Engagement Exercises to try #3 – Listen, Check, Summarise

Engagement Exercises to try #3 – Listen, Check, Summarise

Exercises to try #3 – Listen, Check, Summarise

Building on the ABC exercise that we gave you last week. We proudly present ‘Listen, Check, Summarise’. If anyone would like to suggest a sexier name for this, please send your suggestions to George: georgina@purplemonster.co.uk

This is another thoughtful, considered exercise which works well with people who are responsible for managing others. But also, great for teams to try together, again developing trusting relationships and empathy amongst colleagues.

We make it a little complicated, just for fun really!

The aim of the game

The aim is to develop greater listening skills and be able to communicate what you’ve heard accurately.

How often do we mis-read emails, text messages or misunderstand someone’s tone?

 

The set up

It will take about 5 mins to set up, and a maximum of 10 minutes to run.
Ask the group to split themselves into smaller groups of 4.

Each team member names themselves, A, B, C and D.

Ask A to face B, and C to face D. It should look like they are facing each other as if on a train in a seat of four. 2 couples facing each other.

 

How to run the exercise

Ask everyone to think of a customer interaction that has gone wrong…’think of a time when you had a bad experience as a customer and tell your partner.’

Round 1

It’s up to you, but let’s say you give everyone 2 minutes each to tell the person opposite their story.

So, once you’ve heard your partners story. You need to ‘check’ you’ve heard it correctly. Ask your partner if you’ve got the main points correct. Then once confirmed, ‘summarise’ your partners story back to them.

Now swap over. Repeat the listen, check, summarise as per the second part of the diagram on Round 1.

Round 2

Turn to the person at the side of you and share the story you just heard. NB, this is not your own story, but the one your partner just shared with you.

See part 1 on the diagram. So, A tells C and B tells D. Listen, check and summarise.
Then swap over, part 2 so C tells A, and D tells B.

Finally, Round 3

This is the best bit! You now ask the teams to work diagonally across each other, by all means ask people to swap chairs if they need to!

So, A tells D the story they just heard in Round 2 (which will be their own story 😊)
B tells C. Listen check summarise.

Then C tells B and D tells A. Listen check summarise.

There may be laughter and excited chatter when running this exercise. Others will take it incredibly seriously. After all, you are responsible for someone else’s words.

Top Tip…

There are 4 stories, each team member will hear 2 different stories and finally their own story played back to them.

Discussion

  • Ask the group about the exercise. How hard was it to concentrate on listening to begin with?
  • Did that change when you were telling someone else’s story.
  • Were you distracted trying to listen or correct details in what you were hearing elsewhere?
  • How did the story change? Were there details left out?
  • Were there things embellished?
  • What does this say about the nature of communication?
  • Ask people for their insights and get them to share with the big group!

You could run this exercise with a small team at the start of a meeting, or you could use the mechanism with perhaps a different question at a much bigger event to get the room to buzz with the fun of sharing stories.

Download a pdf workshop sheet of our Listen, Check Summarise exercise.

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Engagement Exercises to try #2 – ABC

Engagement Exercises to try #2 – ABC

Exercises to try #2 – ABC Exercise 

Following our promise to share some exercises for you to try with your teams, here is another to help you develop your own facilitator skills and more widely bring your teams together to create what we believe will be stronger, more open, honest working relationships.

Last week we gave you ‘GROUPS’ (best name ever!) 

This week we present The ABC exercise. Attitude, Behaviour, Choice.

We think this has an even catchier title than last week!

This exercise is reflective and it requires participants to listen and observe. It should still be fun though as we will unearth some stereotypical responses – which are always fun to look at

Of course, like so many of our exercises it’s in the unpacking afterwards where the really good lessons are learnt.

 

 
 

1. The set up

This exercise takes around 15 minutes.

You will need a board, flip chart with paper or a screen and projector at one end of the room.

The group divide into pairs, one person faces front so they can see the board, the other faces the back of the room so they cannot see the board.

 

2. Let’s Play

The facilitator writes or shows an attitude on the board/flip chart from our suggested list (you can also find this in the download- these are ones we have used in the past, but do feel free to add your own!)

Rushed, impatient, tired, stressed, over familiar, surly, distracted, hangry (?!), apathetic, enthusiastic, committed, pushy, bubbly, warm, kind, direct.

Then ask the person who can see the word to embody that attitude while talking to their partner about their journey into work.

The person with their back to the front of the room guesses what the attitude is. We suggest that at this point, the facilitator asks around what people thought the attitude was- this can often garner some interesting responses, but is important to hear what attitude was perceived by others versus what the individuals thought they were delivering.

How many different words did people use to describe the attitude? What did people notice about tone of voice? Body language, eye contact? How did it feel to be spoken to in that way? How did it feel to act that way? Aren’t we good at spotting the signs? – the bad news is we’re really good at spotting them in everyone including you.

    • We go again, this time with a different attitude displayed, then swap over in the pairs so the other person gets a couple of goes.

 

3. The Learning

How does this ATTITUDE affect our BEHAVIOUR? What are the results of letting your attitude dictate your behaviour? What can we do alter this? What CHOICES must we make?

How many people in the room have brought the wrong/not the best attitude with them to work? What causes this?

This is a great exercise for teams. It has an element of fun and can help build trust. It’s a good reflective exercise for people individually.

So, to close this exercise we recommend the facilitator asks everyone to take a few personal minutes to think or write down what different choices they might make in the future about their attitude. How they would like to show up? What they will do to commit to that attitude and behaviour?

What this exercise highlights is that the attitude we think and feel we may be exhibiting, sometimes may not be perceived that way by others around us. This can have a negative impact on the environment or the energy of a project, or typical working day. Having this opportunity to ‘play out’ and unpack your own attitudes, behaviours and choices helps to develop your own self-awareness.

We know better than anyone at Purple Monster that we are all still humans, and sometimes, life just happens- there will always be things that will impact on your attitude- not many of us park these things at the office door. But, for fear of stating the obvious, the more aware you are of how your attitude might be perceived by others, the more prepared you are to make a choice on how you change your attitude and behaviours. Remember, it is as easy as ABC.

Download a pdf workshop sheet of our ABC exercise.

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The Conference Blueprint – Summary

The Conference Blueprint – Summary

Conference Blueprint; Summary of advice for planning a conference.

So here we are at the end of our five-part foray into the mysterious world of conference design and planning. If you’ve downloaded our blueprint then, ‘thank you’ and if not, well now’s your chance, it’s still available here.

In our final article on conference planning, we are going to take you back through the key steps and throw in a few bits of advice and help that we’ve gleaned ourselves and received from others along the way.

When Purple Monster first began 25 years ago, conference design and delivery was in its infancy. Of course people had held conferences for years and people got together to do ‘away days’ and ‘refresher courses’ and there were presumably ‘big’ meetings but in those far off pre-digital days it was much more about a transfer of information rather than a two way communication exercise.
Here is how you would likely do it

  • Set a date
  • Set the agenda
  • Book a venue
  • Book a speaker
  • Send out invites

Over the last five weeks we have been trying to encourage you to think differently about the way you go about planning and imagining a conference. The conference blueprint offers an alternative approach and we think, gives you a greater chance of building a conference that is worthwhile going to and has lasting value.

 

  1. Determine the super objective
  2. Assign accountabilities. Who is responsible for what?
  3. Consider what you want the audience to think, feel and do
  4. Planning the high level agenda and flow
  5. Determine who you are inviting then search for the right venue.

1. Determine the Super Objective

Be really clear on what it is you are trying to achieve and don’t let anything switch you from that.

We have been lucky enough to work with the brilliant and charming Ben Hunt-Davies a few times over the last few years and he understands the concept of super objective better than anyone else we have ever come across. His oft quoted (and regularly misquoted) work is called ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’ and it highlights in the plainest possible sense what you should do to ensure you are sticking to your guns in terms of objectives.

If you need to understand more about Super Objectives either read Chekov (recommended only for theatre purists) or Ben’s captivating story of his experience before and at the Sydney Olympics of 2000.

 

2. Assign Accountabilities

It’s vitally important that everyone is clear on what role they play in delivering the outcome that you all want. This means noses potentially being put out of joint, former favourites not doing their schtick this year and Gianni from the CFO’s office not doing his normal 73 slide presentation on EBITDA. Sorry Gianni, it’s not part of the plan.

Create a design team and have regular and proper conversations with your sponsors to ensure they are clear on the route down which you are progressing. Have regular conversations and involve all your partners early so that they can all feel part of the success and not in competition.

 

3. Agree the outcomes; Think, Feel, Do

This seems so natural to us as we have always been thinking about how your audience will react but it seems that this isn’t a default position for all conference planners and designers.

What do you want your audience to THINK, FEEL and DO as a result of your conference. Be plain. Be overt and if necessary tell them again that the reason we are all here is to…..(insert your super objective here)

4. Planning the High Level Agenda

 

As in all good storytelling, reintroduction is the key here. Reintroduce the overall super objective every time that you bring anything to the table. Does this move the agenda forward? Does this play into the objectives fully? Is it a discreet session that has to be in and if it is, how do you connect it to the theme?

Don’t forget…Powerpoint is brilliant and has been unfairly blamed for poor communication since it became the new executive toy when it was introduced to the Microsoft package in 1994.

It’s not the tool that’s to blame, it’s the users. In the right hands, it is a fantastic visual aid, helping great ideas to jump off the screen and into the hearts and minds of the audience. In the wrong ones, it is a bullet-pointed form of conference torture, allowing its users to inflict wave after wave of meaningless words, until the audience are beaten into submission, or asleep. Tell Gianni ….no!

 

5. Who is coming and where are you going?

 

Be prepared to have tough conversations with people who may be more senior than you. People want their direct reports there but are they at the same grade or level as everyone else? Who is going to add value to the discussion or make things happen following the event and so should they be there rather than simply just choosing the top slice?

You will know the machinations of selecting the ‘right’ people and whatever that is in your organisation you have to stand by the decision that was made by the people assigned early on in your design process. When it comes to venues, choose somewhere that works for the audience.

Make it accessible, relevant and different from what everyone might expect. Be creative. Don’t just go for the convenient.

It takes a great amount of time, patience, understanding, relationship building, emotional intelligence and a little bit of luck to truly build a great conference experience for all your delegates but if that all seems a little bit overwhelming then please feel free to give us a call. We will be happy to help you design an engaging and effective conference experience that your delegates won’t forget.

And if you’d love to hold a conference, but there is no way that your people can travel or spare the time for two or three days away, then have you considered a virtual conference? We know a thing or two about those as well and would be happy to share some ideas with you, wherever you are in the world. Call us on ‘Skype, Zoom, Google Hangout, Messenger or perhaps, Microsoft Teams, which seems to be being rolled out as part of the Office package. Mmmm, sounds familiar 😊

 

Download the full Conference Planning Blueprint here…

If you want to tap into our conference planning expertise, then please do feel free to contact us here.

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The Conference Blueprint – Part 5 Where to go and who to invite

The Conference Blueprint – Part 5 Where to go and who to invite

Conference Blueprint Part 5; Where to go and who to invite.

You may have spotted a theme with our Conference Blueprint series so far and that is that the objectives and the outcomes come before the design and therefore informs all the other key decisions.

Who should attend and where to hold the conference is no different.

However the majority of projects that we are involved in, the venue and attendee list is agreed before anything else is even thought about.

Our extensive experience of running conferences tells us that this is the wrong place to start and uninformed decisions made early on are much harder to fix further down the line.

Venue Considerations.

Let’s be clear, the venue can indeed make or break a conference. At one conference many years ago, we had brilliant presenters, incredibly well-prepared content and a beautiful venue. Then the air conditioning malfunctioned and at least a quarter of the audience eventually fell asleep in the balmy late summer conditions. So, the venue is important. If everyone arrives late because they couldn’t find it, if the coffee is cold or the room baking hot then you will certainly know about it and it really will detract from even the best conference agenda.

However, there are many, many amazing venues out there and some will support your objectives and some will hinder them. This section of the process is to ensure it does the former.

In this section of the blueprint you are not naming venues. The likelihood is if you do this you will default to the usual ones, the one the CEO liked or you’ve been to before which is the safe option because you know they will do a good job. No, you are listing the key criteria. What factors does this venue need to have in order to support your overall messaging?

Examples of strong venue criteria we have seen:

  • Event on women in leadership – a venue with a glass ceiling.
  • Event on promoting a team culture – a sports stadium
  • Event on effective storytelling – a theatre

There are hundreds of venues in the UK alone which could meet any one of these criteria but using the blueprint process will encourage you to think creatively about how your objectives and messaging will land. The alternative could lead to an event about innovation and creative thinking being held in a dark, 1980’s hotel function room. The impact you have worked so hard to achieve will have fizzled out before anyone has sat down on the first morning.

There may well be practical criteria, rough location, proximity to airports, capacity etc but once you have them documented and agreed, then it’s really important to stick to them. It’s so easy to create a list of strong and ambitious venue criteria and then completely abandon it in favour of a venue which involves longer journeys and extra overnight stays for all delegates, but it has a great day delegate rate or it’s on a preferred supplier list. If it was deemed important enough to be a criterion in the first place, then don’t abandon it at the first sign of a bargain or for convenience.

As ever, consider how the choice of venue will complement and enhance your message, not detract from it.

Attendee criteria.

 

The blueprint will also encourage you to select attendees with the same rigour that you decided your venue. In large organisations, attendance is often based on levels of seniority and in a lot of cases that does indeed make sense, but again, don’t just default to that option.

Refer back to your objectives and ensure that the criteria help to build a list of people who will help deliver the outcomes you have set out to achieve.

If the objectives involve people in the design of a new strategy, then maybe a cross section of employees across all levels would be more appropriate.

If it’s about promoting a more gender inclusive culture, then don’t be exclusive by only inviting women.

If it’s about rolling out a new strategy or vision, then ensure that all geographies and functions are covered, even if that means inviting less senior people to ensure smaller areas are represented.

We understand that the selection of attendees can sometimes be a political football so that is another reason for carefully thinking it through and obtaining sign off prior to issuing invites.

That way any difficult messaging can be managed sensitively, rather than people assuming they will be involved and only finding out by accident they are not. And if you’re the accountable person, anticipate some challenging conversations with your LT when they insist that she must come and he shouldn’t be there.

Stick to your criteria and good luck!

And that’s it. You have your conference planned! Well, almost. Next week we will summarise the key points you need to use the conference planning blueprint as well as give you some tips and advice into how to ensure the delivery matches the expectations set out in this planning process.

Download the full Conference Planning Blueprint here…

If you want to tap into our conference planning expertise, then please do feel free to contact us here.

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The Conference Blueprint – Part 4; The Agenda

The Conference Blueprint – Part 4; The Agenda

Conference Blueprint Part 4; Now you can think about the agenda!

Our ‘Conference Blueprint’ prompts you to ask key strategic questions whenever you are planning a large-scale event. The first three parts help to ensure you have:
1. Agreed key objectives 
2. Documented who is responsible for the key activities as well as identified expertise you may need to help achieve the objectives.
3. Considered what you want the audience to think, feel and do following the conference 
Now, only in Part 4 do we start thinking about the agenda and the conference content.

But surely content is the first thing we consider, right? 

 

Nope! We’ve done a lot of work before even thinking about what the agenda looks like and that is on purpose.

There is an understandable temptation to jump straight into designing sessions, requesting content from session owners and allocating presentations; but you really shouldn’t do that without having a clear idea of what you want to achieve overall. That’s why this section is purposely a long way into the planning process.

When you do reach this point however, it’s now really tempting to start designing sessions individually. But remember, this is a strategic plan and so it’s important you stay at the strategic level.

Refresh your mind with your super objective. What is the one single thing you want to achieve? This should be the thread you continuously come back to in the plan. And then you can start to map out the big picture at a high level, focussing again on the experience of the conference.

The way we approach the high-level plan is by thinking about an ‘arc’. Where will your audience start and where will they finish and how will it all hang together?

How does it work in practice?

 

 

Let’s say your super objective is that ‘Leaders will fully understand their role in executing the new strategy’  

This is a pretty ambitious, but necessary super objective and so if we break it down what does this super objective tell us needs to be included in the agenda? 

 

1. The strategy needs to be explained
 
 
2. In order to understand it fully, leaders will need time to digest and reflect
 
 
3. A change of leadership behaviours is likely to be required; this needs to be ‘felt’ during the whole session
 
4. Their role in terms of what is expected of them needs to be conveyed
 
5. They need to leave clear on what they are expected to DO following the session.
Immediately we have high level ‘drumbeats’ of the session and pointers to the content. If the new strategy requires leaders to be agile, disruptive and innovative then your agenda needs to convey this. The whole feel of your event will need to feel disruptive and innovative.
  • you might have a stage layout which is different from the norm
  • you might greet people with an activity rather than the usual coffee and pastries,
  • you might use case studies from external companies to illustrate the behaviours you are trying to achieve.

The big difference is that you haven’t jumped straight into agenda 101 with the senior leader opening the conference followed by a procession of presentations, with a token team building activity dropped in for good measure.

You’ve considered your objectives and thought about how to achieve them with the benefit of a blank sheet of paper. You know the high level plan and can now order the content appropriately.

Why does this approach make a conference more successful? 

 

Our experience shows that in a lot of cases, agenda design is more a case of trying to back fill disparate ‘slots’ into an agenda hoping that in the end, it will all make some kind of sense (it rarely does, by the way. People usually leave so bamboozled, overloaded with information, that they can’t remember anything at all, least of all the key messages)

And of course, this is why having clearly defined roles and responsibilities is so critical up front. Who has ultimate sign off? They are the custodian of the objectives and design principles. HR might want a slot to share the new Performance Management Process? IS might want to showcase a new system coming up.  If both these requests fit the strategic plan, then they may feature in the content. But the answer is no, if they really don’t serve the super-objective or help the conference arc.  

Again, the benefit of using the blueprint template is it allows the design team the space and time to think about what will be in service of the audience and then makes saying no to such requests much easier.

A real example of this approach in action

Ok, you’ve waited long enough. Here’s the story

We recently ran a conference that needed to be a flagship event. It was the new CEO’s first conference and as such was going to gain much attention and focus. It was also the launch of a completely new strategy and operational model and so there was a huge amount that needed to be covered and understandably, everyone wanted to be involved and have a say.

At the outset a very small core design team was formed. Four people in total including two from Purple Monster. That team locked down the objectives with the CEO early on and crafted a set of ‘design principles’

Throughout the 4-month design process (yep, these things take time and investment) the design principles and objectives were challenged, pretty much daily. More and more content was put forward for inclusion, more and more sessions were designed and repeatedly the team had to pushback, challenge and reconfigure.  In order to stay true to the design principles, we had to convince senior leaders to go way outside of their comfort zone, at this critical time of transformation and for many, presenting for the first time to their new teams.  The team also committed to protecting ‘reflection time’ as if it were the crown jewels, and turned down many late requests to ‘squeeze something in’.  

It was one of the toughest and most intense conference preparation periods we have ever been involved with but the result far exceeded ours and the CEO’s expectations.

The strategic implementation of this multi-billion $ company was accelerated after this event because the leadership team didn’t leave bamboozled. They left with greater clarity and momentum. Of course we can’t take any credit for the strategic implementation, of course we can’t, but the process we followed and the relentless focus on the objectives and the agenda meant that every message landed with the audience effectively both in terms of what they needed to know but also what we wanted them to feel and most importantly of all what the executive team needed them to do.

Now all that’s left to do, is the whole thing again next year!

Next week in part 5, we will focus on the thorny issues of where to go and who gets invited!

Download the full Conference Planning Blueprint here…

If you want to tap into our conference planning expertise, then please do feel free to contact us here.

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The Conference Blueprint – Part 3; Event Outcomes

The Conference Blueprint – Part 3; Event Outcomes

Conference Blueprint Part 3; What do you want your delegates to THINK, FEEL and DO…

 

 

Ok, so we’ve locked down the objectives and allocated key roles and responsibilities.

 

We are in good shape. All we have to do now is to remember that we have an audience at this conference, and everything will be fine…

What are your desired outcomes?

We’ve all attended conferences, meetings and workshops where the venue was fantastic, the catering wonderful and the conference hall stunning and yet still come away thinking and feeling a bit, well, meh!

That is to say, underwhelmed, or even bored!

The temptation to use a conference as an opportunity to tell people everything whilst they are a captive audience is often too high. This is where the next section of the Conference Planning Blueprint can help.

By identifying in advance, what you want the audience to THINK, FEEL and DO then this can provide an easy reference point during the design and delivery process.

 

If a part of the conference is not helping to achieve one of these mindset shifts, then why are you doing it?

By agreeing what you want people to THINK, FEEL and DO, before, during and after the conference, you create agreed criteria on which to make key design decisions as well as a reference point for measuring the event’s success.

1. Helping people to THINK differently

Consider here how you can offer new interesting information or content. Be provocative in the material presented and give people time to consider, challenge and reflect on external perspectives or latest business insight.

When you are considering conveying important information or knowledge then don’t assume it needs to be a procession of presentations, and there are plenty of ways to keep the audience interested. Breakouts, pairs’ discussion, polling, Q&A and the most basic of interactions, asking for thoughts and opinions as you go.

 

2. Changing how people FEEL

If you’re bored during a conference, it’s normally because the designers haven’t really considered the effect of their content on the participants. It is important to consider what audiences want and need. In the theatre, actors and directors know to keep the audience interested and how to tap into their emotions.

If the performance isn’t engaging the audience, then it is ultimately self-indulgent and alienating. Audiences want to be engaged, entertained and kept ‘in’ it from beginning to end.

Consider a theatre production or film you still remember. It is likely to be because it grabbed you emotionally in some way.

To ensure that your audience are staying with you, you must involve them. It’s why in the tradition of the British Pantomime, the audience is asked all the time to help (oh no they’re not, oh yes they are…..let’s leave that there shall we).

Now, we are not asking you to ensure you have a magic lamp at your conference, or ask your leaders to dress up as Cinderella (although…..) but we are suggesting that if you want your messages to land and your conference to have lasting impact then consider how you want them to feel and how you can effectively introduce emotions into the agenda.

Creating shared experiences is one way of doing this in a conference setting. The same as in a pantomime, where the audience are brought together by their dislike of the villain, a conference can create opportunities for people to bond and build relationships.

3. What do you want people to DO?

Even if you have expertly conveyed new and provocative thinking and captured the emotions of the audience effectively, this may all still result in post-conference inaction if delegates are not adequately equipped.

What tools could be useful to take back to the day job? What skills might need to be developed in order to carry out the desired actions? What obstacles can you remove in order to make taking action easier?

The Conference Blueprint is purposely designed to ensure that you can’t capture hundreds of actions in this section! Be selective about the call to actions you agree on and challenge yourself and your stakeholders to ensure that these actions will be the ones that result in the shift you are wanting to achieve.

Why is documenting outcomes so important?

It’s essential to consider your audience because they are the ones who will be having to implement any changes that result from the conference.

Undoubtedly one of the conference’s objectives will be around a new initiative or mindset shift or behavioural change and only by considering your audience and their emotional and intellectual state, will you be able to ensure that they understand, appreciate and ultimately act on those objectives.

By using the Conference Blueprint to agree and document these outcomes then you are able to use them as the criteria on which to base agenda or timing decisions as well as measure the success of the conference post event.

It seems obvious to consider your audience doesn’t it, and yet we can so easily get caught up in the content, the theme, the speakers, and end up neglecting the most important component – the attendees. Don’t forget your audience. They are the ones who are going back after the conference and delivering all the things you want them to as a result of attending. They are your best bet for ensuring it was a success and they will be telling you in the feedback whether it was or not from their perspective.

And then, after it’s all finished and the planning and delivery is a faint memory, you can proudly shout out to yourself and anyone else listening, in true pantomime fashion, ‘IT’S BEHIND YOU!’.

Download the full Conference Planning Blueprint here…

If you want to tap into our conference planning expertise, then please do feel free to contact us here.

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