NORDP 2019 Conference Notes: Effective Meeting Facilitation, Parts One and Two

Slides: Facilitating Innovative Research 

Presenters:

  • Donnalyn Roxey, Knowinnovation
  • Andy Burnett, Knowinnovation

Thanks to our session scribe, Christina Howard, Texas A&M University!

As research development professionals, how can we make meetings more interesting, productive, and effective? How do we promote creative thinking? At the Effective Meeting Facilitation workshop, we entered the room to find an array assortment of squishy ducks, Slinkys, and other fidget toys on chairs throughout the room. The presenters used these along with a variety of engaging means to generate ideas and discussion among audience members. They emphasized: When designing a meeting it is important to consider what type of environment might facilitate creativity, and to recognize that different creative preferences can still achieve similar outputs.

Effective Meeting Facilitation, Part One

The focus was on the various dimensions of a creative climate and on specific ways RD professionals can encourage and facilitate each of these. Dimensions include: dynamism and liveliness; freedom; risk taking; playfulness and humor; idea time; idea support; trust and openness; conflict; debate; and challenge.

Tips for the RD professional

Some practical ways to encourage dynamism and liveliness are to move people around: get them talking to new people or interacting in new ways. For example, hold a meeting in a new or different location. One way to incorporate playfulness and humor is to allow for “mind wandering” through the use of fidget toys.

Assist with providing idea time and idea support by leveling the playing field: making sure everyone’s ideas are heard, deferring judgment (both positive and negative), and separating out divergence from convergence by listening to all ideas before reviewing and matching them with goals and objectives. Additionally, allowing time for ideas to incubate (i.e., thinking and regrouping) is critical rather than trying to cram everything all into one meeting.

Some suggestions to make meeting environments more creative were using fidget toys, holding meetings off-campus, using sticky notes, process mapping, adding a little bit of “interest” to the meeting space (i.e. in the form of potted plants).

Effective Meeting Facilitation, Part Two

The focus was on strategies for conducting virtual meetings effectively. Virtual collaboration can decrease our carbon footprint and increase affordability… if it works. There are multiple ways to collaborate virtually across space (i.e. Zoom), time (i.e. bulletin boards, computer screens for asking and answering questions), or a combination of both (i.e. Google Docs).

Tips for the RD professional

Ideas labs use a combination of virtual and face-to-face meetings to engage individuals. Have everyone participate virtually in an initial “ideas lab.” This can help gauge who will engage – and who should be present at the table in a face-to-face meeting.

Randomized coffee talks” (RCTs). These have the goal of getting people together who might otherwise never meet or interact, and provide them with a small incentive for doing so (i.e. coffee). For example, RCTs could be a good pre-meeting exercise to help meeting participants engage with each other prior to a larger proposal meeting.

An important factor to consider when organizing a virtual meeting is the length of time, in part because the cognitive load is larger in a virtual space than in a physical space. One way to alleviate this would be to schedule shorter meeting times with longer breaks in between when planning a virtual meeting. Also, encouraging meeting participants to go to an alternate location for the virtual meeting (rather than just sitting in their offices) may help participants engage more fully rather than treating the virtual meeting as if they were watching a virtual webinar.

Regardless of the meeting format (in-person or virtual), however, accessibility is key. The presenters emphasized that either all-physical or all-virtual meetings tend to work more effectively than a mix of the two (part virtual and part in-person).

Together, these two workshops provided valuable ideas and resources for helping meeting participants fully engage, whether the meeting is held in-person or virtually. KnowInnovation (fir.hub.ki) has a number of resources that can help with making meeting environments more creative, including tools, blogs, drop-ins, a virtual idea board, and an email short course on creativity and skill development, as well as another email short course on creative thinking and problem-solving.