future.
An Emergent Learning Space
Tricia first started this particular meeting several years ago as a monthly session designed for people moving to Trinidad from different countries. Dubbing her sessions the “Learning” meeting, she designs these gatherings to help businesses shift to a more human-centered mindset in the workplace. Tricia’s goal for her monthly meetings is to help her clients and their team learn from a diverse group of people and different perspectives.
Each month, Tricia makes an effort to further shape her client’s company culture by bringing people together to discuss and ideate around the year’s overarching arc as well as a singular monthly question. Though the meeting originally began as a day-long session, during COVID-19, the meetings transitioned to online-only with hour-long sessions each month.
In Tricia’s efforts to encourage discourse and increase flexibility in her meetings, she relies on platforms that spark creativity to help explore the main questions. In addition to prioritizing experiential learning, Tricia aims to increase connectivity among her team members in these Learning sessions.
Let’s take a closer look at Tricia’s process to learn what made this meeting magical.
In a Learning meeting, the main goal is to strengthen trust among team members and encourage an open-minded approach to learning.
To set the tone for an effective learning experience, Tricia spends a significant amount of time on preparation. With the help of a small design team, Tricia shapes the year’s curriculum and the breakdown for the following months.
To prepare for a learning meeting, the facilitator will select the question by month and determine how participants will explore the monthly question throughout each meeting.
In a Learning meeting, the facilitator will choose the following:
In this meeting, the facilitator will choose the following:
- Location: Held virtually on Zoom
- 14 – 20 attendees
- Tech host
- Google Maps
- Jam Board
- Drawing apps
- A stronger connection with team members
- An answer to the monthly question
As Tricia holds this meeting on a monthly basis, the participants change month to month. Typically, 15 – 20 people are part of this monthly meeting.
Plan the Workshop
- Length of time: One hour
- Introduce the concept
- Form breakout groups, pairs, or triads
- Reinforce the culture of connectedness
- Identify next steps
Before the Meeting
As the Learning meeting is a recurring, monthly session, the preparation begins with preparing a curriculum for the entire year. This curriculum centers around an overarching question that drives the process of learning and growth in an organization.
Tricia likes to split the preparation into short-, medium-, and long-term preparation. In the preparation for this particular meeting, Tricia focused on designing a structure or flow of the meeting that allows for constant discourse throughout the year. Based on the overarching question, Tricia breaks the rest of the meeting’s curriculum into various monthly topics that will further the overarching aims and encourage increased engagement amongst participants.
Tricia then works with her design team and tech host to make sure the Zoom meeting flows seamlessly with the apps and other software used.
The facilitator begins the Learning meeting by asking everyone to embrace the space and to share their experiences. To encourage the free-flowing exchange of ideas, the facilitator asks participants to bring their best selves into the meeting and to see what emerges.
At the beginning of each monthly session of a Learning meeting, Tricia sets the tone by considering questions such as:
- What is the cultural impact that we want to have?
- How do we want to shape this?
- What is it that we want to do for people?
- What values of the organization does this reinforce?
- How can we make sure that we bring that in?
In this Learning meeting, Tricia worked with team members from across North America with connection and learning as the main deliverables for the session. Though the preparation process is quite heavy-handed, Tricia likes to approach her meetings with a loose structure. This way, she can allow for more of the unexpected as she creates a culture of connectedness through open discussion and ideation.
While the Learning sessions differ from the structured setting of a traditional meeting, the main aim is to free participants from the confinements and expectations that come with following strict guidelines.
“There’s a lot of flexibility in adapting and seeing where the group wants to go with this in terms of exploring and learning… Being able to respond to that has left the people who want more structure…feeling a bit uncomfortable… And I think they’ve had to learn to try and embrace that over the years.”
With the flexibility in the structure of the meeting comes growth and the ability to improve connection, communication, and understanding amongst team members.
The middle of the session opens the space even more to encourage increased ideation, more connectedness, and greater flexibility. The facilitator works to create an emergent learning space by forming breakout groups of two, three, or more people to encourage discussion and collaborative problem-solving.
In this phase of the meeting, Tricia uses technology to support the free form ideation process. She encourages participants to focus on the cultural impact of their ideas as they work together. Using Software like Jam Board and drawing apps, she encourages participants to storyboard their thoughts and ideas. During this phase, Trica splits team members into groups of two, three, or more to encourage further discussion, foster deeper relationships, and center connections in the company culture.
While the monthly nature of this meeting is beneficial to strengthening connectedness, Tricia points out that it presents a potential risk that facilitators should keep in mind:
“As new people join the business throughout the year, they come into these sessions without having some of the experience of what’s happened before…It means you have to think about…how do you constantly create an environment where they can feel welcomed into a conversation that in essence has already started.”
As the meeting comes to a close, the facilitator should assess if the deliverables are achieved. Facilitators can prepare participants for the next month’s discussion.
Towards the end of the session, Tricia makes an effort to improve the meeting for the following months. With the overarching topic in mind, it’s important that she continues the same rhythm of creativity and innovation in the next sessions. Tricia points out that having a recurring session with the same participants throughout the year gives her the opportunity to refine her approach to facilitation:
“In a monthly meeting like this…there are 12 opportunities to make changes and to get it right…Or to keep changing things and to try and make it better each time.”
Shifting the Culture
Essentially, this Learning meeting is designed to create a culture of openness and connection among organizations on a regular basis. Going forward, Tricia may take the Learning meetings in an even more emergent direction. Instead of focusing on a learning session, Tricia hopes to create a learning council. Meeting participants will bring a challenge to the council that they explore as a group with a more human-centered problem-solving session as the main deliverable.
With the idea of fostering more emergent sessions in mind, Tricia shared what is successful about her current Learning meeting model.
“The risk of the session is that you leave people feeling frustrated about the unexpected “emergent space” of the meeting… but things change and we actually allow for that immersion.”
“When we take time to think about how we want this meeting to help shape the culture of the organization, when we take time to frame it through that lens, and through that question, we can make really great things happen.
Meetings are when we bring people together, they’re when stories emerge and that’s when we help to shape the culture that people feel in the organization.”
Do you have your own Magical Meeting Story to tell?
We’d love to hear your wizardry! Share how you are creating magical moments in your work below.