The Virtual Meeting Coach

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Archive for May, 2010

Using Interplay Strategies in Virtual Meetings To Bridge the Mind/Body/Spirit Split

Friday, May 28th, 2010

(c) 2010 Sara Harford, “How Far Down Is the Bottom?”

For me, one of the most enjoyable parts of this session of the Madhatters Tea Party Group Coaching Programs has been the participation of two different Interplay leaders as Madhatters, along with a crew of at least eight Interplay-trained Virtual Tea Partiers.

The Madhatters Virtual Tea Parties began with Gretchen Wegner leading and then, this week, we wound up the 6-week-program with the founder of Interplay, Cynthia Winton-Henry, leading the closing party.

Cynthia’s Virtual Tea Party explored the subject of “meeting” in virtual meetings, providing participants with a variety of opportunities to experience and reflect on what Cynthia calls “body wisdom.” She used slides, whiteboard participation, text chat, video cam, and music broadcast through the teleconferencing system to elicit and contain participants’ responses to images, sound, words, and both recorded and live video. It was an ambitious and thoroughly enjoyable first effort from a master of face-to-face whole body interaction.

In this rowdy debriefing conversation following the final session of the Spring Virtual Meeting Camp, Cynthia and Tom Carroll (of EvolutionaryLearning.com) and I explore some of the issues that come up when human beings try to squeeze ourselves into virtual meeting rooms. It’s hard for all of us – especially in the beginning of our transition into virtual meetings – not to allow the tools to worsen the mind/body/spirit split that western education systems trained into us.

However, as Cynthia’s party demonstrated, it’s not at all necessary for virtual meetings to make this split worse! In fact, as both Gretchen Wegner’s and Cynthia’s parties aptly demonstrated, when the meeting host/ess makes embodied presence one of the chief objectives of a virtual meeting, participatory strategies can actually create some unique bridging where bodies, minds and spirits experience joining in real-time at great physical distance from one another. And, the research shows more and more that when multi-level connections are made or refreshed – at a distance – people experience a renewed sense of commitment to and responsibility for projects and teams they’ve signed onto.

This is exciting stuff to me!  I look forward to hosting some guest posts very shortly from Cynthia, Gretchen, and others from the global Interplay community. They have much to share with all of us who aspire to effective use of online meetings, web conferencing, and even 3D meeting technologies!

PLEASE NOTE: Because Cynthia is such a wild-and-crazy woman, she moves around quite a bit as she speaks. So, be prepared: as you watch this vid, you will experience a less-than-fully-detailed representation of her face at various times during the recording. Personally, I love the way the video alternates between a recognizable image of Cynthia and a kind of nutty pixel-headed avatar image. Very Madhatter-ish!

The Virtual Meeting Coach’s Love Song to The Gulf of Mexico

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame where everything shines as it disappears.
- Rainer Marie Rilke

Okay, I’m breathing deliberately at my desk. I’m taking short walks and breathing deliberately. I’m meditating. I’m chanting. I’m practicing the Power of Now, the Law of Attraction and doing The Work. I’m crying. And I’m still not okay about watching, helplessly, as the Gulf of Mexico turns into a toxic waste site.

I grew up going to the Gulf on vacations to swim with my family from the time I was a tiny girl. Then, when I was a teenager, we moved to the west coast of Florida and my adolescence was spent swimming on Lido Beach and Longboat Key. I had a short stint up in Georgia while I went to college and started a family, but I always went home to the Gulf to find my bearings. And I took my kids there from the time they were little. Even when I moved to Austin, I made as many trips as possible to the east coast of Texas to immerse myself in my beautiful Gulf. My whole life, it’s been my holy water.

So, while I’m now living in southern Oregon, I might as well be right there on the coast of Louisiana because I FEEL what’s happening there – every second – deep in my heart. And I’m at my wit’s end. I feel angry, helpless, and so sad I can barely breathe.

And, the worst part is I’ve been telling myself I don’t know what I can do – from up here – to help. Friends, colleagues and clients tell me they’re feeling the same anger, helplessness and sadness. My friend and colleague, Sharon Drew Morgan, even wrote a totally wacky post in her biz blog this week about Aliens and their possible role in this tragedy.

In fact, it was Sharon Drew’s post that actually shook me out of the trance of helpless rage at BP for failing to take responsibility for what’s happening. The insanity of talking about aliens popped my attention over to my personal responsibility as a driver whose demand for gasoline to power my car continues to fuel BP’s race to produce oil to meet that demand – at any cost.

And here’s a fresh video about the cost. The real cost:

So, What Can We Do – From Right Where We Are – About the Disaster in the Gulf?
If you can watch that footage without wanting to vomit, you’re a better wo/man than I. I can barely stand to watch it. Because I loved those waters. I loved those fish. And I love every single shell that washed up on the pristine, white sands of those beaches  since I first set my little foot on them. I’ve been picking up shells from Gulf beaches since I was three years old – shells left by sea creatures who died a natural death in those waters.

I simply cannot physically go down to the Gulf right now to help with the clean up. I’ve had the same kind of financially challenging year that everyone else has and I don’t have the cash to take off work and drive or fly down there right now to help with the clean up in person.

But, I can do something from right here. I can stand up – in my full humanity – and lead sans  shame or embarrassment. Like this guy:

Who cares if I look like a fool to start with? This is our precious Gulf of Mexico!!

So, here’s my declaration:

I can – and I will – offer every day to help people who sell professional services learn to use virtual meetings to start delivering some of your services without having to get into your cars to drive somewhere just so you can sit down in a room to work with other people. Sometimes we have to, but we don’t always have to do this!!

I can – and I will – keep reminding people through this blog that until we all learn to use these tools in skillful ways, we are just blowing smoke when we open our mouths and speak about “greening” this economy or “saving the environment.”

It’s time now for us to walk our talk! Will you join me?

The Times They Are A’Changin’
If you don’t know how to use virtual meetings to work with clients and colleagues at a distance, you have no other choice but to walk, ride your bike, ride the bus, or get into your car – or fly – to work with other people! But not having another choice is simply no excuse when the tools to work collaboratively – and at a distance – are FREE and I’m here to help you learn to use them!

The truth of the matter is this: Until each of us knows enough to be able to exercise choice with our colleagues and clients – ie., to work virtually sometimes, using live meeting tools and Web 2.0 collaborative applications, whenever doing so won’t damage crucial relationships – each of us must take personal responsible for creating the tragedy in the Gulf.

It is our driving habits that are the driving force in the demand for oil production.
Along with BP and lazy, selfish congressional regulators, it is YOU AND I who must take full responsibility for what our unquestioned – frequently senseless – work routines and habits are now doing to drive the demand for oil that is killing the Gulf and the other precious oceans!

So, how about singing along with me and Don Henley and song-writer extraordinaire Bob Dylan (celebrating his 69th birthday this week)? How about learning to use virtual meeting tools? And how about starting NOW?

Want to Do More Than Just Sing?
I’m starting up a new Madhatter’s Tea Party Group Coaching Program in July. It’s going to be fun…and it’s just not that damn hard!

If you want to participate, contact me this week right here for a FREE 20-minute consultation: http://virtualmeetingstartup.com/contact.html.

And if not now, when? While we keep fiddling around, the Gulf is burning.

Speaking of fiddling, a million thanks to Diana Fairbanks whose wide-ranging, quirky intelligence and warm friendship brought both the Rilke poem and the Leadership Guy vid to my attention early Thursday. You can enjoy her eclectic taste in music here on her new station at Blip.fm as you ponder next steps….

Human flourishing is not a mechanical process. It is an organic process.

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Everything Sir Ken says in this TED Talk, from February 2010, is just as true about adult learning as it is about our children’s education. And my commitment to this perspective about “informal” learning is central to the program design for the Madhatters Tea Party Group Coaching programs.

If we are to resurrect our local, national and global economies, we’re going to have to resurrect our spirits first. Starting with the spirits of adults! And the resurrection of spirits depends on organic processes, not pre-packaged “scalable solutions.”

Early in the talk, Sir Ken says, “Changing education is about challenging what we take for granted, challenging the tyranny of common sense…. And it’s very hard to know what you take for granted – because you take it for granted…”

Then, delightful, dry Britt that he is, Robinson quotes Lincoln:

‘The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with it. We must disenthrall ourselves and then we will save our country.’ – Abraham Lincoln

Robinson went on to say so many funny and profound things. I captured just a few in text as I listened:

” The idea we are enthralled to in education – the idea that life or learning is or should be linear – is simply false. Every TED speaker has, either implicitly or explicitly, told us this for the last five years!

“Life is organic. We create our lives organically in response to things that happen to us. This is what is true. Yet, we have built our educational systems on a fast-food model where everything is standardized. And that model – as Jamie Olivers’ Food Revolution has been telling us – is depleting our spirits as badly as it is impoverishing our bodies.

“We have to change metaphors – from a manufacturing model based on linearity, and conformity, and batching people – to a model that is based more on principles of agriculture. We simply have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process, it is an organic process.

“We cannot predict learning outcomes. All we can do – like a farmer does – is create the conditions under which human beings can begin to flourish.

“So when we look at transforming education, it’s a process of customizing and personalizing services for people you are actually teaching. Doing this is the key to the future.

“The reformation of education isn’t about ‘scaling a new solution.’ It’s about creating a new movement in education where people create their own solutions with external support based on a personalized curriculum.”

Amen, Sir Ken Robinson!! Amen!! Bravo, bravo, bravo!!

And bravo to the Spring, 2010, cohort of Madhatters and Virtual Tea Partiers! Your willingness to use virtual meeting rooms, video conferencing, Web 2.0 tools and innovative teleconferencing tools to learn together – online, organically, and grounded in your precious and personal passions and dreams – makes my life worth living. As a coach, as a trainer, as a consultant.

As a “teacher.”

I would like nothing better than to be able to use that word, “teacher,” again without thinking of a hapless supervisor on some horrid assembly line like the one Chaplain depicted so masterfully in “Modern Times” – now close to 80 years ago… Can’t we please wake up from the industrial /mechanical trance? The alarm’s ringing loud in the Gulf of Mexico!

Making the Transition from Teleseminars and Telephone Coaching to Fully Interactive Multimedia Virtual Meetings

Friday, May 21st, 2010

virtual meeting coach dream

On a dark winter evening back in January, a group of Rogue Valley women business owners gathered in the living room of a “Prosperity Web” member’s home to hear “The Virtual Meeting Coach” talk about virtual meetings.

As I finished my presentation, gathered up my notes, and returned to my seat, I glanced around the room, taking in the looks on people’s faces. They were at once excited and wistful. My presentation had told and shown them things about virtual meetings that these women had never considered. At least not in relation to their small businesses and business processes.

I could see one here, one there, reflecting on the possibilities – and the realities – of time and financial commitments they would need to make to take advantage of my coaching services. And I could see that despite their considerable interest, most of them thought the time and money involved were going to be too big a stretch this year. Or longer.

Like so many small business people across the nation still hanging on by our fingernails during this economic downturn, these women had been nixing every “non-essential” expenditure for at least the last 18 months. And transitioning even one service product from face-to-face delivery to a virtual meeting format wasn’t on their list of “things-I-have-to-do-now.”

My eyes fell on Carolyn Shaffer, an experienced hypnotherapist, coach, and author of a terrific book on community building I had read a decade before when I was living in Austin, Texas. I could see that Carolyn was really pondering the possibilities of expanding her reach beyond our local market. But I could also see her wistfully beginning to dismiss any thoughts that she could do more than just buy a copy of “The Coach’s Short List.” She didn’t think she could afford the time or money for my high-end coaching program.

As I took in the look on Carolyn’s face, a voice in my head said, quite clearly, “Meri, come on! There’s got to be a faster, less expensive way to help Carolyn – and other women like her – take advantage of virtual meetings. They can’t afford what you’re offering and they need help now – not two or three years from now.”

So, I went home that evening, continued ruminating on what I’d heard in the privacy of my mind, and fell asleep wishing I could be of better service to Carolyn and other women business owners. When I woke the next morning, I bolted upright in the bed, grabbed paper and pen, and started scribbling down what I’d seen in a dream. In my sleep, I had completely redesigned my high-end coaching program! As I began writing and drawing little diagrams before I forgot them, I heard the same voice from the night before say, “Now, that’s more like it! Get this down on paper. And make it so – now!”

It’s important to say that I don’t often hear voices ;^). I’m just a regular middle-aged woman who’s always been a little wacky, but I’m not someone who hears a lot of voices. So, the voice was a little distracting. But not enough to keep me from continuing to capture the plan… and…

Long story short, the next thing you know, The Madhatters Tea Party Group Coaching Programs took shape and 5 Madhatters signed up and brought their friends, fans, and followers into the Virtual Meeting Camp and… Today’s post here in The Virtual Meeting Coach Blog features a debriefing conversation after last Monday’s Virtual Tea Party. Participants are Tom Carroll, of Evolutionary Learning, me, and Carolyn Shaffer, hypnotherapist, author, coach, teleseminar leader and blogger at The WhyWorryGuide.

It’s close to the end of May, the first cohort is 9 weeks into the Madhatters Group Coaching Programs, and Carolyn is deep into the process of transitioning some of her coaching services from telephone and teleseminar work into fully interactive multimedia virtual meetings!

Please take a listen as we discuss some of the challenges and successes Carolyn encountered this week as she hosted her Virtual Tea Party.

I’m so proud of Carolyn I can hardly stand it! I’m also really pleased with the way the Madhatters Group Coaching Programs are working for the Madhatters and Virtual Tea Partiers. In my wildest dreams I wouldn’t have imagined the speed of the multi-level learning taking place in the parties or the kinds of synergies and synchronicities that are showing up throughout the sister programs.

Except wait a minute! That’s not true! It’s all part of a wild dream… that’s actually coming true…

Another Way to Speak About What We Do – Why, How, What?

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

This deceptively simple talk holds the keys to a whole new way of thinking about whatever we used to call “positioning.”

Using Simon Sinek’s way of looking at what’s true about my biz, I end up speaking about what I offer in a whole new way. What do you think?

In everything I do, I believe in finding the least expensive and fastest way to get things done well … so I have as much time and money as I can to take care of myself, friends, family, and community the way I want to. Without hurting other people – or the environment.

I get quick, inexpensive, high quality results by learning – continuously – about new ways people can use personal computers and the internet to connect with one another to get the best outcomes we can afford.

These days, I coach my peers (people who sell professional services) to use virtual meetings so we can extend our reach, save money, save time, and strengthen relationships with our clients. Without driving or flying around all the time.

Are you someone who wants this, too? Want to be my client?

(I also consult around social media use and help people reap big benefits from “cloud” computing apps and processes. I do those things from the same perspective: finding the least expensive and fastest way to get things done well. But that’s another conversation….)

If you’re someone who also believes that getting stuff done quickly, inexpensively, and well – without hurting other people or the environment – really matters… I offer a FREE 20-minute consultation here.

Use the link on the right-hand-side of the page to schedule a one-on-one virtual meeting with me and let’s talk about YOU and virtual meetings.

Learning to Use Virtual Meeting Tools is Not For the Faint of Heart

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Back in the 6th century BC, Lao-Tzu said:

“Failure is the foundation of success. Success is the lurking place of failure.”

So, during this fifth month of the year 2010, I’ve been wondering if this means that sometimes the fastest route to success is right through failure. What do you think?

For the last 10 days, I’ve been participating in a collegial exchange at LinkedIn in a learning, education and training group. One member of the group raised the question,”What do you think the ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tzu, meant when he said, ‘Failure is the foundation of success…success is the lurking place of failure?’

Folks from around the globe have been weighing in on this question from a many perspectives. While I’m not any kind of authoritative interpreter of Lao-Tzu, I found myself provoked by the quotation and the question, too. I shared that it seems to me that…

“…Live, experiential learning environments provide real-world feedback. And this always includes feedback about failure. If we already knew how to do something, we’d already be doing it, right? I find experiential learn-by-doing environments with small-group coaching to be the fastest route to success. And it goes right through failure…”

I went on to describe a bit about the Madhatters Tea Party Group Coaching Programs as high-fun, low-pressure learning environments in which small groups of experienced trainers, coaches and consultants are transitioning from delivering high-value services in face-to-face meetings to delivering services in the very different environment of virtual meetings.

I shared with the group that I have deliberately designed the Madhatters Group Coaching Programs so that all participants – both Madhatters and Virtual Tea Partiers – have a chance to learn from their personal successes and failures as well as others’.

This means there’s not a lot of one-on-one handholding or upfront explanation going on in the Madhatters Virtual Tea Parties. There is quite a bit of communication through email and in two private online learning spaces – one for the Madhatters and one for the Virtual Tea Partiers. But, in the end, both coaching programs are based on two presumptions:

1)  Adults have enrolled because they want to learn more about using free or very low-cost virtual meeting tools in a safe, laughter-filled learning space and
2)  Everyone will be learning by doing.

IS A VIRTUAL MEETING COACH A DRIVERS’ ED TEACHER, A DIRECTOR, OR BOTH?
This means both the Madhatter presenters and their friends, followers and fans – the Virtual Tea Partiers – receive weekly guidance and coaching. But the Monday afternoon Virtual Tea Parties are always more like zany “on-the-job training” sessions than like “recitals.”

I’m calling the sessions Madhatters Tea Parties because so many of our expectations for how human beings can and should behave when we’re “meeting” are turned upside down, inside out, and backwards. That’s just the truth of the matter in virtual meetings, isn’t it?

Each week everyone has an opportunity to learn by doing. There have, so far, been some delightful displays of genius! There have also been some gnarly difficulties getting the free online tools to work as promised and some problems with participants’ computer and phone equipment. Sometimes things happen as planned, sometimes they don’t. Either way, there’s a ton of learning going on – via both successes and failures. Sometimes there’s frustration, but no one’s getting hurt.

A current Madhatter participant, Cynthia Winton-Henry, one of the co-founders of Interplay, calls me her “Driver’s Ed Teacher.” Another Hatter calls me her “Director.” She says I’m eliciting new kinds of creativity and performance from her well-honed talents – stuff she didn’t know she had available. From my side of the game, both “driver’s ed teacher” and “director” seem like pretty useful metaphors for the two ends of the spectrum we’re developing. On the one hand, none of the Hatters has run a truly interactive virtual meeting before and they all need to master the connectivity tools. On the other, every one of them is already a proven trainer, coach and/or consultant who knows her stuff inside out and upside down and only needs help repackaging her “magic” for delivery at a distance.

NEW CHOICES CAN BE OVERWHELMING
Using sound and text and visual images, simultaneously with other people – at a distance – can be a bit overwhelming for people using web meeting tools for the first time. It can be a big surprise to be not only permitted – but expected – to do more than sit passively and observe others’ slideshows or software demos.

Faced with the need to choose where to put their attention, some participants – Madhatters and Virtual Tea Partiers, alike – have frozen or gotten really frustrated. Do I track the continuous flow in the public text chat, start up a private text chat with someone I know, draw or write on the whiteboard or the presenters’ slides, or just use the telephone bridge to speak? HELP! When what you’re wanting to do is be as fully present as you can with others, that’s a lot to figure out at once!

Other participants – those who’ve already acquired a taste for and some experience with multi-media – have found themselves so stimulated and excited by all the channels available to connect that they’ve been using all the channels at once! Which makes a lot of noise – both visual and auditory.

And from my perspective, all of this is just perfect! Learning by doing – in a deliberately managed and intentionally playful learning space – allows adults at different skill levels to learn what they need at their own pace.

FRESH, HOT, ADVICE FROM THE FIELD
This week, I’ve asked Susan Kramer-Pope, our fourth Madhatter hostess, to share her best advice about leading your first virtual meeting, based on the tricky experience we had together Monday in DimDim.

Here’s Susan sharing with me and Tom Carroll, from EvolutionaryLearning.com, who’s been our background photographer and my valued thinking partner throughout this Virtual Meeting Camp.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
Now that you’ve heard from Susan, will you share your best advice for her – and other experienced trainers, coaches, and consultants – as they make their journey towards virtual meeting mastery? If you’ll do this, I promise I’ll compile all your responses and publish them here on the blog!

The Challenge of Balancing Different Channels and Ways of Connecting Using Web 2.0 Collaborative Tools and Live, Interactive Virtual Meetings

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

After this week’s Madhatters Tea Party, Julie Lockhart, Tom Carroll and I debriefed in the live video chat above.

Because I’m traveling today, I have less time that I wish I could take to write up a bit of the context. That said, I want to make this conversation available to the 6-Week Virtual Meeting Campers and anyone else listening in, so I’m just posting it today with a brief intro.

Julie is an experienced classroom teacher and meeting facilitator with twenty plus years in a traditional higher education setting. Her first foray into hosting her own “outside the academy,” live, fully interactive, online meeting illuminated a host of issues for her. Tom and I were both struck with how well she managed the complexities of the tools and the ways she referred and deferred to her team around issues of expertise. It’s hard to jump from one cultural context to another and the Web 2.o tools not only allow us to share the stage with each other – they just about demand that we do so. And this is a whole new arena for people who’ve had academic enculturation about expertise and authority.

The new opportunities for 2-way communication and interdependence that collaborative writing/editing tools offer us, for instance, can be truly paradigm-shifting. The primary value we have to offer others is no longer fixed to us knowing something that others don’t…and transferring it to them. Exchanges of value are potentially complex, depending not just on providing others with new concepts or ideas, but on our skillful hosting of contexts where safe, trusting, creative dialogue and relationships occur on a regular basis.

Welcome to the 21st Century! It’s a wild and crazy world out there… What do you think?


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