The theme for this year’s summit was IMPACT, which encouraged us to reflect on the impact we have on our clients, our careers, and on each other.
Control the Room 2023 was an unforgettable event filled with meaningful moments of connection. On February 7th, we hosted our annual facilitator summit, followed by a week of virtual speakers. The theme for this year’s summit was IMPACT, which encouraged us to reflect on the impact we have on our clients, our careers, and on each other.
This year’s event was hosted in a hybrid space, with 14 facilitators participating both in-person and remotely through Zoom. The entire event, including the post-event virtual speakers, was a hub of idea sharing and community strengthening. Each speaker delivered a 20-minute lightning session, and their talks were enlightening, inspiring, and full of practical ideas that can be utilized in our own facilitation practices.
The summit was an opportunity for facilitators to come together to learn, connect, and grow. We were able to hear from a diverse group of speakers who shared their experiences, insights, and strategies for facilitating impactful meetings and events. The post-event virtual speakers were an excellent addition to the summit, as they provided an opportunity for us to continue learning and growing even after the live event had ended.
Overall, Control the Room 2023 was a memorable and valuable experience for all participants. We look forward to next year’s summit and the opportunity to continue building our facilitation skills and strengthening our community. Read on for a summary of each of the lightning talks delivered by our speakers.
Sana Akhand began her lightning talk by asking the audience what freedom means to them. Is freedom about having control over your time, energy, or creativity? How can we take charge of our time and foster freedom within ourselves, our families, and our communities? We live in a society with rules, expectations, and pressures that can make us feel the need to impress or not disappoint others. However, success built solely on seeking external validation or approval will never feel fulfilling. A truly worthwhile life is one that aligns with our own values and purpose.
Sana encouraged the audience to balance their lives with energy fillers rather than just energy drainers. It’s crucial to break out of autopilot and move away from survival mode, even if it feels safe. Doing so will change our habits and transform our lives. The first step is to let go of our attachment to approval from others, our limiting beliefs from upbringing, and unlearn everything we thought we were to discover who we truly are. Everyone’s journey will be unique, but ultimately, we all seek a fulfilling, happy, purposeful life filled with peace, joy, connection, and love. The only way to achieve this is by learning how to overcome our own mental obstacles.
Renita Joyce Smith
Renita Joyce Smith led the group in an exploration of authenticity. She encouraged us to evaluate our own authenticity and asked us to rate ourselves. How many times had we said “I am not ready” and delayed our personal desires? “Be Authentic” was a familiar phrase that we saw on our vision boards every year, but despite our intentions, we often found ourselves still feeling disconnected from our true selves.
However, Renita believes that enough is enough. In her lightning talk she provided the group with actionable and supportive tools to begin the journey of discovering our authentic selves. We understood that the journey towards authenticity was not for the faint of heart, and it could be daunting. But with a roadmap and the tools Renita provided, we were able to begin the process of unlocking our true selves.
Renita asked each of us to create an internal voice and give it a character. She encouraged us to use this voice as an inner mentor, allowing us to separate ourselves from it and use it as a tool for reflection. Renita taught us how to utilize these moments of internal mentorship to evaluate situations, to understand what is true, and to identify what we want to gain from them.
Business consultants and facilitators have typically been a high-cost service, making it difficult for Black, Brown, Indigenous, People of Color (BBIPOC) and underrepresented minority (URM) communities to access them due to financial constraints and prioritization of business needs. To address this issue, Kwerk is promoting facilitation and mentorship as a service, offering brand workshops, business development support, product creation assistance, and more. Kwerk’s mission is to empower these budding entrepreneurs and small business owners to solve core business problems creatively and independently, without the need for excessive spending to grow and scale their businesses.
Kwerk Co-Founders Jamae Lucas and Vincent Perez have firsthand experience facilitating for these entrepreneurs and recognize the value it brings to underrepresented communities. They believe in the importance of a social impact model in the facilitation world. In this lightning talk, attendees explored potential solutions to the following statement: “How can we empower traditionally underrepresented startups and entrepreneurs to creatively solve their core business challenges?”
Achieving the desired impact depends on our “impact potential” – the probability of producing the intended change. This potential evolves due to several factors and conditions, and measuring and identifying them is not a common practice. However, it is crucial for sustainable impact. Imagine being able to track your impact potential throughout your project, just like ESPN tracks the win chances for each team during a game. With this knowledge, you could make real-time adjustments to enhance your impact potential when it matters most, like coaches do. Taylor challenged us to ask, ‘how can we innovate effectively?’ We learned that measuring our impact potential during projects, rather than after, and focusing on the factors and conditions that influence it are key takeaways.
Benjamin Herndon, Chief Strategy Officer at Kungfu.ai, introduced the topic of artificial intelligence and prompted the audience to share their thoughts and perceptions of it. The responses were diverse, with some people viewing AI as an opportunity for growth and others seeing it as a shortcut to leisure, while some expressed concerns about its potential threat to human jobs and even its perceived scariness.
To further explore the human cognitive perspective on AI transformation, the discussion delved into the individual, cultural, operational, structural, and organizational aspects of this transformation. By examining these different dimensions, the group was able to explore how AI can enhance and augment human work, rather than replacing it.
A key point of the conversation was the need to shift from a fear-based and negative mentality towards AI, towards one that recognizes its potential to improve our lives and work. This shift requires shedding old assumptions and biases about AI, and embracing new ways of thinking about its impact and possibilities.
Overall, the discussion highlighted the importance of approaching AI with an open and curious mindset, while also being mindful of the potential challenges and limitations of this technology. By doing so, we can unlock the full potential of AI and leverage it to create a better future for all.
Facilitators today cannot solely focus on knowledge transfer as the world becomes more complex and uncertain. They must use engagement tactics that create deeper connections and more meaningful outcomes during critical conversations. Audiences are seeking more honesty, transparency, and compelling storytelling that connects with them on a deeper level. It’s essential to allow audiences into your heart and soul, not just your head, to resonate and impact them more deeply. Yvonne’s guidance helped us ask crucial questions, such as “what do audiences deserve?” and “what areas are you looking to impact?” The audience shared valuable insights, including the importance of ensuring everyone has a chance to speak, playing, not feeling alone, and realizing they have something to offer. Yvonne left us with this powerful reflection: “It is by sharing your authenticity that you can make a real impact, and as a facilitator, it’s your responsibility to expose some of these inner workings.”
Have you ever been told to “think out of the box” but had no idea what the box even represented? Well, Jimbo Clark has come up with a solution to this problem by creating a physical box that embodies the limitations of your current thinking. Through an immersive session, Jimbo gave us our own personal box, and in doing so allowed us to map out our current thought patterns and then break through those boundaries with fresh, new ideas. This innovative approach offers a tangible way to visualize and challenge our own limitations, empowering us to approach problems with a more open and creative mindset. So why not give it a try and see how far outside the box you can go?
Corrie shared an emotional and touching story to demonstrate how many of us can feel so overwhelmed that we become unsure of where to start. She emphasized that it is common to feel “stuck” when we experience overwhelming situations in our personal and professional lives. However, she believes that feeling overwhelmed can actually be a positive sign, indicating that something in our current strategy may need to be adapted to better suit our current reality.
During her talk, Corrie identified five “overwhelm culprits” that can impede our progress, and she provided practical solutions for each of them. These culprits can include things like guilt and shame, emotional abuse, a lack of focus, insufficient resources, unclear priorities, fear of failure, and an inability to say no. By recognizing these culprits and taking actionable steps to address them, we can break through feelings of overwhelm and move forward with renewed energy and motivation.
In addition to sharing her insights on overwhelm, Corrie also provided the audience with a useful framework that they could implement right away when they find themselves feeling overwhelmed. This framework empowers individuals to take continued action, regardless of their circumstances, by breaking down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. With this approach, even the most daunting of challenges can be tackled with greater ease and confidence. Overall, Corrie’s talk offered valuable insights and practical tools to help individuals overcome overwhelm and make progress towards their goals. Corrie left us with this inspirational piece of advice, ‘If you want to live an extraordinary life it takes extraordinary actions.’
“When was your first run-in with the word ‘success’?” Matthew asked us this question to explore how much of our authentic thinking is our own. Through shared stories, Matthew invited us to think about what it means to buy into success. When we deep dive into this concept, we realize that it has nothing to do with belonging. Which truly brings you joy: success or belonging? Matthew believes that we, as humans, can be so much more. We have inner potential that can come forward and into the world. The magic that we cultivated when we were children, more connected to this planet and all its wonders, is not lost. Matthew hopes that after his session, we may have encountered tools that can help us create what we need to be authentically ourselves, and thus live our biggest, fullest, and brightest lives.
The first rule of improv is known as “Yes and.” This rule encourages participants to accept and build on the ideas put forth by their fellow improvisers. The next important aspect of improv is the offer, which prevents “Yes and” from becoming chaotic. John, a well-known figure in the improvisational theater community, gave us the tool known as “the magic circle,” an imaginary space that contains any conflicts that may arise during the improv performance.
Going beyond the warm-up games and the “Yes, and” principle, there is a core principle about improv that comes from Keith Johnstone, the founder of Theatersports. Many people believe that the main benefit of improv is its ability to inspire “out of the box” thinking since it is off-script and off-score. However, the true importance of improv lies in what happens in the room, specifically the group dynamics that emerge among the participants.
The principles of improv go beyond just being off-script or off-score. It’s about how participants work together as a group, accepting and building on each other’s ideas in a contained and supportive environment. With the “Yes and” rule and tools like “the magic circle,” we can create an atmosphere that encourages creativity and collaboration, leading to an engaging and memorable improv performance.
Amy Luckey kindly invited us to participate in “Inclusion in Action”, an interactive workshop focused on creating a more inclusive environment. During the workshop, we were split into small groups and given the opportunity to share instances where we felt welcome and a sense of belonging. These discussions led to profound insights and revelations, which we all shared with each other.
As facilitators of this workshop, we possess a unique ability to guide our clients towards more inclusive organizational practices. From the initial design process through to the event and follow-up, our choices and approach signal to participants the extent to which we value their full participation.
This highly interactive workshop was unexpectedly intimate, and participants co-learned with their colleagues in small groups. The experience enabled us to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges of creating an inclusive environment and motivated us to strive for even more inclusive experiences in the future. By actively incorporating these insights and revelations into our work, we can foster an environment where all individuals feel valued and included.
Eric Brown, drawing from his extensive experience in Special Operations, presented a systematic approach to the group known as the Green Beret Approach. This approach involves a repeatable process for addressing any opportunity or challenge, which includes the steps of imbed, learn, and discover shared experiences. By following this process, Eric argued that even the greatest problems faced by the nation could be solved by small teams.
Eric’s approach is rooted in the idea that no challenge is insurmountable if approached with the right mindset and methodology. By embedding oneself within the problem, whether that be a new business venture or a complex societal issue, one can gain a deeper understanding of the problem at hand. From there, the learning process can begin, allowing for an exploration of the various factors that contribute to the challenge.
Once a thorough understanding has been gained, the process of discovering shared experiences can take place. This step involves identifying and leveraging existing knowledge, skills, and resources from both within and outside of the team. By tapping into these shared experiences, solutions can be developed that are innovative, effective, and sustainable.
Eric’s message to the group is clear: no problem is too big to be solved with the right team and the right approach. With the Green Beret Approach, any opportunity or challenge can be tackled systematically and effectively, leading to positive outcomes for all involved.
Mentorship is the process of sharing knowledge, experience, and skills with someone who is less experienced or knowledgeable. To Robbin, mentorship is a way to help others achieve their goals and reach their full potential. Being a mentor means taking the time to listen, guide, and support your mentee as they navigate their personal and professional growth. Conversely, being a mentee means being open to learning from someone with more experience and taking proactive steps to achieve your goals.
While mentorship may seem like a selfless act, it’s important to consider our motivations for becoming mentors. Do we want to give back to our community, share our expertise, or expand our network? By understanding our motivations, we can better align our efforts with our personal and professional goals.
As mentors, it’s essential to break down what we’re able to provide for our mentees. A useful framework to consider is the “mentor FACT” approach, which stands for Facilitator, Advisor, Coach, and Teacher. As facilitators, we can help our mentees identify their strengths and weaknesses, and provide resources to help them improve. As advisors, we can offer guidance and support as they make important decisions. As coaches, we can help our mentees set and achieve goals, and provide feedback on their progress. As teachers, we can share our knowledge and experience to help our mentees develop new skills and perspectives.
Robbin showed us mentorship is a valuable tool for personal and professional growth. By understanding our motivations and using a framework like mentor FACT, we can provide effective mentorship and help our mentees achieve their full potential.
During his presentation, Zach led us on a thought-provoking journey that explored the power of emotional intelligence in fostering meaningful connections. As a facilitator, he emphasized the importance of understanding and harnessing emotions as an emotional scientist. One critical aspect of facilitation is the ability to accurately receive emotions, both within oneself and from others. However, it’s not uncommon for our emotions to take over our experiences, clouding our judgment and interfering with effective communication.
Zach provided us with four valuable tools to help manage our emotions and cultivate a safe and supportive environment for everyone involved. Firstly, he stressed the importance of creating a “safe container,” a metaphorical space where everyone feels comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or criticism.
Secondly, Zach introduced the concept of “meta-moments,” which involves taking a step back from an intense emotional situation and reflecting on what is happening in the moment. By doing so, individuals can gain a better understanding of their emotional responses and how to manage them in a constructive way.
The third tool was the “mood meter,” which involves identifying and tracking one’s emotions throughout the day. By regularly checking in with oneself, individuals can better understand their emotional states and develop strategies to manage their emotions effectively.
Lastly, Zach emphasized the importance of building trust, courage, and connections in a facilitation setting. Trust and courage enable individuals to take risks and be vulnerable, while connections help build a sense of community and support.
In conclusion, Zach’s presentation highlighted the importance of emotional intelligence in facilitating meaningful connections. By utilizing the tools he presented, individuals can learn to manage their emotions, cultivate a supportive environment, and build deeper connections with others.
Andrews session showed us that as facilitators, our goal is to empower the groups we work with to effectively advocate for the ideas and decisions they have generated during our sessions. To achieve this, we aim to create an “impact” that enables them to be persuasive, memorable, and effective on their own, even after the session has ended. We recognize that every participant will have a story to share about the meeting, and by collaboratively co-authoring these stories, teams can more intentionally communicate their impact to others within their organization. To incorporate this approach into our facilitation work, we will use a product design workshop as an example and work together to identify key characters, challenges, emotions, and transformations to rewrite the story into a compelling and unforgettable narrative.
Psychological Safety (PS) is a continuous process without a clear endpoint or completion. It is common to assume that the work is finished once it feels complete, but this is not the case for project teams and psychological safety. Regular retrospectives serve as essential milestones in this ongoing process. By reinforcing the importance of psychological safety throughout a project’s life cycle, teams can exponentially increase their impact, creating a contagious effect. While the innovation and change journey may have its ups and downs, focusing on crucial moments can help to smooth out the bumps. In this talk, Amy provided a brief overview of psychological safety and its significance. She also share practical tools and techniques to incorporate psychological safety into your project lifecycle, with a particular emphasis on retrospectives.
Participation is an essential aspect of many processes, requiring a shared understanding between individuals. Facilitators play a crucial role in breaking down barriers and promoting mutual comprehension. However, how does language impact this dynamic? How can inclusivity be fostered while recognizing linguistic diversity? What approaches and strategies can be employed to establish a multilingual environment?
Florence took us on a journey of exploration delves into the significance of native languages and examines the fundamental and practical methods of ensuring everyone feels included, regardless of linguistic differences.
As a facilitator, it’s important to make the most of every moment in a meeting, as time is limited for making an impact. Marisa created a personalized warm-up game can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your workshops and promote lasting transformation. We were all invited to experience the collaborative game that my team uses in our feedback training, discover our design process, and begin exploring ways to develop your own game. The group loved the participation, the collaboration and the team-work!
In this workshop, the conventional belief that failure is something to be dreaded and kept hidden will be challenged. Instead, we shifted our mindset and recognize that failure is an opportunity for growth and development. Through research and personal experiences, we will explore the benefits of embracing failure as a skill that can be honed and practiced. The workshop provided a safe and supportive environment for participants to share their own experiences with failure and learn from one another. To solidify these concepts, we engaged in practical exercises where we intentionally practice failing, building resilience, and shifting our perspective on failure. The group enjoyed the workshop, and participants left with a newfound understanding of failure and we all left with the tools to turn it into a valuable learning experience.
We are always expanding our community and striving for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and we cannot wait to see what next year’s Control the Room holds for us all!
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