Case Study: Check Out These Facilitation Techniques by Award Winning Facilitator

Andrew Huffer runs facilitation, community engagement, team development, and training consultancy that supports government, business, and community organisations to do their best work.

Group Map Case Study – Andrew Huffer

Who is Andrew Huffer?

Andrew Huffer runs facilitation, community engagement, team development, and training consultancy that supports government, business, and community organisations to do their best work. His work takes him from Broome to Launceston; Perth to Port Moresby, Albany to Auckland. Wherever you are, he and his team can be on your patch, working with you to get the results you need, when you need them most. Andrew Huffer is the proud recipient of the 2015 Australian IAF Global Facilitation Impact Award.
1. What was the event, meeting or objective you were using GroupMap to resolve?
The Australian Dairy Leaders Alumni Forum

2. What were the details of the event in terms of size, name, and location? Is there a link we can refer to?
A national gathering of over 50 leaders from across the Australian dairy industry, held in Melbourne in December 2015. The summit enabled participants to identify how they would invest in their community, their industry, and importantly – themselves. Involved facilitation of interactive, speaker, panel, and workshop sessions and a program debrief with the planning team.

3. What was the main challenge you wanted to resolve?
Sharing multiple views and solutions across a range of topics with over 50 participants in less than 90 minutes.

4. In what way/s did you use GroupMap?
Participants chose one of four topics to work on within a break-out group. Each group identified three BIG ideas to develop to provide leadership to their community or industry in relation to the topic.

5. What was the response from the audience?
Very positive, especially in the reporting back session.

6. What outcomes/output did you achieve from using GroupMap?
GroupMap allowed more time for discussion of the topic as the reporting back time was much more streamlined. The information recorded was exported straight into the workshop report that the client had delivered to them within 24 hours.

7. Is there anything else you want to say to people considering using GroupMap for themselves?
If you’re using GroupMap, you still need to plan sound, simple, and logical facilitation processes. With reasonable planning (and a decent wifi connection) it will give you loads of flexibility in capturing and sharing individual and group ideas.
Read Andrew Huffer’s full blog about GroupMap Here!

It’s a great alternative to the omnipresent flipchart paper that can often bring groans of ‘you’re making us work’ when they’re rolled out in a workshop.

ANDREW HUFFER | Andrew Huffer and Associates

Three Easy Ways to Foster Gratitude in the Workplace with GroupMap

There’s a lot to be said for showing gratitude in the workplace; and with the end of 2021 insight, it struck us as the perfect time to reflect upon that for which we are grateful.

As passionate advocates of lifelong learning and shameless fans of brainstorming, we’re keen to help you do the same. So we have come up with three simple ways to use GroupMap to finish the year (or any session for that matter) with gratitude.

Checking in or out with Gratitude

Check-ins and check-outs are short activities that happen at the start and end of meetings or collaborative sessions.

They are a perfect opportunity for reflection and are one of the many mechanisms that can be added to your toolbox of useful techniques that help to build team connectedness.

A gratitude check-in or check-out is simply a matter of asking participants for whom or what they are grateful and why. There are a myriad of ways of phrasing this question as well as a number of different mechanisms that can be used to deliver them.

For example, starting with GroupMap’s Blank Wall, add a simple backdrop and invite participants to share who has helped them in the last 24 hours –

Similarly, like a lot of the maps, GroupMap’s Exit Ticket 3-2-1, can be adapted to invite participants to identify examples of gratitude –

If time is limited, adding a survey to your process is an easy way of kicking off or finishing your session with gratitude –

A Gratitude Retrospective

A retrospective is an agile project management tool used to support a review; they are a great way of viewing any event or undertaking through the lens of gratitude.

A member of the Groupmap team adapted our Mad Sad Glad retrospective to help us review our 2021.

Here’s a snippet –

While a Gratitude Retrospective can be run synchronously, we decided on an asynchronous approach so we could each work the retrospective around our end-of-year commitments and not rush our responses.

The responses of the retrospective will be shared amongst the team just before we finish up at the end of the year; this way we will end 2021 on a note of gratitude.

A Gratitude Brainstorm

If you’re looking for a more flexible approach to embracing gratitude, brainstorm could be more your style.

Here’s GroupMap’s Simple Brainstorm being used to encourage people to share –

Last of all

Giving people the opportunity to express their gratitude, fosters positive team connections, an atmosphere of understanding and makes people feel valued.

We’d love to hear how you use GroupMap to foster and showcase gratitude in your organisation.

Share your story.

5 Effective Facilitation Tools to Improve Online Meetings

effective-meeting-facilitation-tools

Using the right tool for the job makes all the difference. Sure, a brick can crack open an almond but you spend a lot less time picking out bits of the shell when you use a nutcracker.

The same can be said of meetings. Using the right meeting facilitation tools will help you deliver the outcomes you hope to achieve more effectively.

Here’s a list of simple, meeting facilitation tools that can support you at your next meeting.

1. Agendas

A well-planned agenda delivers value before, during, and even after a meeting.

  • They help you plan a meeting. They’re like a shopping list that requires you to compile a schedule of who says what and when. You can decide on logical order, and allocate time for each point to be covered.
  • They help you facilitate a meeting. The agenda makes sure everyone you need is in the right room at the right time. It can be used to guide everyone through the meeting topics ensuring everyone stays on track.
  • They help you document a meeting. The agenda includes key information in a logical structure, so the agenda format can be followed as a guide to capture meeting notes. Action items can be recorded against each topic for later follow-up.

Best of all, an agenda is a way of determining if a meeting is even needed. If there’s nothing new to discuss, the meeting can be canceled.

If your meetings have more of a Lean Coffee approach, then have the team add items they would like to discuss at the start of the meeting. This style of real-time agenda creation works well for dynamic teams who value coming together to talk about what is important at the time.

Whether your agenda is pre-planned or in real-time, it can help to –

  • focus the conversation
  • save time
  • ensure everyone has skin in the game

2. Brainstorming Templates

Templates are a useful way of structuring a meeting, increasing engagement, and supporting collaboration.

Online templates are particularly effective as they –

  • support the delivery of face-to-face, remote and hybrid meetings
  • support the delivery of both synchronous and asynchronous meetings
  • capture all inputs as the session progresses. This means there’s no need to rewrite information from post its or flip charts at the end of the session
  • allow participants to contribute anonymously or use an alias, therefore, supporting a psychologically safe space

Templates can directly echo the purpose of a collaborative session. From stakeholder mapping or a SWOT analysis, through shaping SMART goals, templates offer a clear and transparent process.

You can also use templates for book-end meetings to increase participation, engagement, and energy.

Here are some examples.

Icebreaker Templates

Icebreakers are a great way of warming up a group and fostering connections between participants.

There are two main types of icebreaker templates –

  1. Plotting – participants place their name or avatar somewhere onto an image to represent where they are or how they feel.
Use GroupMap to capture how each person is feeling at the start of the remote meeting - Ice breaker activity
    2. Open question – participants respond to an icebreaker question by either writing something down, inserting an image, or possibly both.

House Rules Templates

Having teams and groups agree to a set of guidelines within which they will operate increases the likelihood of participation. This is because the participants know what they can expect of others and what is expected of them. These could be a simple ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ template or a positive experience that is reverse engineered with a template into a list of house rules.

Check-out Templates

Checkouts are the last things to happen in a meeting. They can be used to –

  • gather information about the meeting itself
  • help participants to reflect on the meeting and solidify their thoughts

They can also be used to help you gauge how well your participants thought the meeting went.

3. Timers

We all know the agony of a meeting that runs overtime and the ecstasy of a meeting that ends early. So it’s unsurprising that timekeeping is a critical part of meeting facilitation.

Using a timer is a simple way of ensuring that:

  • People do not talk for too long without making a decision
  • All the topics on the agenda are discussed
  • Meeting processes such as brainstorming, voting, discussion or action planning are time-boxed appropriately.
  • Meetings end on time!

When people perceive something as valuable, they tend to be less wasteful of it. This is exactly what a stopwatch (or similar) does for a meeting. People are cognizant of the limited time that exists, they are therefore more likely to get straight to the point and less likely to waffle.

A timer can also be used to justify a facilitator closing down circular conversations, parking discussions that are off-topic, and scheduling additional meetings for further exploration of topics.

4. Voting Tools

Voting allows ideas to be prioritised so conversations can focus on what’s important rather than simply what comes next on the list. It also helps deliver a transparent and equitable process as the loudest voice in the room has just as much sway as the timidest.

Like many other facilitation tools, voting can help support a psychologically safe space, especially if it is done anonymously and independently.

Anonymous votes – means that each person can put forward what they really think and not be impacted by ego, fear, or reprise. There is no text attached to their name so they can indicate their preferences freely.

Independent votes – means that they are not impacted by what others have already done. You’ll want to avoid mechanisms where votes are seen in real-time as it can easily bias how others vote. This form of anchoring means that sometimes ideas with votes simply get more because they are seen to be the popular ones already selected.

If there are a number of ideas to consider, a facilitator doesn’t have to limit the number of votes a participant can make to one. Each participant can, for example, be allocated five votes so the top five ideas can be discussed and explored.

With a tool like GroupMap, you can also choose between allowing people to vote on only once per idea, or allocating all their votes to a single idea. Votes are tallied automatically. You can also provide written instruction as to what you want people to vote on.

Some common voting criteria are the ideas people –

  • most want to discuss
  • have the most questions about
  • think are the best ideas
  • think are the most important
  • see as the most creative

Voting is a handy facilitation tool when there are lots of ideas, limited time or you simply want to gauge the energy of the team.

5. Discussion Toolbox

A discussion toolbox is a set of conversation triggers, tips, and tricks that you can use when you’re facilitating meetings. They help you guide discussions, give participants the opportunity to contribute, and that all options are explored.

A discussion toolbox can be made up of:

  • open-ended questions
  • closed discussion prompts
  • discussion building questions
  • probing questions

Reach for the Right Tool Today

Whether you’re facilitating a brief meeting, half-day workshop or week-long conference, the quality and reliability of your facilitation tools can make a world of difference.

GroupMap was designed by facilitators for facilitators. It’s a powerful online brainstorming and collaboration tool that includes a range of features to help you deliver great meeting outcomes.

Start your 14-day free trial today.

Have more questions or would like a demo?

Facilitating More Inclusive Meetings for Introverts

groupmap-shares-useful-techniques-designed-to-make-meetings-more-inclusive-for-introverts-using-an-agenda-keeping-meetings-short-exploring-meeting-preferences-and-allocating-tasks

Good facilitators use a variety of techniques to build inclusive meetings. One approach is to consider the different personalities in the room, then design meetings around people’s preferred working styles. 

Ever since Carl Jung first defined the terms ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’, people have been interested in how our personality affects our lives. Workplace stereotypes suggest introverts want to be alone and work independently, while extroverts are loud collaborators. 

Introverts often  –  

  • enjoy low stimulation environments.
  • reflect before making decisions.
  • prefer quality time with one or two people rather than larger groups.
  • think deeply before speaking.
  • provide written over verbal feedback .
  • have a tendency to listen more.

Extroverts on the other hand often – 

  • Prefer high stimulation environments.
  • make decisions and speak quickly.
  • like the company of others.
  • Talk out their thoughts
  • Make verbal contriubtions over written ones.

As a facilitator, you know people can fall anywhere on the introvert-extrovert spectrum and not to think in binaries. 

At least one-third of people are introverts, according to Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  With that said, making meetings more inclusive for those who may be introverts benefits all meeting participants. Introverts feel more comfortable and engage more, and extroverts benefit from their insight and input. 

Here are five tried and tested techniques to facilitate more inclusive meetings for introverts.

1. Send an Agenda in Advance

Introverts can be unnerved by the unknown, so they are likely to want to know what will be included in a meeting beforehand. 

Sending out an agenda in advance of a meeting is a great place to start. It will let people know exactly what may be expected of them, and they won’t feel caught off guard should they need to participate. Introverts tend to only speak when they have something meaningful to add to a conversation, so sending out an agenda in advance gives them time to prepare and increases their likelihood of participation.

Not only is a pre-circulated agenda an effective meeting facilitation mechanism, but it could also save the introverts in your team a lot of anxiety. They will feel far more comfortable in knowing what is coming up in the meeting and can think about what they would like to say and contribute at that meeting.

todays-agenda

2. Keep your Meetings Short

Believe it or not, short meetings are inclusive meetings.

People who are unnerved by meetings will be less inclined to speak if a meeting goes on for too long or overtime. Providing certainty as to what topics will be discussed and when is more likely to keep people engaged and comfortable in the meeting space.

In the case of introverts, activities or events that go overtime can lead to overstimulation (sometimes called an introvert hangover); an introvert’s reflex is to shut down in an attempt to reduce the stimuli. They may appear to go quiet, switch off, or even walk away.

When it comes to the latter stages of a long meeting, introverts may seem distracted and start to appear restless; this is a protective mechanism kicking in that’s trying to protect them from that overstimulation.

With this in mind, rather than holding a single lengthy meeting, break it down into shorter ones. If a long meeting is absolutely unavoidable, allow people to ask for a break if they feel their minds wandering or exempt themselves if the topic being discussed doesn’t apply to them. This is an effective meeting facilitation technique regardless of personality type.

The simple act of setting a timer on a meeting signals the length of the meeting to the team.

timer-clock

3. Discuss Meeting Preferences One on One

The more you know about your meeting attendees, the more inclusive your meeting will be.

Knowing the meeting preferences of people is the best way of ensuring you’re facilitating the most effective meeting environment for them. 

The best way to do this is to send out a quick email inviting people for a brief one-on-one chat to discuss the approach they prefer. This will allow everyone time to consider their preferred meeting style, and share it with you outside the context of a large group.

Introverts may prefer – 

  • talking over issues in smaller groups.
  • the opportunity to share ideas anonymously. 
  • asynchronous meetings that allow them time to consider their input.
  • if presenting, for questions held to the end.
hand-raise

4. Find Opportunities to Include Introverts in Meetings

Exploring the ways in which people feel comfortable contributing to a meeting will make it more inclusive.

If people simply do not wish to say anything during a meeting, they are the perfect person to be the scribe. Have them capture the minutes of the meeting and ask them to follow up with participants to ensure action items are delivered.  Giving them the opportunity to express themselves in writing so that they have more time to consider their answers is a fantastic way to equalize the process. You’ll find that their input is often far more considered and detailed so it’s important not to skip over their contributions and that their ideas are heard.

They can also be invited to comment on other ideas, add more descriptions, insight, and feedback, and provide deep dives for the group.

Provide enough thinking time and reflection time. If you are having an online meeting, this is a good time to have people turn off their cameras and mics so that they have some quiet time to think.

Finally, they may be comfortable stepping into the role of meeting observer, gauging the effectiveness of the meeting ground rules or the timekeeper for the meeting.

introvert-listing-materials

5. Enlist Introverts as a Resource

Introverts may be more comfortable contributing outside the meeting. 

They may be happy to – 

  • identify gaps in the agenda.
  • deliver tasks aligned to action items.
  • compile information needed to inform the discussion that can happen during a meeting.
  • explore innovative ways to deliver effective meetings.
  • research and provide data that can be used in the meeting.
  • provide their thoughts before the meeting that can be used as examples
light-bulb-idea

Start Facilitating Inclusive Meetings Today

It’s always helpful to know the strengths and weaknesses of your team and how you can support them as they continue to learn and grow. 

Meeting tools such as GroupMap have been designed with inclusivity in mind. Boasting features built to support equity and psychological safety, GroupMap can help you deliver inclusive meetings and create a comfortable meeting environment for all involved.

  • Create a simple agenda that people can add to.
  • Timebox the meeting and each step to keep things on track.
  • Create a quick survey to find out more about your meeting attendees before the meeting.
  • Use individual brainstorming mode to give people their own space and time to think.
  • Open up the meeting beforehand for asynchronous meetings and collect ideas beforehand.

Facilitating a meeting has never been easier with the help of GroupMap

Have more questions or would like a demo?

The 7 Secrets of Productive Meetings

groupmap-delivers-outstanding-online-meeting-tools-so-you-can-deliver-more-productive-meetings

Productive meetings deliver useful outcomes within a set timeframe. They are purposeful spaces in which – 

  • people quickly connect and collaborate.
  • time and effort are well spent.
  • good decisions are made.

The best thing about productive meetings is that everyone seems to appreciate them. They tend to be a morale booster. People leave them with a shared sense of purpose and a greater connection to their team.

As much as we like them, productive meetings are less common than you’d expect. In fact, when Harvard Business School surveyed 182 senior managers about meetings, 71% said meetings were unproductive.

So why aren’t we getting the most out of our meetings?

Well, there are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, meeting facilitation is a skill not everyone has. Then there is the constant change to the way we communicate in the workplace. A change that may not have been effectively shifted into the meeting space. Finally, productive meetings take preparation, which means time and effort. Let’s face it, both are often in short supply in most organizations.

Life’s too short to waste it sitting in unproductive meetings. So here are some of the tried and tested methods we use to deliver productive meetings.

1. A Meeting can Only be Productive if it’s Needed

The idea of simply not having a meeting isn’t considered often enough.

You wouldn’t water a garden if it’s been raining for three days straight. So why do we head into meetings when we have nothing to discuss? If a report that’s needed for a meeting isn’t ready. If key people aren’t available. If input, guidance, or approvals aren’t needed. Then don’t have a meeting.

Similarly, if an effective alternative to the meeting can be used, use it! 

While years ago it was simpler and cheaper to hand out copies of a report in person, that’s no longer the case. Information can be circulated in a number of faster, cheaper ways. 

If an issue only requires the input of one other person, it can be discussed without a meeting. There’s no need to have others sitting in the same room to witness it. 

Canceling a meeting is unlikely to upset people. Far from it! People will appreciate that you are considerate of their time and glad they can redirect their energies elsewhere.

2.  A Productive Meeting is an Organised Meeting

There are two things to consider when organizing a meeting – 

  • An agenda
  • A meeting space

First, let’s consider the agenda.

Agendas are a really helpful meeting tool that is important in all sorts of ways. They can help plan meetings. They can help facilitate meetings. They can help document meetings. Importantly, agendas increase meeting productivity. 

Agendas list what will be covered when and by whom. They can increase a meeting’s productivity by –

  • helping people get organized and prepared.
  • setting time limits. 
  • focussing discussions.

Sending out an agenda helps people organize their schedules. People can also prepare for the topics that the meeting will cover. This means the meeting time itself is more likely to be used productively.

Agendas can help people make the most of their time. They reduce the influence of Parkinson’s Law. This is when a task takes as long to finish as the time allocated to it. They also help the meeting facilitator monitor discussions. This helps to make sure conversations are focused, and therefore more likely to be productive.

Secondly, the meeting space.

If you’re running a face-to-face meeting you need a room. It needs to be big enough to hold the number of people who will be at the meeting and include any equipment that might be needed. Assuming a space will be available is a big mistake. Waiting for someone to find a room is not a great way to start a meeting.

Similarly, if you’re delivering an online meeting you need an online space. Everyone attending the meeting needs to be able to access the space. It also needs to be able to work alongside any online tools or templates needed to facilitate the meeting. This time, the productivity killer comes from assuming everyone knows how to engage in the online space. So it’s helpful to run a practice meeting to make sure everyone is comfortable with the technology that will be used.

Running a hybrid meeting? You’ll need to make sure you have both a physical and virtual space.

3. Ground Rules Provide a Solid Foundation

Just like the rules of the road, meeting ground rules ensure everyone knows –

  • the limits they need to stick to
  • what they can expect of others
  • what is expected of them

Meetings that have ground rules are more likely to run on time and achieve their purpose. Not only do ground rules create more productive meetings, but they also deliver other benefits. We discuss ground rules, including how to write them, in more detail here.

4. Productive Meetings Include Follow Through

Imagine you’ve just emerged from a fantastic meeting. It finished on time. You worked through everything on the agenda. Sure, there was dissent, but it was healthy dissent that led to an even better solution. Then, following the meeting, nothing progressed. Was that time really spent productively?

Nothing undermines a good meeting quite like a lack of follow-through. So to make the most of a meeting – 

  • ensure meeting notes are captured.
  • shape action points.

Make sure someone acts as the meeting’s scribe. They can capture the key outputs of the meeting that are then shared at its end. 

Shape action points as part of the meeting. Good action points – 

  • are clear, precise, and specific.
  • start with a verb.
  • include a due date.
  • are assigned to someone.
  • are reported at the next meeting.

Lastly, ensure people follow up on their actions before the next meeting. Send out a list of agreed action points a week before the next meeting. It’s a good way to remind people of what they were meant to do.

5. Keep an Eye on the Time

Time is a limited resource. Productive meetings make the most of the time allocated to them.

Align the meeting to a productive time of day. Some groups may work best in the mornings. Others may be more focused after lunch.  

Include an allocation of time for each topic on the agenda. This allows facilitators to shut down conversations that are off track or over time. The time allocations have given them permission to act. 

Make sure someone is given the job of timing each topic. They can give a warning bell a minute before people are to move on to the next topic. 

6. Many Hands Make Productive Work

We’ve already mentioned some of the roles that can increase a meeting’s productivity. A facilitator, a scribe, and a timekeeper. While it’s often very tempting to allocate them all to one person, don’t. Allocating them separately increases the likelihood that the jobs will be done well. It also means that meetings aren’t overly burdensome for one person.

Similarly, ensure the action points are as evenly spread as possible. Asking one person to deliver on all of the action points could be problematic.

Finally, consider including one last role that we’ll go into detail about below.

7. Commit to Productivity

Having people mindful of and committing to meeting productivity will improve it. 

One way of doing this is by having someone observe and report back on the meeting.

The observer must be objective. They will look at how well people stick to the meeting rules. They will look at how well people keep to time limits. Importantly, they can watch to see what impact these things may have on the productivity of the meeting.

Additionally, the observer can keep a watch out for anything that happens during the meeting that increases productivity. If someone suggests a subgroup further explores a particular topic. If someone offers to email information rather than running through it in the meeting. If someone suggests putting a contentious issue to a vote. These sorts of things can be noted. 

While meeting blocks can also be noted, it may not be helpful to dwell on them. If the information hasn’t been made available to everyone. If no one has a timer. If the meeting starts late. These will have a negative effect but so might focussing on them.

Importantly, the observer will report back on their observations at the end of the meeting. They can help positively reinforce the productive behavior they observed. 

Include this opportunity for feedback as a part of the agenda. It will keep participants mindful of the importance of productivity and support a positive wave of improvement.

Start your Next Meeting with GroupMap

Don’t worry, these aren’t secrets you need to keep. They will help improve just about any type of meeting you can think of. Feel free to share them with anyone you want to help.

GroupMap was designed to help people think better together. Our online meeting templates are a great tool that supports your meeting process so you can focus on the people in the room.

Check out our plans today!

Have more questions or would like a demo?

6 Facilitation Techniques to Inspire Productivity in Meetings

meeting-productivity

A great meeting coordinator can get a group to brainstorm, discuss, and, most importantly, decide upon many things in a short amount of time. The challenge is that many organizations do not have a specialized facilitator to fulfil that position.

As the modern workplace grows more collaborative and digital, it is becoming increasingly necessary for all team members to understand how to conduct efficient meetings.

Here are six facilitation techniques that’ll help you lead the next productivity-boosting meeting with confidence.

1. Start Meetings with a Quick Check-in

Check-ins position everyone in the room to pay attention to the meeting and one another.

During your check-in, ask questions such as –

  • What’s on everyone’s mind before we get started with the agenda?
  • What is one thing you intend to accomplish during today’s meeting?
  • What one word best defines your current state of mind?

Check-ins take only a few minutes and result in substantial benefits. They allow individuals to get to know one another better and bring people’s attention to the room, ensuring that everyone is mentally present for the discussion.

2. Establish Question-based Meeting Agendas that Promote Participation

One of the most crucial aspects of being a facilitator is a neutral status, which entails raising areas of concern or opportunities, preferably in question form. A well-crafted question can help make complex topics more manageable and encourage other members to share their expertise on the subject.

Instead of posting a common agenda like “discuss marketing strategy”, try listing out question-based formats such as – “what major market risks require our attention and how can we best prepare for it?”.

This agenda strategy helps set the meeting tone and help members think of answers beforehand.

3. Delegate Specific Meeting Roles

It is acceptable, even wise, for a facilitator to delegate tasks such as note-taking and time-keeping to others.

Allowing attendees to contribute fosters a sense of collective ownership of the meeting’s success.

Remember to rotate the responsibilities at each meeting so everyone has the opportunity to engage and contribute.

4. Create Opportunities for Engagement

The facilitator should be mindful that certain group members may be less outspoken than others, though their opinions remain just as crucial. The facilitator should establish an environment of equality in which they can participate.

Establishing meeting rules underpinned with inclusivity is of paramount importance. Look to those attending the meeting to help contribute to these understandings so that their shared ownership of the expectations increases the likelihood of adherence to them.

When facilitating discussion, ask simple open-ended inquiries to spark their curiosity and elicit responses. Use questions such as –

  • What do you think?
  • What would you do? and
  • Do you have any other ideas?

Given these questions will be asked without notice, offer people the opportunity to “pass” or nominate for the conversation to “circle back” so that those less forthcoming individuals don’t feel put on the spot.

If time allows, consider separating participants into small groups to encourage quieter team members to participate. Then, bring everyone back to the whole group and ask for highlights of the chat.

5. Review and Combine Ideas for Greater Focus

Once all participants have had the opportunity to respond to the question the meeting is to address, it’s important that those ideas are organized and assessed. Once all participants are on the same page, it’s possible to shape agreed action points. 

With all ideas collated, the facilitator can work with participants to –

  1. Review all of the ideas
  2. Identify any ideas that can be grouped together
  3. Vote on the ideas they wish to bring forward to discuss

Involving participants in such a sense-making activity can help them better understand the connection between multiple ideas. It also ensures that the meeting’s time is spent focussed on the more important matters.

Using meeting facilitation tools can be of great help in supporting this process. Such tools can also add value as they transparently capture and report back on the ideas generated by the meeting.

6. Conclude with a Quick Debrief and Plan Follow-ups

Debriefing time should be set aside at the end of the meeting.

Facilitators can improve retention of meeting outcomes by summarising –

  • The issues covered
  • Information acquired
  • Decisions made, and
  • The tasks and individuals accountable for their delivery

Finally, following the meeting, ensure there is follow-up with participants.

Valuable progress can be achieved at a meeting, but it is meaningless if there is no follow-up to ensure proper execution of the agreed action points.

Final Thoughts

Meeting facilitation is a valuable transferable skill.

While someone new to the facilitation space may make errors; that’s fine! One doesn’t have to be a master facilitator to save a team hours of wasted time.

Facilitation skills will grow as they are practiced, which is why the most valuable advice to a would-be facilitator is –

Get out there, and start practicing!

GroupMap is a real-time online brainstorming and group decision-making tool that dramatically improves the output of team brainstorming activities.

Start a free trial and boost your company’s productivity today!

Have more questions or would like a demo?

Keeping Groupthink Out and Teamwork In

avoiding-groupthink-in-your-online-collaboration

Believe it or not, it’s possible for signs of harmony to point to issues within a group. As strange as it may seem, groups that arrive at swift consensus, appear immune to conflict, and can easily navigate ethical conundrums may have a problem.

That problem is groupthink, and it’s collaboration’s kryptonite.

To counteract this, it’s important for facilitators to be –

  • conscious of the potential of groupthink when curating a collaborative environment
  • aware of any symptoms that may appear during the collaborative process so that they may be swiftly addressed

As passionate fans of collaboration, we are keen to help you keep groupthink out of your sessions to make more space for teamwork and the positive outcomes that comes with it.

What is Groupthink, and What’s so Bad About It?

First referenced in 1971 by psychologist Irving Janis, groupthink sees our very human desire for cohesion influencing group decision making. It is the tendency for group members to override their own critical evaluation of an idea or situation, in order to minimise conflict and reach group consensus.

It’s something we all do from time to time. If ever you have agreed to meet up with a group of friends at a cafe you don’t like, or you find yourself at a quiz night when you were really hoping to head to an escape room, it’s likely you’ve agreed to be there because of groupthink.

Although groupthink is unintentional its consequences can be significant. While agreeing to attend a quiz night is fairly benign, in extreme cases, groupthink can be so impactful that the outputs of the group are irrational or dysfunctional.

Groupthink can actually counteract the benefits of having a group involved in the decision making process; the desire for harmony acting almost as a repellent against diverse opinions, ideas and solutions, and devaluing differing expertise and varied experience.

What Causes Groupthink?

Groupthink occurs when we are feeling unsafe; the less safe we feel, the more likely groupthink is to influence us.

This is because groupthink is a byproduct of our underlying wish to fit in, to be liked, and to exist harmoniously with others; it is the result of our unconscious pursuit of ‘safety in numbers’.

Groupthink can be a response to –

  • a high-stress situation
  • an environment of uncertainty
  • recent failure or criticism
  • time pressure
  • a lack of impartial leadership

What are the Symptoms of Groupthink?

A facilitator can ‘test’ for groupthink by looking out for the following –

  • new ideas and perspectives are met with silence
  • group members self-censor or offer the opinions of ‘anonymous others’ rather than their own
  • dissenters are quickly pressured to change their view
  • opposing viewpoints are labeled ‘stupid’, ‘weak’ or ‘wrong’
  • the problem is only seen from one perspective

The great thing is, by appropriately calling out these symptoms, a facilitator can negate them.

How to Avoid Groupthink so Better Decisions are Made

The more supported and safe participants feel in the group environment, the less likely groupthink is to occur.

Here are three simple steps you can follow to help deter groupthink and deliver better decisions.

1. Build a Transparent Process that Fosters Divergence

A process that side steps groupthink to capture all ideas amongst its initial steps is a great way of encouraging divergent thinking. This can be achieved in a couple of simple ways –

  • asynchronous input
  • anonymous input
  • divergent and convergent thinking cycles

Asynchronous input allows members of the group to submit their ideas individually at a time that suits them. It means participants can give themselves as much thinking time as they need to respond, without the influence of the group. Asynchronous input comes with the added bonus of helping to overcome recency bias.

Allowing participants to submit their input anonymously can be used synchronously or asynchronously. Anonymous input allows participants to be completely honest with their feedback, safe in the knowledge that their ideas will not trigger direct adverse action.

Stepping participants through divergent and convergent thinking expands their context.

  • Divergent thinking requires each participant in the group to only focus on new, innovative, and wild ideas. The process is additive, so participants can build upon these new ideas. The goal is to think laterally (beyond the obvious). Conversations are driven by vision, ideals, wish lists and creativity. 
  • Convergent thinking is the opposite. Limitations and constraints are put in place to encourage consensus building to see what is plausible and realistic. 

Moving participants in and out of this cycle as part of your process encourages both forms of thinking which help to foster divergence.

Online collaborative tools are ideally placed to support this. The more effective tools include features that allow for anonymity or the use of an alias, and remove the possibility of personalities being identified through handwriting. It’s possible to set the tool so that members of the group can’t see each other’s responses until the facilitator allows, so participants won’t be swayed by the thoughts of others.

Ensuring the process is transparent can help remove another layer of uncertainty; knowing how information will be used or shared means participants won’t jump to a wrong conclusion or possibly become defensive during the collaborative process.

2. Encourage Healthy Dissent

According to the Harvard Business Review, healthy dissent can stimulate neural pathways and spark greater creativity.

Try – 

  • appointing a member of the group as devil’s advocate to give them permission to spark conversations that trigger opposing views
  • having groups track the ideas they wish to dismiss, then ask them to defend those ideas 
  • allocate participants a different character through whose lens they are to consider an idea

Being able to consider all aspects of an idea is to be encouraged as it will help unearth all manner of creative solutions.

One approach to encourage healthy dissent is to argue like you are right, then listen like you are wrong. This form of active listening gives everyone a chance to put their point across and to feel supported when they speak.

It can be challenging managing conversations that matter to people. They will speak with passion and conviction and it may at times feel like tensions are high. Healthy dissent is about managing and respecting the process and the debate.

3. Give the Leader the Day Off

If the group is a team, having the team leader or manager absent themselves from the group decision process can be beneficial for everyone. 

When the leader remains in the room, ego, authority, and fear are likely to have an impact. It might not be obvious with a highly collaborative team, but undertones of these will still exist.

The absence of the boss or manager on the other hand side-steps this influence. In self-organised teams, each person has the chance to put themselves first, and address the problem in a way that best works for them.

It allows group members to interact with their peers without – 

  • the influence of a hierarchy
  • fear of reprisal
  • any concerns around the lack of impartial leadership 

It is a way for a leader to – 

  • show trust
  • gain greater insight into their team
  • empower teams to take action on their own.

This is a powerful way of procuring a very honest response from a group, particularly if the group decision omits references to individuals.

Putting it Into Practice

GroupMap is an online collaboration tool that offers all manner of templates to help guide group discussion and decision making; it also offers the flexibility for you to build your own!

GroupMap lets people brainstorm asynchronously, anonymously, change the role of facilitators, and allows individual brainstorming and equal participation to ensure that the voice of the individual, as well as the collective, is heard.

GroupMap lets you capture the three most important views in the brainstorming session: your’s, mine, and ours.

Have more questions or would like a demo?

5 Ways to Level Up your Meeting Facilitation Skills

lvl-up-meeting-facilitation-gm

With meetings and workshops now commonplace, facilitation is considered a highly desirable  workplace skill; of course, it’s no surprise given the incredible difference a good facilitator can bring to such sessions.

Additionally, when one considers current employment trends, facilitation skills appear to be of even greater value; “empathy, judgement and leadership” being both in-demand skills, and core to the fabric of a good facilitator.

So whether you’re looking for a way to deliver greater value at work, or you’re keen to enhance your resume, honing your facilitation expertise is a great place to start.

At GroupMap, helping people think better together is what we’re all about. Here’s what we think makes a great facilitator along with some practical steps to help you get there.

What is a Facilitator?

A facilitator is a person who enables a group of people to work together more effectively so that they may deliver high-quality outcomes.

Those outcomes could be a range of things, including –

  • capturing and exploring ideas
  • making decisions
  • crafting a shared understanding
  • finding a solution to a problem
  • designing a product
  • achieving a consensus

What Makes a Great Facilitator?

A great facilitator sets the stage so that the group can perform together at their very best. The facilitator does this by supporting the two key elements of a collaborative session –

1. The Collaborative Process

The collaborative process is what happens during the session, as well as how, where and when it happens.

When building a process a facilitator considers –

  • the outcome required of the session and the date by which it is needed
  • who needs to be involved
  • what needs to happen at the beginning, middle and end of the session to deliver that outcome
  • how time should be allocated
  • if the session is to be in-person, online or both
  • when the session is to be held in order to deliver the outcomes when they are needed

2. The Collaborative Environment

A collaborative environment is one conducive to participation, cooperation and focus, and as a result, high-quality outcomes are delivered faster. They are psychologically safe spaces in which participants feel acknowledged, accepted and respected.  

In shaping a collaborative environment, a facilitator will demonstrate –

  • Respect: by recognising and acknowledging the intrinsic value of each participant in the session
  • Empathy: by putting aside their own context in order to be open to embrace a genuine understanding of that of the participant
  • Neutrality: by putting aside any bias, prejudice or agenda, so that only the inputs of the group shape the outcomes of the session

The facilitator will foster open channels of communication, ensuring –

  • input is honest
  • participation is balanced
  • conflict is respectfully addressed

A great facilitator remembers that, despite the fact all eyes may be upon them, they are not the star of the show; the stars are the participants, and it’s their time to shine.

What You Can do to Become a Better Facilitator

1. Get Organised

Whether you’re delivering an hour-long meeting, a half-day workshop, or week-long training, you need some sort of overview or agenda that outlines –

  • the purpose of the session
  • who is participating
  • when and where the session will happen
  • the steps that constitute the session
  • a timeframe

If you find yourself pulled in to deliver a session that isn’t supported with an outline, take the time to construct one with the group there and then. A quick brainstorm will ensure the purpose of the session is clear and the group is focussed; the smooth delivery of the session will make up for the time you spend with this initial gathering of thoughts.

  • send out calendar invitations along with the session overview well in advance.
  • lock in the resources you need to deliver the session

2. Open Those Channels of Communication

  • Kick off with an icebreaker to warm the group up; icebreakers are known to increase group engagement and focus.
  • Take the time to work with the group to establish the ‘house rules’ for the session. When members of a group know what they can expect of others and what is expected of them, the likelihood of participation increases while an environment of psychological safety is supported.
  • Don’t do all the talking; you are the conductor not the orchestra.
  • Deliver information in easily digestible steps; too much information will be overwhelming.
  • Allow for silence and thinking time. It allows individuals to consider their responses before sharing them.
  • Listen and paraphrase what is said to ensure you have understood things correctly.
  • Look to the body language of participants for additional cues.
  • Draw out and make space for reticent or quieter participants to contribute, and stack conversations to support balanced participation.

3. Keep an Eye on the Time

  • Allocate a time to each of the session steps, and stick to it!
  • Ensure participants are aware of the timeframes within which they are working.
  • Call out and wrap up circular conversations.
  • Park discussion if consensus can’t be reached and circle back if time allows.

4. Maintain the Focus

  • Use the number of inputs generated by the group as an indicator of their engagement; positively reinforce effort, it will inspire more participation and reinforce focus.
  • Check in regularly to assess energy levels; when energy wanes so does focus.
  • Listen out for chatter; it is a helpful barometer that can point to –
    • The completion of a task – so move the session on to the next step
    • Disengaged and distracted groups – so remind participants of the session’s purpose
  • If a participant seems off-topic, explore if their opinions support the purpose of the meeting.

5. Embrace a Facilitator’s Mindset

  • Be curious. Use questions and phrases such as –
    • What did you mean when you said…
    • Tell me more about…
    • What would that look like?
  • Adopt the mantra “it’s not about me”. Despite our very best of efforts, possibly only the most self-actualized of people are able to consistently exude respect, empathy and neutrality; this is a work-around until you get there.

Start Facilitating Today

GroupMap is an online collaboration tool designed by facilitators for facilitators. It helps you construct and deliver a polished collaboration process, and includes features that support the curation of a collaborative environment too.

GroupMap can be used to support face-to-face, virtual and hybrid sessions. It captures data as you go; there’s no tedious note transposing at the end of your workshop because GroupMap does it all for you!

Have more questions or would like a demo?

Zoom Break Out Rooms and GroupMap for Remote Meetings

Using Zoom break out rooms is great for creating smaller groups for discussion especially if you need to have larger virtual conferences, meetings or workshops. With its recent security upgrades and participants’ self-selection of rooms, it now makes it a little easier for people to navigate to their own space.  

You can use GroupMap for each breakout group to capture their ideas which can then be shared back with everyone during plenary. It’s a great way of making sure each group has its own space to think, but then have a quick and easy way for all the ideas to be shared and discussed.

For example, we have created a map for each Breakout room and provided the links to each team for their activity.

 

Breakout Rooms GroupMap and Zoon

Decide on the break out room activity

What is the actual activity you want participants to do? Do you simply want them to share and capture ideas, come up with a plan or perhaps a round robin discussion in a world cafe format style.  Depending on the activity, you can then choose HOW you want people to interact during break outs.

e.g.

  • “I want to create a separate activity or discussion map for each group”
  • “I have a series of activities for each group to work through with a facilitator”
  • “I want to have an open space where people can move in and out of various activities.”

Based on this, you can then set up your maps and workspaces accordingly and add instructions so that participants know what they should do when they first join the room and activity. 

With GroupMap you can either duplicate the same activity for all groups which can then be discussed per group, or into a single map for further discussion or action. You can also decide if you want groups to see ideas from others or just to have it to themselves for now.

Inviting people into Zoom or GroupMap

 
Assuming you have created your Zoom breakout rooms, you can either pre-assign people to each room, allow them to self select or allocate names to each break out room separately.
 
If you want separate activities for each group, then you have to share the link with the group chat or share with a designated facilitator. At this point, Zoom does not yet have the feature to allow you to add resources beforehand to each breakout group.
 

If you have a series of activities for each group, then share the workspace link.

GroupMap and Zoom Tip
Add GroupMap link to Zoom Chat or Invite

Each GroupMap or Workspace has a link which can be shared in the chat window in Zoom. This is useful if you don’t know who will be attending that day or you’ve created a new map. 

You can use the same link in your calendar or meeting invites. At this time, Zoom does not have the function to have preset links for each breakout room.

If you know who is coming, you can send them an email beforehand.

People can be invited as viewers, contributors or facilitators.

adding zoom link to GroupMap
Add your Zoom Link to GroupMap
You can also add a Zoom link to your GroupMap.
People can join a map, read the introduction (Or in this case check out the bar) and then click on the Zoom invite to join the conversation.

Provide clear instructions for participants in the breakout rooms

It’s common that when we enter a different room or space that we need a little help remembering what needs to be done in our small groups. A few simple instructions for each breakout room will help remind people what they are there to do. 

Here’s an example of a quick instruction in GroupMap for Brainstorm but you can add instructions for each step.  E.g. Vote for the most value added, the ones that you think are most important or, the ones that you think are most creative.

Breakout Group instructions

Facilitating remote breakout sessions at meetings

 

There’s a couple of nifty features in GroupMap that will help your facilitators manage each break out group. This allows each small group facilitator to set timers and move everyone to the same page when doing the activity.

 

Use the Timer to keep conversation flowing.

Zoom uses a session timer to help manage time as well as the bringing everyone back to the main group page. However, you can also set additional timers for each stage to help time box activities.

Move all participants to step

 

Move everyone to a specific step in a map

This is handy for bringing everyone in the workspace to the same map so that you are literally on the same page.

If you have several groups with different facilitators, then keep the maps separate so that they can self manage.

 

Screen Share the results.

Move from group to group and screen share the maps on Zoom to allow people to speak from each group. Enabling screen sharing on Zoom allows a spokesperson from each group to speak up, or you can take the lead and share you screen with everyone.

You can also lock the map to prevent further changes or click on ideas to add additional comments and insights.

Other handy tips for facilitating remote team meetings

  • If you don’t know when people will join your session, add links to your Zoom Background or at the footer of your presentation so they can join your map at any time.

  • Use a “Lights Out” technique when it comes time to individual brainstorming and thinking. This means cameras and mics off so that people can focus on their own thoughts and come up with their own ideas during the break out room.

  • Add movement to your meeting. Just like in real life, use the time that people would get up and move to a breakout room as a time for people to stand up, walk around and then move into the break out room.

  • If you want to prevent further changes to the map, you can always lock a step, or lock the whole map.

  • Manage the ratio between facilitators and participants. A good rule of thumb is 1 facilitator to 7 participants for a 30 minute session.

  • If you are looking for ways to allocate people to different rooms, can add topics to a map and have people add their name near each topic. They can then simply move to the relevant room, or you can allocate them.

A map is the specific activity that you want each group in the break out to do. A workspace is a collection of map activities that they can do in succession. You can create a set of activities for each group and use one link and have participants navigate through each map one at a time in a single workspace. Otherwise, you can use individual maps if it is just a single activity.

Yes, you sure can. Just right click on the map or workspace on your home page and you can replicate the map or workspace or save a map as template. 

We use minimal websockets and also don’t transfer large amounts of video and audio so our requirements are pretty low in terms of what is needed for a compatible device and bandwidth capability.

There are no specific Zoom integrations at this point.

Depending on the number of facilitators and participants, an event licence fee for 1 month starts at $60USD.  Please contact us at info@groupmap.com for more information and to get a quote.

Absolutely. You can contact our team directly who can provide you with general advice at info@groupmap.com.

We can also work in partnership with you to directly set up and run your maps on an hourly or full contract purpose.

So whether or not you want to self-service or full service, we can help. You can also check out our list of certified facilitators who can assist with helping to run your event.

Have more questions or would like a demo?

GroupMap: A Collaboration Tool Supporting Community Leaders To Continually Succeed

100% Clear on “What’s Next?” 

Andrew Huffer

Andrew Huffer is a Principal Consultant for Andrew Huffer and Associates – a facilitation, community engagement and team development specialists focused on helping team members to be 100% clear on ‘what’s next?’ 

Andrew’s main role is in program design and development and facilitation. As a recent GroupMap Certified Digital Facilitator and user for over five years, Andrew has used the online brainstorming and collaboration platform with up to 35 clients, to deliver 100+ workshops. 

Recently, Andrew was engaged to facilitate the Community Leaders – Stepping Up and Stepping Out Forum. The workshop aimed to challenge participants to consider how they can step out and step up to support their communities once their leadership programs finished. 

The forum was hosted by the Victorian Regional Community Leadership Program (now known as Regional Leadership Australia).

The intended outcomes of the forum were:

  • Gain exposure to strategic thinking beyond the group’s own localities
  • Use insights to broaden the group’s leadership capacity
  • Expand the organisation’s leadership support base

A Collaboration Tool for Face-to-Face and Digital Facilitation

Over 80 people attended the forum which was held concurrently with participants in Melbourne and Canberra (where a program group was visiting Parliament House). Andrew and his team used a participative approach for the forum to:

  • Share insights from experienced leaders
  • Understand the potential impacts of regional population growth
  • Consider future opportunities for regional leadership

Over his many years and experiences in delivering and facilitating workshops, Andrew found that a face to face setting presented a challenge of laboriously tracking and managing participant input using paper-based tools (flipcharts, templates, post-it notes etc.) 

Documenting reports was time-consuming and arduous.

Meanwhile, in the online space, Andrew discovered there were a few tools available, but they were mostly focused on project management or very ‘clunky’ to use from a design and participant perspective.

 

GroupMap: Supporting Facilitation 

Five years ago, in 2015, Andrew was introduced to GroupMap by a colleague who was really into tech-based approaches to facilitation. 

Andrew’s overarching goals for an online collaboration tool included:

  • Easy to use and navigate for participants and facilitators alike;
  • Template-based;
  • Suited and enhanced facilitation digitally, face to face or in a hybrid situation. 

GroupMap Collaboration Tool in Action

Collaboration Tool for Better Engagement 

Throughout his years of using GroupMap, Andrew indicated that he has seen many benefits the online collaboration tool brings to achieving outcomes for facilitated workshops, conferences and meetings. 

At the recent Community Leaders – Stepping Up and Stepping Out Forum, Andrew designed the workshop so that participants worked in breakout groups in both locations to undertake a Wave Analysis to identify:

  • New Edges Emerging Trends, and,
  • Established Norms and Dying Practices in regards to regional leadership. 

Participants then identified a ‘big idea’ that they wanted to implement and used the action planning feature of GroupMap to outline how they will make it happen.

“With participants being split across two locations and most using Group Map for the first time, it was important that the workshop process and steps were clear,” said Andrew.

“Being able to outline the objectives for each workshop step within GroupMap templates made this easier. Group Map is also fairly intuitive and simple to follow for most users.” 

“For displaying results and reporting it’s easy to zoom in and highlight different elements of each map. The templates are fantastic for design purposes.”

Templates

Loved by facilitators and participants

Over the years of using GroupMap, Andrew has noticed that his participants loved how easy it is to use. This often led to participants seeing the potential for using GroupMap to further collaborate more meaningfully with their own teams and community stakeholders.

From his recent Community Leaders – Stepping Up and Stepping Out Forum, Andrew noted how GroupMap also provided an effective tool to enable meaningful participation amongst participants concurrently across multiple locations. 

“My client was very happy that we had a robust tool to enable this to happen. With the participants doing the documentation, I could focus my efforts on checking in with the groups to help them where needed. 

“Being able to see outputs generated in real time is a great way to check in to see if groups are ‘on track’.”

The forum resulted in several initiatives identified for participants to implement that will benefit regional communities as part of their leadership programs.

 

Andrew’s GroupMap and digital facilitation tips!

Andrew has also kindly shared his digital facilitation and GroupMap use tips that focus on making sure that any virtual workshops, activities and meetings are even more engaging and effective than ever. 

 

Digital facilitation tips

 

Andrew has created a series of videos focused on sharing his online facilitation learnings. In this video titled: “One percenters to keep your participants engaged,” Andrew shares top tips to help keep your participants engaged and productive throughout your online workshop. 

Some of the best practices we love:

  1. Make more effort to keep your events engaging. 
  2. Deliver in shorter blocks of time than you would face to face
  3. Think of ways to incorporate non-screen based activities
  4. Focus on the core elements of (1)  tapping into the diversity of the group (2) helping it
  5. to do its thinking and (3) deliver outcomes

 

GroupMap: Collaboration tool tips and tricks

In his five years of using GroupMap, Andrew has certainly picked up a lot of learnings and tips and tricks for using our online collaboration platform. 

Here’s some he has shared:

  1. Design your Group Maps to match the purpose and outcomes that you’re trying to achieve (not the other way around). There’s plenty of templates and design options in Group Map to enable this. 
  2. It’s also best to keep processes reasonably simple when you start or for people new to the online space. Ideally it’s great to have scribes or co-facilitators working with breakout groups to help them stay on track where needed.

 

Try GroupMap for your next engaging meetings, workshops or events!

Thank you Andrew for sharing your GroupMap journey, story and learnings with us. If you’re a facilitator like Andrew or belong in a team who are looking for a more engaging and effective way of brainstorming, try GroupMap today, FREE for 14 days.