How To Get Immediate Feedback From a Group

This is entry 4 of the blogchain Better Leading, Better Meeting.

I was inspired by this post to share some ideas about how you can get immediate feedback from a group. before, during, or after a class or a meeting.

Most digital communication platforms offer both public and private ways to communicate quickly, including sharing feedback. One way to extend their use beyond the obvious is to decide on an agreed upon emoji code for evaluating. Also, some tools, like WebEx Meet, already have a sophisticated polling features already built in.

For in-person events, I sometimes have people use hand signs to indicate how they feel or think about a question. This is less distruptive and time consuming than using paper; also easier than voice votes for those who are more shy.

If you want to offer more privacy or even completely anonymize responses, digital solutions can help. There are some very fancy and expensive options, but many are overkill for what I need. One simple option is to have a students simply text you their responses. Get them ready by having each person send you a quick text at the start of class. A silly emoji is fun. If you don’t want to share your phone number you could get a new one for the course at no cost or you could use a web-based messaging service like Sharing a QR code that will take people to a pre-made online survey is another option.

An option that allows for anonymous but public responses is to share a publicly editable document from the cloud with the group. You could write a question, then have them write their answers. Just like this. As before, it’s good to practice the tech before you use it that way people feel free and ready to respond when they need to.

Of course, you can learn a lot from simply listening and watching and asking good questions.

Video Conference Etiquette + Skills Checklist

This is entry 3 of the blogchain Better Leading, Better Meeting.

Meeting with people on the Internet has a specific set of blessings and challenges, just like other ways of meeting. And like other others meetings, how you act and treat others will depend on the context. Are you goofing around with your friend or interviewing for a job? Are you hosting the meeting or attending it?

Here are eight guidelines for video conference meetings that lean toward the formal where you are the attendee. Use wisdom to adjust to your particular video conference.

  1. Remember that we connect and communicate a lot with our eyes. Your attention shows care. To give this kind of attention, look into the camera. This works best if you put the camera at eye-level. This is not always easy, so be patient with others.
  2. As with in-person meetings, guard against distraction. For example, be careful about using technology for any purpose other than engaging in your meeting.
  3. Web conferences lean toward informality. Watch out for this if you’re attending a more formal meeting. For example, avoid playing with backgrounds or experimenting with other features during the meeting. Give thought to what you wear and what is within audio/visual range.
  4. In general, keep your audio muted when you’re not speaking.
  5. Be courteous during techno-lags in the conversation. People may look funny if the video freezes, just wait for the video to resume. Moving a little slower in a meeting and checking in often a benefit to everyone.
  6. Do not use the private chat feature unless the host has encouraged it.
  7. Connect a little early and be prepared to start on time. 
  8. If you are new to video conferencing, read these tips for better video conference calls. If you are new to a particular platform, download the software needed (desktop is better than mobile) and test it out to get familiar with the features. You could practice with a friend, or try out a real Webex meeting or Zoom meeting online. Practice is your best friend. This will give you time to find and fix problems before the meeting and fully participate once the meeting begins.

Bonus: Skills Checklist for Attendees

  • Do I know how to mute and un-mute myself?
  • Do I know how to start and stop my video?
  • Do I know how to share and stop sharing content?
  • Do I know how to switch between the different viewing options?
  • Do I know how to raise my hand (virtually)?

Better Leading, Better Meeting: What to Read

This is entry 2 of the blogchain Better Leading, Better Meeting.

At the most general level, any good book on leadership will give you insights that you can apply to meetings. At the most specific level, you’ll find resources that share advice for specific kinds of meetings such as family worship, coaching, or teaching. For organizational meetings, Lucid Meetings has created an insightful taxonomy of organizational meetings and offers advice on each kind.

In between these two levels of guides are books that focus on meetings but in a more general way. These books are where you ought to start. They provide advice for any gathering and a framework into which more specific advice can fit.

If you’re not in a hurry, start with The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Private Parker.1 It’s very good. If you have an important meeting soon and need some advice and right now, skim Let’s Stop Meeting Like This: Tools to Save Time and Get More Done by Dick and Emily Axelrod,2 and then study it later as soon as you can. If if your meeting is tomorrow, the Economist summarizes the most important points in How to Lead Better Meetings.

Finally, I recommend Five Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram.3 It’s not directly about meetings, but it provides basic categories for thinking about the different ways we spend time with others.

Not all learning, however, comes from books. Nothing can replace serving with and under leaders who can show you the way you want to go and are the kind of person you want to be. Leaders like this have blessed me beyond what I can say.

  1. Find The Art of Gathering on Worldcat. ↩︎

  2. Find Let’s Stop Meeting Like This on Amazon. ↩︎

  3. Find Five Gears on Worldcat. ↩︎

Meeting are Gatherings

This is entry 1 of the blogchain Better Leading, Better Meeting.

You can lead better meetings and engage in them more fruitfully if you can learn to think of meetings more broadly. I find using the word gathering is helpful.

A gathering is any setting in which people connect with each other for a period of time. A gathering may happen accidently at a bus stop or purposely at a bridal shower. A gathering may happen once a year in person or every day on the phone. And in gatherings we do all kinds of things:

  • We decide.
  • We review.
  • We celebrate.
  • We worship.
  • We confront.
  • We explore.
  • We learn.
  • We experience.

Thinking broadly about meetings/gatherings allows you to discover patterns in human nature that exist across domains: not only in how people think, act, or feel, but in how they do these things together. This means a doctor can learn how to care for patients by watching a mechanic take care of a customer. A dinner party host can learn from a dance teacher.

Meetings are relational events. They are about people first and tasks second. We (1) meet (2). Learning this is an essential step to improving any kind of meeting, and it reveals new sources for wisdom.