Trading Cards for Trading Tips

Illustration Copyright: kibsri / 123RF Stock Photo


What do restaurant servers and conference participants have in common?  They love coming home with lots of tips! 

Here is a ridiculously simple way you can enable a greater exchange of ideas at your next meeting, conference or event ... along with some variations to help you achieve other objectives: trading cards with topical tips from peers.

The Benefits
  • Facilitates informal interaction among both introverted and extroverted participants.
  • Enables wisdom sharing from experienced leaders in your profession and organization, as well as individual participants.
  • Offers a fun activity (collecting tips trading cards) that can be sustained throughout a multiple-day event.
  • Serves as a possible annual activity that can turn into a popular tradition.
  • Is an easy way to widely collect individuals' practical knowledge by issuing an open call online.
  • Captures content that can be repurposed in other forms after the conference ends.
The Process
Tips Card from the 2016 ABA Bar Leadership Institute

  • Brainstorm the long-term and short-term possibilities for trading tips cards to generate member value in the areas of community-building, networking, idea-sharing, and learning goals.
  • As with any project, set appropriate goals and objectives, identify evaluation metrics, and craft the action plan to achieve your goals and objectives including specific tasks, timelines, and resource personnel.
  • Collect tips that will support your overall goals and objectives. Craft appeals to possible audiences from which to solicit tips: open call, individuals who have served or are serving in leadership positions, subject matter experts, young leaders or student members, underrepresented voices, award winners, et al. 
  • Create a simple multi-purpose card design for individual tips, one that will look good in print, online, and in slides.
  • If desired, sort and/or tag tips by audience, topic, type, or other relevant search criteria.
  • Plan for how, to whom, and in what quantity you will distribute hard copy tip cards. Design any activities that will use the cards and prepare facilitators to lead the activities.
  • Prepare tip cards in final form(s) for production. Print appropriate number of hard copies. An affordable way to produce high quality four-color tips cards is to use one of the many online postcard printing sites.
The Engagement Options
  • Engage your community (online or at a conference) in selecting favorite tips using judging criteria you offer.  Think broadly about possible recognition categories. Recognize this selection by noting it on tip cards prior to printing or by adding a ribbon or notation in a tips display at a conference.
  • Use tip cards as a business partner sponsorship opportunity. Let sponsors select a tip they'd like to sponsor and pay for the printing of that tip card. Let them add their logo, and space permitting, a tip from their own experience. Sponsors handing out tips cards at their exhibit hall booth might help increase traffic.
  • Print tips in various quantities, so that certain tips are limited edition, making them more desirable for people to obtain. Think of pin collecting/swapping at conferences or reunions.
  • Include special tip cards from your current award winners and distribute those only at the awards ceremony helping spotlight the value award winners offer to people in the room who may not know them.
  • Use swapping tips cards as part of a community-building exercise early in your conference. Have blank cards available and ask participants to note a tip of their own to share. My Power Prospecting format would work well here.
  • Print up a complete set of tip cards on a higher quality cardstock and sell them as a limited edition fundraiser for your philanthropy or foundation and/or offer as a recognition gift to donors at a certain level.
  • Leverage the value of the tips cards at both the start and end of a conference. At the start, have participants form small groups and share the tips they most seek: "I need ideas on how to ... " Then engage the entire room in swapping tips cards, challenging participants to seek tips that their small group colleagues might value before returning to their small group to share the tips they collect.  At the end of the conference, have individuals look though all the tips cards they collected during the event and select the 2-3 they first plan to implement. Then engage them in sharing those tips with other participants.

How else could you (or have you) used simple tips trading cards to help your members, colleagues, or conference participants obtain the ideas and insights they seek?


Avoid Unforced Errors



On March 26, I received a direct mail promotional postcard inviting me to "Register Now" for a special promotion with the hotel chain I most frequent. Always eager to rack up extra points, I immediately went online to the registration page specified on the postcard.

404 Error The page you requested cannot be found.

Ugh. I fired up a second web browser and tried the link. Same result. Fingers crossed, I tried again with the third browser on my laptop, but to no avail.

On Twitter I reached out to the hotel chain's social media staff to inquire why I was unable to access the promotion they had enticed me to pursue.  To their credit, they responded fairly quickly:

"You cannot register for this promotion until April 1. Please try the web link at that time."

I imagine hundreds (if not thousands) of loyalty program members went through this same frustrating experience. 

The brand committed an unforced error.

As a young tennis player, my instructors railed about the evils of unforced errors.  What is an unforced error? The common dictionary definition is:
"a missed shot or lost point (as in tennis) that is entirely a result of the player's own blunder and not because of the opponent's skill or effort"
Forced errors are understandable because an opponent plays a shot so good that your return goes out of bounds or you are unable to get to the ball. Your opponent earns the point. Unforced errors are our own fault and should be minimized at all costs. They give away points. We frequently can anticipate them ... and plan to avoid them.

A common unforced error in tennis is the double fault. You hit your first serve hard and miss. Rather than take the same risk on the second serve and lose the point, you opt for a higher percentage serve, one with a greater margin of safety. Doing so gets the ball in play and makes your opponent win the point by hitting a better shot that is a clear winner or forces an error on your part.

The hotel chain committed a major unforced error by inviting us to join a promotion not yet open. Perhaps the bulk rate postcard mailing arrived sooner than planned, but smart organizations anticipate unforced errors and act to avoid them.  To avoid the unforced error, the company could have increased the promotional launch's margin of safety by:
  • Indicating on the promotional postcard that registration would be live on April 1, possibly playing off the April Fools Day connection: "No joke. On April 1, you can start earning bonus points for all your stays through June 30."
  • Instead of producing a 404 web page error for people trying to access the registration page prior to April 1, a more welcoming temporary placeholder could have appeared: "Oops. You got here a bit early. We can't wait to register you for this promotion on April 1. We welcome you to return at that time."
I hate to lose.  But I really hate losing when I essentially beat myself because of unforced errors. We want to make other people beat us, losing because we encountered an opponent with superior skill.

Action item: at an upcoming staff or board meeting, take time to discuss the idea of unforced errors, brainstorm some your organization may be making now,  and then put systems in place to eliminate or minimize them.

Conference Design: Focus on Function, Not Just Form


“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains or the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”
—Steve Jobs, Founder and CEO, Apple

It used to be that most American homes came with a formal dining room, a room designated for a specific purpose, but rarely used beyond it.  It was a waste of space.

More contemporary home design begins with an understanding of the way the homeowners live and the activities their space must support: eating, socializing, consuming media, sleeping, working, exercising, gardening, and many more.  Just because you will be eating doesn't mean you need (or want) a room for that purpose alone.  The same is true for the home office.  At one time, you may have wanted a specific room for office purposes because you needed the designated space for a desk, a desktop computer, a printer, a filing cabinet, and much more.  Now you can get by with just a few shelves or a small closet given our adoption of laptops and tablets.

Just as this trend in home design can inform the design or remodel of office space, so can it inform our design efforts for multiple-day leadership and learning experiences.  Begin with gaining some clarity around the activities/functions people will want to engage in as a part of your event and the value those activities presumably create.  Then identify ways to infuse and integrate the activities and the throughout the experience, not just in an isolated timeblock specific to one purpose.  Having a networking reception is nice, but creating multiple networking opportunities in general sessions, breakouts, and at meals is even nice. 

Once that is accomplished, dig deeper into the value being sought behind the activities that attendees will want to engage it at the event.  Networking, for example, embraces multiple value propositions: finding someone who can give me a job, finding a business partner for a service my organization needs, diversifying my professional network in general, et al.  Once possible value propositions for any specific function/activity have been identified, look at all the various forms you can leverage to help attendees acquire that value beyond your usual defaults.

In addition to this general emphasis on functions, the value behind them, and diversifying the forms you consider in your design, the following more tactical design questions can help develop a more valuable conference and learning experience.
  1. What are the "must includes" in the gathering?  Think from both a content and a people standpoint: we need to cover this information/these topics, provide these types of learning opportunities, make sure these people have visibility in front of the entire group, involve these folks as presenters, etc.
  2. What are the "it would be nice to includes"?  Example: 10-minutes of comments from the organization's president.
  3. What are the logistics constraints we need to operate under (start and finish times each day, meals, budget, etc.)?
  4. What would you most like people to be saying about their conference experience after it concludes and how they feel about the organization and their role within it?
  5. What might be possible/desirable to do before the event and as a follow-up to strengthen the experience and the overall results you'd like to achieve?
  6. What are your overall desired learning outcomes, the knowledge you want people to leave with, and the actions you want them to feel capable of taking?
  7. Are there any "wild ideas" you've been thinking about that we should introduce into the mix?
  8. What are the unique characteristics of your attendees that should inform the design and delivery of the leadership conference experience?
  9. How can we maximize the interaction among participants, support any collaborative endeavors, and increase their retention, sharing, and application of the content covered? 
  10. How can technologies (both electronic and in other forms) be used to help participants connect to each other, the conversations they value, and the insights they seek?
 What are some other conference design questions you find most helpful?

Threads Unravel If We Don't Build On Them


A recurring frustration with online communities is when people start new discussion threads for a question or conversation when one already exists.

Doing so takes up valuable space on the main web page of discussions, as well as in the limited "attention space" of community members.

Actively moderated communities sometimes merge duplicate threads, but this seems to be more the exception than the rule. Until web designers create sites that detect duplicate posts ("It looks like you're about to start a discussion that already exists here ...", the change needs to happen at the user level.

In other words, before starting a new conversation thread, I need to search and determine if one already exists. If I locate one and take the time to review previous comments in it, I can make a more informed contribution to an existing conversation.

While particularly relevant for online discussions, the same general principle holds true for face-to-face discussions. It can be challenging when people step into an ongoing discussion and share an opinion or raise a question that pulls the conversation back to a place from which it has already progressed.

So what to do? As participants in conversations, be they online or in person, we have an opportunity to engage responsibly.  Here are a few approaches I use:
  • Search online for existing conversation threads/posts to see if my topic already exists before I start a new thread. This often requires scanning beyond the main page of discussions and/or trying multiple terms in a search field. Organizations can help by using more robust search engines and by merging duplicate discussion threads.
  • When joining a group that has been operating for some time (i.e., a staff team, a volunteer committee or board), make sure I read appropriate background materials (meeting minutes, strategic plans, et al) and/or talk to existing members to build my understanding of past efforts and present context. Organizations can help with more effective new member orientations and easy access to relevant documents.
  • When unsure if what I want to add to a conversation is appropriate or helpful, I often preface my remark with "I wonder if ... " Doing so can make it easier for others to point out if my point was addressed in a previous meeting or otherwise redirect the conversation. Organizations can help by capturing key conversation themes in real-time and visually noting them for all group participants to see.
Stephen Covey is well-known for his valuable advice to Seek First to Understand. Then to Be UnderstoodIn the world of online communities and transient in-person conversations, a slightly modified corollary is Search First to Understand (what has already been discussed). We are more likely to be understood when our contributions to a conversation demonstrate that we have done so.

P.S.  When facilitating, I often encourage groups to adopt "Build on others' contributions" as one of their shared agreements for conversation.

Better Conversations: Inviting Others to Contribute

 

The invitation was extended, and she accepted.

And when she offered her previously unspoken opinion, the entire conversation temporarily shifted.  Some echoed her sentiments, building on them from their own perspectives.  Others gently probed to learn more. In the end, the insight she shared produced a new action item for the group.

How did this happen?

It began with a simple invitation, one I extended as the facilitator, but it could have come from anyone in the discussion: "Before anyone else responds, I'd love to hear from some individuals whose voices have yet to be heard in our large group conversations."

Inviting others to contribute is a gift, one that any individual in a group can extend. Used strategically, such invitations can ensure diverse voices and perspectives are heard and decision-making discussions are more robust. 

Here are some of the invitations I often find myself extending in my facilitation work, frequently prefaced with "I'd love to hear from anyone who ... "
  • might see things a bit differently.
  • hasn't spoken much yet today.
  • can offer relevant historical perspective on this topic.
  • has a perspective we haven't considered yet.
  • can offer a specific example of this concept.
  • can distill our discussions to this point.
  • has some data to contribute to this discussion.
  • knows how others might have handled a similar situation.
Extending invitations to others, either to individuals by name or open to all, can help bring into a discussion whatever an individual feels would help make it better.

As I have written before, effective facilitation helps make it easier for a group to do its work.  Anyone can, and everyone should, see doing so as a part of their responsibility ... regardless of their role or tenure in a group.

Like any invitation, those invited retain the right to RSVP "No, thank you." Accepted invitations, however, often bring forth new thinking and feelings that shift conversations in very beneficial ways.

In your next meeting or discussion think about what invitation (and to whom) you might extend to improve the quality of the conversation.

Loyalty: Do you understand the tie that binds?


Image source: Starbucks.com

Starbucks is changing its longstanding rewards program.

Some people are upset, even very upset. Other people don't get why.

I think the change—and the subsequent negative reaction—provide a useful reminder about loyalty and relationships.

Image source: Starbucks.com
Not familiar with the change? Here are the basics.  Previously My Starbucks Rewards card members (a free membership) earned a free food or beverage option after every 12 visits or purchases … regardless of the amount of purchase during each visit.

The new system taking effect in April requires 125 stars for the same benefit. Customers earn stars at the rate of two stars for every $1 spent during a visit. Starbucks says a visit's avg. purchase amount is $5 so only an additional visit or slightly larger purchase is required.

While people are complaining about the mechanics of the new structure, I think the underlying issue is the one worth noting.

The previous system fostered loyalty through interaction regardless of what happened in that interaction. It also offered both tangible and intangible benefits: Visit your Starbucks fairly regularly and not only do you get a concrete reward (food or drink free), but you also become a recognized guest, one more likely to receive a familiar greeting from your regular barista.  In this sense, Starbucks really can feel a bit like a Third Place.

By shifting to a monetary-based system, Starbucks has knowingly created a transaction-based exchange … even though this was an underlying premise of the previous system.  Even if we receive the same benefit for about the same number of visits, the terms of our loyalty relationship is one now based on dollars.  Starbucks will be loyal to you so long as you express your loyalty via appropriate financial thresholds. Starbucks has always wanted to make as much money off of us as it can, but that unstated truth is now front and center.
Rightly or wrongly, people feel cheated: "I've been loyal all this time and this is how you treat our relationship?
The change in metric really is a change in meaning: in how the value of our relationship is defined and the terms of the loyalty "contract."  Every organization needs to understand the agreements (explicit or implicit) it makes with those with whom it hopes to create loyalty. Does yours?

Interesting to note that the new program is simply called Starbucks Rewards versus the original name, My Starbucks Rewards. It perhaps unintentionally reflects the shift (real or perceived) in the power dynamics of our relationship with the company.






Two Questions to Make You a More Valuable Contributor



Master keys unlock every door. They are incredibly powerful.

When thinking about how to unlock the potential that rests within a group of people coming together to collaborate, I'd like to suggest two questions you can ask yourself, ones that function as personal master keys:
  • What contribution can I make in this conversation to advance our collective work?
  • What factors do I need to consider to successfully make that contribution?
In my experience, individuals who thoughtfully consider these questions and then act on their answers are more vital contributors to group work regardless of the group composition, its purpose, or the individual's prescribed role in it. Like a Master Key, the questions are universal in value. Let's dig a bit deeper into each one.

What contribution can I make in this conversation to advance our collective work?

Answering this question requires mentally stepping outside the group and assessing its current reality without judgment, much as a facilitator might:
  • What is happening? 
  • What is being said? 
  • How are people interacting? 
  • What is the mix of participation (both extroverted and introverted)?
  • Whose voices are not being heard? 
  • What perspectives are not present among the actual participants? 
  • Where does agreement or disagreement exist? 
  • Where is there understanding and where might confusion exist?
  • What's absent from the discussions?
Answers to these questions (and others you might generate) will help you identify what the group may need to make progress. You can then consider what contribution you might make to what you've identified as being needed.  This transitions you to the second Master Key question.

What factors should I consider to successfully make my identified contribution?

Your contribution will occur within a context and culture. Think about the action you've identified in relation to the following question in order the shape the manner in which you might the contribute:
  • What is the culture in which this group operates, as well as the culture of the group itself?  
  • What trust and social capital have you built with groups members and which ones?  
  • How alike or different is the contribution you want to make from how you normally act in this group?  How might this affect how it will be perceived or received?
  • How might your default style help or inhibit you successfully making the contribution you've identified?
  • How might you modify your tone, expression, language, et al in order to have people hear the value you are trying to contribute? 
  • What observable behavior and understood data can you link your contribution to and how might you build on what others have shared?
At first, working with these two Master Key questions may require great focus, perhaps even jotting down your thoughts.  But as you consistently do so with both intention and attention, the less perspiration they will require over time.

Postscript

When all else fails, consider consulting a "locksmith", someone whose personal qualities and/or experience with the group might help with a stubborn lock. 


Ignoring an Important Indicator of Engagement


Are you engaged with engagement?



Engagement. It’s been all the rage the past few years as both for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations look for ways to create with their customers or members what we once called “stickiness”.  Gallup's work on employee engagement has also generated significant attention for the concept.

Much of the customer or member engagement emphasis, perhaps rightly so, has focused on activity-based metrics as the primary engagement indicator: liking posts on Facebook, checking in at a store on a location app, registering for a webinar, volunteering on a committee, et al.  Drawing on gaming principles, in some cases your activity is displayed publicly (i.e., our top blog commenters are … ) and badges and/or prizes are rewarded when certain activity thresholds are achieved.


But quantifying engagement by measuring activity alone is an incomplete (and insufficient) indicator.



To identify the missing element, consider how program designers craft outcomes in three areas for a learning experience:

  • Cognitive (intellect): what we want people to know and/or think
  • Psychomotor (physical activity): what we want learners to be able to do
  • Affective (heart and emotion): how we want participants to feel

Comparing learning outcome language to current engagement measures, you see that we favor psychomotor and cognitive engagement indicators.  Given that those are easier to measure, that's not too surprising.



What is most missing is the affective part of engagement, whether a customer or member feels engaged with your organization, your brand, your values, and much more. Intuitively we’d assume someone spending more time on your website, giving more money (or more regularly) to your fundraising appeals, or attending more of your programs would almost directly correlate with one’s engagement level.  Certainly many companies and associations act as if it does.



But to do so ignores the fact that engagement has qualitative aspects that may not correlate with its quantitative indicators. A few examples:
  •  A member could attend a lot of association events, but still feel outside the community or experience other forms of disconnect that might cause her to report a low level of engagement.  
  • Another member might be the classic "mailbox member" who never attends events or buys any products, but self-reports deep engagement because he reads your magazine cover to cover.
  • Or imagine the customer who infrequently buys your product but for whatever reason self-identifies as a brand loyalist deeply engaged with all that you offer. 
Personally, even though it is irrational, though I failed to visit a favorite neighborhood restaurant at all in 2015 I feel deeply engaged because of a few limited interactions with its owner in 2014.



If we are serious about using engagement as a success indicator in our organizations, we need to embrace both its qualitative and quantitative indicators.  We need to move beyond the activity that is easy to track to the feelings that individuals may hold toward the organization and its offerings.  We need to discover the measures that customers and members themselves would use as indicators of their engagement level.   

It's just possible that for some people, the heart of engagement is tied more to engagement of the heart than either the hands or the head.

UPDATE
Joe Rominiecki, who keeps an eye on all things membership for ASAE's Associations Now, was kind enough to point folks to this post. In doing so he rightly noted I had not suggested how to measure the affective part of engagement, so let me correct that.

I would suggest experimenting with asking members a simple question: How engaged do you feel with our association?  Since we're talking about how engaged a member feels, a self-reported assessment is really the only option.  

I might then consider including either or both of the following additional questions: 
  • For the engagement rating you selected, please describe your experience(s) with the association that most influenced your choice.
  • How does your current engagement level match with your overall desired engagement level?
I'll leave it to the survey/assessment pros to determine the response scales to offer, as well as how to do some cross-tab analysis with members' self-reported feelings of engagement with the more quantitative activity measures the association may be using.  The qualitative responses to the second would require some thematic analysis to see if there are any overall membership engagement trends that should be further explored. And the response to the third question might help guide future targeted communications and marketing for individual members based on their responses.




Writing Doesn't Mean Publishing


"You haven't written in more than three months."

This was a close colleague's opening line in a recent conversation.

But it is not quite true.

I have not published a blog post in three months.
I have written almost every day.

There is a big difference.

People's attention is increasingly valuable.  So many publishers are in the business of attracting eyeballs and getting clicks, churning out a never-ending stream of often unsatisfying content.

Why would I want to contribute to that?

I write almost every day. I publish only when I think that writing is worth reading.  This usually means sitting with drafts for some time, reworking them for clarity, and ruthlessly editing out unnecessary verbiage.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't work out loud or share less than perfect thoughts. Even when I publish something it remains a draft of sorts as readers' reactions often cause me to rework the piece.

But attention remains a precious commodity, one not to be wasted. So a fair amount of my writing never makes the cut to share. Quite honestly, I wish more people would do the same.



Adding Interaction Concern #2: Losing Control Of the Clock



Presenters should be concerned about clock management when adding interaction to a session or talk.  You can rehearse, time, edit, and somewhat control the pace of your speaking segments. This is not possible when you invite participants to engage with each other.

Or is it?

The timing of interactive elements is definitely manageable albeit less tightly than your speaking segments. You only lose control of the clock when you don't plan (1) an initial approach for managing it, and (2) alternative tactics to adopt based on what happens in real-time.

Providing structure enables the desired learning from an interactive segment (see my previous post) and it helps manage time for interactive segments.  And as you use interactive formats repeatedly, you hone in on the length and structure that groups of different dispositions require to have the intended learning experience.

So how does this work in action?  Let's look at two examples where I have previously lost control of the clock: (1) introductions, and (2) small group reporting out. I'm not alone here, right?

Introductions: Getting to Know You

You've decided that introductions are needed to break the ice. Let's imagine you're asking individuals to share their name, title, organization and tenure, and one unique or interesting thing about themselves ... in 60 seconds.  If you simply offer that instruction and then let someone begin, invariably the first person will exceed your allotted time and others who follow will do the same. Your session just started and you're already behind the clock.

Here's an approach providing more structure to help manage the time:
  • Explain you want to do quick introductions so people can get a sense of who else is present, but you don't want to spend the entire session doing so.  Tell participants you need their help to make this happen.
  • Describe (I would use a slide to engage people visually as well) the way you want people to introduce themselves, taking only 60 seconds to do so.
  • Give people 2-3 minutes to identify and note their unique characteristic.  This honors introverted learners as well as increases the odds that everyone will listen to others' intros.
  • Point out that we often don't talk in 60-second increments (heads will nod). Then either (1) model the way and do your own intro, asking someone else to time you; or (2) ask for a volunteer who thinks he can do a nice introduction in 50-60 seconds and you time.
Two key elements make this process work: (1) participants are engaged in managing the time; and (2) an appropriate intro is modeled for them to emulate.

Why do I suggest 50-60 seconds as the starting example? Because otherwise people rush through their intro as fast as they can and it defeats the purpose of the entire process. If you want to provide further structure, have a 60-second hourglass available that participants can opt to flip as they begin their introductions, enabling them to monitor themselves.

Capturing the Wisdom of Others: Small Group Reporting Out

Things can really go amiss here if you don't plan optional approaches and provide upfront structure.  The key question to initially answer is: does every group need to be heard from, and if so, to what degree? Your response provides the constraints for calibrating the time you'll use and the format that it will allow or comparably, the format you decide to use and the time it will require.

In general, I find workshop participants can listen to 3-5 groups reporting and/or about 15 minutes of total reporting out no matter how many groups.  After that they disengage and lose interest.  So even if you have time to hear from many more groups, it may be ineffective to do so.  This changes for a group of colleagues working together on a project or to set strategy. They are likely to have a longer attention span and a more active commitment to hear from others.

Here are some possible ways I might structure and introduce 15 minutes of small group reporting out to participants in a conference session I am leading:
  1. We'll do some quick reporting out after your discussions. We've got 15 minutes and 10 groups, so that will be 90 seconds/group. Note: The rapid reporting out might maintain attention spans for so many groups, but it is risky.
  2. We'll have 15 minutes for some small group reporting out. I'll initially ask each group to take about 45 seconds to share its most powerful takeaway. We'll then use the remaining time for groups to share any additional insights they think other participants really need to hear until the clock runs out.
  3. I'd like each group to record their top three takeaways in large legible print on a flipchart and post them when time is called.  I'll give you a two-minute warning when it is time for you to stop discussing and to capture what you want to share. You'll then have 7-8 minutes on your own ("gallery walk") to scan the output from other groups prior to about 5 minutes of large group discussion.
  4. We'll have about 15 minutes to capture some of the wisdom generated in your small group discussions. With more than 30 groups in the room there is no way we can do that verbally.  I'm asking you to Tweet your discussion takeaways in real-time using this special hashtag.  When we reconvene, you'll first quickly scroll through these Tweets with your small group colleagues prior some facilitated large group discussion.
  5. When we reconvene I want to gather 4-6 great takeaways from different groups, but won't be calling on each one to report out. So if you have an insight to share, I'll look to you to volunteer.
  6. Do #4 except use a Google doc.
And I always invite groups to efficiently report out that they simply "ditto" what another group has already said instead of repeating and chewing up more time: In our discussions we came to the same conclusions as group #3.  Finally, when inviting groups to report another takeaway during a second round, it helps with time management if you do so by saying: "Who has a new insight we haven't already heard that you would like to share?"

Alternatives to traditional reporting out

Instead of having individuals report out to the large group, you could use the Ambassador approach I've previously written about, sending a small group representative to another table to share takeaways more intimately. This can be repeated with rotation and sharing with a second table, time permitting.  Or instead of having the initial small group conversation generate takeaways to share, you could use my Prospector approach. Here participants first mix freely with others, collecting ideas in response to a topic or question you provide.  Subsequent small group conversation passes on the best of individuals' prospecting finds.

These are just a few of the possibilities you could consider, weighing (1) the learning goals for the overall session, (2) the potential value of the content small groups are generating, (3) participants' need to hear from others, and (4) the time available for doing so. Ideally, you structure any interactive elements to give yourself the flexibility to recalibrate the format based on real-time clock management.  This means that you identify possible options as you design your session and prepare the necessary slides and other materials to give you flexibility to modify formats on the fly. Example: if groups are deeply engaged in their discussions, I might allow a bit more time for them to continue and then opt for a faster reporting method.

The clock is your friend, but only if you build a relationship with it. Plan on how you will effectively manage time in order to address the content of your session with the interaction you want to create.

I've added interaction to a 10-minute TEDx talk for 600 people seated in an auditorium and used multiple engagement formats in a 60-minute session for a couple of hundred people seated at more than 30 rounds in a convention center ballroom. It isn't always easy, but it most definitely can always be done.


Previously in this series:   
Adding Interaction Concern #1: Losing Control of the Content
"You've Got to Make Your Presentation Interactive"