A guide to better communication…what?

A guide to better communication…what?

“The guide to better communication…what?”

“I said the guide…oh never mind”

Over the last few weeks we’ve shared 4 communication exercises with you offering you a FREE download of each exercise so you can run them yourselves with your teams. I know, our generosity knows no bounds. We’ve done:

GROUPS
ABC
LISTEN, CHECK, SUMMARISE
STORYCARDS

All of these exercises encourage conversation. Some are about the sharing of stories, others are more concerned with building rapport.

But all our communication exercises are designed to build connection, with the aim of bringing about better communication. We all know how important that is in any relationship we have, not just at work.

So, if you need a reminder of any of the exercises we have listed above, then just click on the link and you’ll get all the instructions as to how to run them.

Also, if anything isn’t clear or you have a suggestion for another great communication exercise, then please get in touch. Here a quick reminder of some other exercises that we have brought to you this year.

We developed Purple Monster conversation cards earlier this year. They’ve proved to be really popular and we’re looking to update and adapt early next year so watch this space.

They are a great way to start a meeting, letting everyone know how you’re feeling without having to stand up and talk about it!

Then later in the year we shared Charles Green’s Trust Equation with you.

Having spoken with Charlie himself he appraised us of a really nuanced but important thing to remember when using his equation. The trust equation is a way to measure trustworthiness – how much trust can you place in others and how much might they place in you.

This is a simple but important focus area because of course, trust is a big subject that contains much complexity, whereas trustworthiness is more simple a concept to grasp.

The three elements on the top measure the strength of that trustworthiness and the element below the line is what puts the relationship to the test.

Consider each element separately and then divide the top 3 (numerators), by the bottom (denominator) to give you an idea of the strength of trustworthiness in any relationship. We explain all in the Trust Equation article.

We are sure that people have probably been thinking this for years but something about our working lives in the 21st century seems a bit more hectic than ever.

Calendars are full before the week has even begun. Everyone seems to be on back to back calls. Meetings where even if everything is discussed in 30 minutes, still seem to last the full 1 hour.

Finding time to build better relationships and have better conversations can feel difficult.

Where can you fit it in?

  • At the start of a meeting/call. Spend 5 minutes just sharing something personal – ask questions of others talk about mundane and trivial things.
  • Use our conversation cards. Ask everyone to take 5 minutes to draw themselves (stick men are totally acceptable) doing something they enjoy. If working remotely, take a photo and share it on your main comms board.
  • If having a weekly, monthly meeting face to face, then start the day with one of our exercises before you get heavily into PowerPoint decks.
  • If having a one to one, take a look at the trust equation before you go into that meeting.

For some of us, this stuff is easy. For others it’s much harder. Please be mindful of that and be inclusive.

Remembering to be inclusive alone is a great start to developing more healthy relationships, enhancing connection and building trust.

And once you’ve done that, you will find problem solving easier, decision making more collegial and shared experiences will help to build rapport, a sense of belonging and who knows, you all might even become more productive together.

Happy chatting!

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Engagement Exercises to try #4 – Storycards

Engagement Exercises to try #4 – Storycards

Exercises to try #4 Storycards
Once upon a time…

We’ve shared with you GROUPS; ABC; and Listen, Check, Summarise; all of which help enhance our communication skills and, more than anything, build connection, and help to make the start of any meeting a little more human. This is only a small selection of exercises that we use when running events and workshops, and we hope that you find them useful!

Our work is always about the human connection. Whether that’s human to human, human to brand, human to mission statement, human to company vision; it all starts and pretty much ends with us, the people. The humans.

 

 

The way we communicate is critical. And one of the best ways to share information is through stories. Stories have been the currency of communication since the beginning of time.

Each one of us would most certainly be able to name several people who are great storytellers and whom we admire. People who are skilled at grabbing your attention, drawing you in and sweeping you up onto the journey with them. There’s only one way to get better at storytelling and that’s to practise. So, here’s an exercise that easily helps us do just that.

This week we will share our exercise ‘STORYCARDS’. (Yep, it is another ingeniously named exercise!)

How to play

It’s a straightforward exercise done in pairs. Stretching your mind to think quickly about a random topic. Requiring you to be in the moment, flexible and, ideally, articulate!

To help you along with this exercise, we have a lovely free download for you of some of our favourite cards. Just click here to access it. Alternatively, you might want to create your own set.

Part 1

Get into pairs. Decide who is A and who is B.

If you have taken advantage of our free download, you should now have two sets of cards- Storycards part one and Storycards part two.

Like any good story, we begin at the beginning; Part one. Person A turns over their first card and must immediately begin telling person B a story about the word that they read on their card. The idea here is to be quick and spontaneous- it doesn’t matter what comes into your head, just start talking! Give person A 30 seconds and then it is time to move on ot the next card- remember, just go with it!
This first round is simply a single word. so get ready, and off you go!

As each story is told, person A should begin relaxing into this ‘off the cuff’ storytelling and hopefully there should be plenty of laughter too! After person A has told a few stories (probably 3 or 4) person B takes the remainder of the part one cards and it is now their turn to be the storyteller.

Part 2

We now move on to part two. Make sure person A now has the Storycards Part two deck. Similar to before, they are to turn the card over and begin telling the story that comes to mind immediately. The twist here is that the cards contain prompting sentences. This build from a single word to a sentence encourages our brain to think a bit bigger, but in the confines of our exercise, to retain the speed and impromptu thought.

Again, after person A has had a few tries at telling stories, hand the rest of the deck to Person B for their turn.

Discussion

When everyone has had a few turns at part two of Storycards, it can be fun to get some of the stories out into the room. Do encourage people to share their friend’s best stories as there will almost certainly be either hilarity or just a collective wow’ moment which are always a nice human way to kick off any session.

Of course, we don’t expect anyone to share anything they are not comfortable with- Let people stay safe in their pairs and don’t expose anyone too publicly.
All in all, this is a great way for teams to get to know each other better. And a good starter exercise for anyone interested in improvisation. So if you fancy giving this a go at your next team meeting, download our free sample pack of Storycards and give it a whirl!

We would like to finish off our favourite quote on stories, the brilliant Brené Brown calls stories, ‘Data with soul’. We like that.

Download a pdf workshop sheet of our Storycards exercise.

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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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