Using the Room as your Agenda

simple tools to help “get everyone on the same page”

In this series of videos and articles, I’m working through some essential ideas on how you, as a facilitator need to think through the challenge of bringing people together. When the stakes are high, when the salaries in the room stack up, it’s worth making sure that the time a group spends in a room is spent well. I think groupthink is a crime and that helping people really *think together* is a rare and special opportunity. If you’re a facilitator, it’s your job to make sure no one’s time is wasted…and what’s more, people get to extraordinary results! No pressure, right?

Use the Space to help people think through the challenge

If you like watching videos, you can skip all the tiresome reading and just lean back and listen to me talk about these tips and tricks for the next ten minutes!

Weeks 1–5 are all here, write ups and videos, if you want to dig in and get more.

Thinking Alone: Working through the workshop in your head

I’ve talked about this before and recently on the podcast, but the experience of a group of people, coming together and doing real facilitated work, is an experience design problem. I use a few simple frameworks to help me work through that challenge.

Open, Explore and Close

The 5 Es of Experience Design and the Conversation Pyramid are handy mental models, but nothing beats Open, Explore and Close. It’s how I organize most of my facilitation work.

The Conversation Pyramid is for you…it’s a tool for you to think about the challenge a team is facing and how to break up the challenge into parts. Open, Explore and Close is unique: Somehow it works best when you tell people about it. Why? Because it’s creative gravity.

When you tell people:

“We’re going to land on a great solution in a given amount of time *if* we give ourselves time to Open (diverge) and Explore (develop) great insights and options. Then Close(converging) will get us where we want to be!”

…they believe it.

Open, Explore and Close Mapped to the Room

When you take the Open, Explore and Close framework and map it over your work room, suddenly, the whole room is your agenda. Each area of the room is dedicated to one mode of thinking, just like at Disney!

Using your Tool to divide Time

If you’re trying to get your team to map a current experience, it makes sense to give each section a set time. The power of the tool is that it gives us a reason to move forward, to shorten the deep sidetracking conversations that can happen. The whole meeting doesn’t have to be swallowed whole. We have only a little time together…and we’re going to hit on each part of the Experience map. The Framework helps frame our conversation, containing it and driving it forward.

Using our body language to Move Things Forward

Now we can zoom in and out on our agenda. We have a *big arc* of Open, Explore and Close…and each wall is an area of focus that we break down into smaller chunks of space and time.

As facilitators we can move the conversation forward simply by moving our gaze, or visual focus, where our group is standing. Just by rotating 30 degrees and walking a foot to the right, we’re on a new topic. People might drag behind, but the visual power of a whole-room agenda is hard to resist.

So if you want to herd cats, stop relying on a powerpoint or a word document agenda. Make the whole room your agenda. Move through the room as you would move through the agenda: Confidently, fluidly, clearly!

If you made it this far, you’re a peach…and you might want to sign up for my newsletter to catch the next episode.

You might also want to watch a *full hour* of me coaching one of my clients on visual facilitation. We covered a lot of this material and a lot more. I’ll be writing it up on my podcast soon, but you can enjoy the uncut session here in the meantime: