The Virtual Meeting Coach

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Archive for the ‘teleconferencing’ Category

Ashland Social Media and Virtual Meeting Coaching Groups: It’s Time to Register for Fall ’11 Sessions Now

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Counselors, Coaches, Healers – See the Road Ahead? It’s Telepresence!

Friday, May 13th, 2011

It’s been a wild and wooly first few months of 2011 and I’ve been so busy over at my new blog, BeingSocial.Us, that I haven’t updated much here. My sincere apologies to anyone who hasn’t yet heard about the extension of my work to helping Baby Boomer and senior thought leaders use BOTH social media AND virtual meetings to connect with their people.  I hope you’ll join me over at BeingSocial.Us

And I’m blogging back here today because the news is so important: Microsoft’s purchase of our precious Skype this week for $8.5B is a big, big deal. On so many fronts.

It’s going to take awhile to see what’s going to happen to us 700 million registered users of Skype. But here are a few things to bear in mind:

When Skype was part of EBay, the company used to issue all kind of data about its growth but solid recent numbers have been harder to locate. A couple of things we do know:

  • At peak times, over 23 million users are logged into Skype.
  • Skype is available in 29 languages and is used in almost every country around the world.
  • 35 percent of Skype users utilize it for business purposes.

Skypejournal.com reports that Microsoft bought Skype because it pays for itself and has 180 million registered users actively video calling. That seems obvious.

It also makes sense because Microsoft seems like the most obvious player to offer the general public video chat at home, school and work using mobile phones tables, desktops, game consoles equipped with webcams (like the latest XBox units) and large screen televisions.

Microsoft stands well-prepared to build video chat into all sorts of applications – which only makes sense when everyone now wants to use all their senses to connect with others as we work, play and learn together – across the globe.

However, it’s my hunch that the Microsoft/Skype deal foretells  a much bigger game than this. A game I’ve been pointing to for the last five years, while feeling like John the Baptist crying in the wilderness.

The big game is moving counseling, coaching, and both traditional and alternative medicine into our living rooms quickly – and a lot more cheaply – than Cisco’s home-based telepresence system called Umi.

Today’s TeleMental Health Institute blog brings Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype into clearer focus for psychotherapists. I want to underscore everything Marlene had to say there. The fact that Microsoft was willing to spend a full $2B more to acquire Skype than either Google or Facebook was willing put on the table is waving the flag of big business, friends: the business of physical and mental healthcare.

Since way back in 2007, I’ve been urging counselors, coaches, health coaches, physicians, and alternative healers of all shapes and sizes to begin testing various virtual meeting tools and to start practicing your virtual meeting chops.

When Xbox consoles have webcams built it (which has been the case for at least the last six months) and Microsoft pays $8.5B to acquire Skype so they can “build Skype’s functionality into Microsoft apps and products” (as Microsoft announced it plans to do)… it’s maybe 12-18 months until it’s going to be possible for YOU to be meeting easily and cheaply with your clients- from your office to their living rooms.

So, if you’re not confident you can easily transition both

1) your crucial business processes and

2) your subtle healing skills

into virtual meeting rooms, now is the time to take a look at what it’s going to take for you to play the new game.

If you want some support for making the transition, you can start with my little ebook, “The Coach’s Short List,” or sign up for my 10-week FREE ecourse, “21-Ways to Build Trust and Respect Working With Others Online.”

I’m blogging several times a week over at BeingSocial.Us and I’m also happy to offer any reader of this blog a free, 30-minute consultation so I can hear more about your specific situation and explore the fit between your needs and my coaching programs. It would be my great delight to help mental health professionals of all kinds bring your services within easy reach of new clients.

How exciting! That $8.5B  purchase signals showtime’s just around the corner! And you’re going to be the show.

If you’re the kind of person who needs to SEE to BELIEVE, please take a look at this vid about Cisco’s Umi unit. And, take a very careful look at the comments beneath the vid there on YouTube. The comments tell the story behind Microsoft’s purchase. At least that’s my hunch. Wondering what you think…

Cisco Demos the Umi

First comment beneath this vid on YouTube as I pulled the link today: “I pay $43 a month for my internet service. I download Yahoo Messenger, with Video and voice chat, … with full FPS. hook up a HDMI or S-Video cord from my laptop to my TV, right click on my desktop, choose output to : TV, and in a matter of seconds, I see my desktop on the TV, “with the messenger Video Chat” and beats the $599 that you’d pay for this crap. even if I had the $600, “I Will NOT” buy this crap.” ~UserIsAnFBIAgent

And here’s a short vid showing how easy it is to use a Logitech TV Cam and Google TV:

Logitech TV Cam and Google TV

Get the picture?

Using Virtual Meetings to Support and Enrich Collaboration

Monday, November 1st, 2010

On his e-learning focused blog, Christopher Pappas just provided a quick, meaty overview of several of the best free virtual meeting, web conferencing, and online meeting and online learning tools. I hope you’ll take a look at it today.

For several years, Christopher and I have been learning and from each other – across the globe. He’s in Greece and I’m in southern Oregon. And we’ve both been participating in online communities focused on e-learning. We haven’t met in person yet, but I look forward to getting a chance to shake Christopher’s physical hand one day soon and thank him for this post and all the rest of the pointers he’s shared with me and other colleagues focused on helping people work and learn from each other at a distance.

People have asked me several times to make a post like this and I’ve simply been too busy to take the time, so I’m grateful to able to point you to Christopher’s blog.

INTERMITTENT AND PERSISTENT COLLABORATION IS A WAY OF BEING
I particularly appreciate this vid he found from the folks at Yugma because it articulates a crucial distinction between intermittent and persistent collaboration.

I love the way this vid highlights the magic of using virtual meetings, web conferences, and online learning tools to enable different people to think about and work on the same thing in different ways – in real-time. Because that’s what’s important: the people working and learning together using whatever tools they find easiest to use when they’re not co-located.

I’ve found Yugma to be a practical tool for what the Yugma team calls “fluid collaboration.” So are all the other apps Christopher highlighted in his post. They all provide simple, practical, browser-based platforms for people to work together – both intermittently and persistently.  There are a couple of dozen other tools that work well, too.

But the issue isn’t really so much about finding the right TOOLS to use. The trick is understanding how to work with others fluidly and collaboratively. The real challenge isn’t so much how to technically access an online whiteboard or do a screen share. It’s learning to think about work and learning as continuous processes of creating and nourishing a sense of shared meaning – and purpose – with others.

MY PERSONAL PROCESS
Four years ago, I relocated from Austin, TX, a busy major metropolitan area, to a sweet town of 20,000 in rural southern Oregon.  Since I did this, I’ve been using all kinds of free virtual meeting tools on a daily basis to work with old and new clients across the country and continents.

After my move, clients and colleagues (many of whom have since become clients) started telling and showing me that they didn’t understand HOW I thought about work and learning as processes of persistent collaboration.

They didn’t understand how I chunked the work into manageable pieces we could accomplish in 30-90 minutes. They didn’t understand how I set up the tools to make it easy for us to interact in real-time. And they didn’t understand how I made decisions – on the fly – that made it easy for BOTH of us to contribute to the work product at the same time. (Especially useful when people have different ways of thinking and looking at what they need to do together.)

So, I started coaching my clients and friends and colleagues…and now, four years later, I’m “The Virtual Meeting Coach” as well as a health and wellness coach who uses virtual meetings to support my clients’ deliberately reorienting their lives around their natural strengths.

Over the last four years, I’ve field-tested all kinds of helping strategies, from one-on-one coaching to small group meetings. At this point, I’ve discovered that the one-on-one coaching is the fastest and easiest way for people to learn. But it’s also the most expensive. Some people need to speed things up and are ready to go for it, one-on-one. Others can’t focus all their energy on new skills because they’ve got a lot to attend to just to keep their revenue streams flowing. I can help in either situation.

To address the needs of people who can’t do one-on-one work right now, this year I developed what I call the Madhatters’ Tea Party Group Coaching Programs. They provide a 10-week fun, high-energy, and emotionally supportive practice environment where small groups of people can quickly learn “fluid collaboration” processes by doing them weekly – with me and their friends, fans and followers.

Participants report the outcomes are greater ease and a sense of excitement and facility at creating both intermittent meetings and persistent collaborative practices that nourish – and sustain – a sense of shared meaning and purpose with the people who are most important to them. Even when they’re not able to be physically co-located.

If you’re not sure which tools you’d like to get started with, I hope you’ll take a look at this post in Christopher’s blog.

When you’re ready for some one-on-one coaching, or to build your skills by practicing in a small group – using whichever FREE tools you like the most – I hope you’ll give me a call. I use all of the tools Christopher highlighted in his post and many others. I offer a FREE initial 30-minute consultation and I’d love to hear more about your situation.

As “The Virtual Meeting Coach,” I’m committed to helping smart people learn to use the free tools in ways – and at a price – that’s affordable and sustainable for everyone as well as our fragile Earth.

This is the future we’ve been waiting for, friends. The tools are FREE and they’re available NOW. If you’ve still got a lot more to share with others – and you can’t afford either the time or the money it takes to fly and drive all over the place all the time to share it – I’d love to help you get started collaborating fluidly with the people who are most important to you – in the areas that you’ve got crucial gifts to contribute. We need your gifts. Now.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Navigating the Scylla and the Charybdis of Face-to-Face and Virtual Meetings

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Regular readers of this blog have heard that I went “over the hill” this summer: I turned 60. It’s been quite a ride!

Along with taking time to reflect on the journey this far, I’ve started culling through my extensive library, passing on books I don’t need to carry with me for the next decade, and reclaiming those I can’t live without. One I can’t live without is Homer’s Odyssey. Curiously, re-reading this ancient story over the last couple of weeks has given me some new insights about our modern lives –  including things like remote work and virtual meetings. One seems particularly useful. You tell me…

Time changes many things, but one thing that’s never changed is that human beings need to interact socially and work together in order to accomplish all but the most rudimentary tasks.

We need to build meaningful relationships, bond with co-workers and clients, align people around key messages and directions, nourish collaboration and innovation, share information and knowledge with one another, and encourage each others’ contributions and accomplishments. Right?

Over the last 40 years, the human journey from the Industrial Age to the Information Age has spawned national economies that are at once more complex and more interdependent. And these economies require more people – across the globe – to work together. At the same time, individuals, families, local economies, and the Earth itself, are struggling mightily to adapt to this increasing complexity and interdependence.

Since the end of World War II, people across the Western world have simply assumed that we can and will travel healthy distances almost every day to work together face-to-face. But both local and global travel are expensive, both in time and dollars spent. And travel fills the air with carbon byproducts. After fifty-plus years of explosive growth in human travel, the specter of climate change grows darker and heavier every day, across the globe.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

So, we’re “between a rock and a hard place,” as the saying goes. Human beings need each other’s help more than ever to accomplish complex tasks we cannot do on our own. At the same time, neither our individual pocketbooks, nor our organizations, nor our fragile planet can afford for the whole human race to travel around all the time so we can work together in the same place.

It’s a difficult passage, this transition to the 21st century.

The difficulty of the passage is quite similar, actually, to the difficulty of a passage the classical hero, Odysseus, had to make as he journeyed home to Troy a few thousand years ago. In fact, it was the difficulty of Odysseus’ passage between the Scylla and Charybdis that be the progenitor of our modern phrase, “between a rock and a hard place.”

In case you don’t remember, on his way home to Troy, Odysseus faced – and overcame – many perils. During one of the toughest, he had to pass through a strait flanked by twin terrors. On one side was a whirlpool, called Charybdis, which would sink the ship. On the other side of the strait was a monster called Scylla, the six-headed daughter of Crataeis, who would seize and eat six men. Neither side was going to yield an easy passage for Odysseus.

And, as we journey together into the 21st century, we’re navigating between two equally tough choices, as well. We’re passing between Scylla and Charybdis every time we have to choose between meeting with people face-to-face (incurring the associated costs – both in time and money) and meeting with people virtually (foregoing opportunities to read body language and facial expressions and bond with others – physically and emotionally – in familiar and time-honored ways).

Just as Odysseus had to make one bad choice or another, as we sail deeper into the complex waters of 21st century work, we have to make a sacrifice, too. Odysseus chose to pass closer to the Scylla, allowing her to take six of his men, instead of chancing losing the whole ship in the whirlpool of the Charybdis.

Every time we have to chose between conserving capital and expanding the reach of our services, we have to decide to drop irreplaceable cash and time into the whirlpool or sacrifice a fully-embodied experience with others. And, frankly, there just aren’t any good choices. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or fantasizing.

Face-to-face meetings are absolutely crucial for some social transactions. Online meetings are actually better for some transactions than face-to-face meetings. But, when you’re passing through the choppy, muddy waters between those two extremes, we all simply have to make some tough choices, just like Odysseus.

5 Questions to Sharpen Up Your Virtual Meeting Chops

So, what’s my best advice for those times in the middle? While I’m certainly no Tiresias, I am training my clients to use five fundamental questions to help them make tough choices about how they’re going to use web conferences as effectively as they would once have used face-to-face meetings – so they can pocket time and money for other things.

I urge you, too, to use these questions to clarify your virtual meeting plans and strategies:

These are tough questions. And the answers can’t be finessed. If you’re going to accomplish your goals using virtual meetings, you need to know – and use – the answers to these questions to structure your meetings as well as your between-meeting-communication. Any lack of clarity about any of this will compromise your chances of skirting the dangers.

Don’t kid yourself! People who are not actively developing their skills at using virtual meeting rooms as real-time multi-media communication “devices,” are in real peril as we journey deeper into the 21st Century. The good news is, with good help, developing online meeting skills is not that difficult.

My little e-book, “The Coach’s Short List,” is available if you want a solid set of simple structures to help you get started.


So, what insights does this simple metaphor stimulate for you?

Southern Oregon authors, coaches and consultants! Here’s a Local Opportunity!

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Hello Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Medford, Grants Pass, and Jacksonville, Oregon! I’m looking for one more Rogue Valley author, coach or consultant who’s ready to add virtual meetings to your communication toolbox this year!

At the end of this month, I’m starting up a 6-week small-group coaching program where you will meet in person with others like you and learn-by-doing in a fun face-to-face setting.

Ready to skill yourself up for 2011? We’re going to have some big fun! Read more here. If you’re interested, give me a call right away.

Webcams and Telemedicine: New Software Allows Remote Visual Monitoring of Vital Signs

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

I just caught sight of a promising new development going on in a graduate lab at MIT.

When the tools described below are fully integrated into simple virtual meeting interfaces, we really will have many more choices about how we give and receive healthcare support services, won’t we? How utterly exciting!

MIT Team Developing Tool To Monitor Vital Signs Through Camera

A device under development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could monitor changes in a person’s vital signs through a low-cost camera, the Boston Globe’s “White Coat Notes” reports (Johnson, “White Coat Notes,” Boston Globe, 10/5).

Researchers led by MIT graduate student Ming-Zher Poh used public-domain software to identify facial positions and to deconstruct the information into red, green and blue portions of video images.

The device then determines an individual’s pulse by tracking small changes in how light reflects off their face as blood flows under the skin.

The tool could be embedded into a mirror or integrated with a Web-based camera.

In May, researchers published initial results from the project in the journal Optics Express.

Early results found that the MIT device identified pulses accurately within three beats per minute, even when up to three people stood in front of the camera and when test subjects moved (Armstrong Moore, CNET News, 10/5).

The team currently is working on refining the device to take other measurements, such as:

* Blood pressure;

* Oxygen saturation; and

* Respiration rate (“White Coat Notes,” Boston Globe, 10/5).

According to Poh, the device’s noninvasive design could make it useful for several purposes, such as monitoring newborn infants or burn victims.

In addition, the device could be used for telemedicine-based health screenings or remote patient monitoring (MIT release, 10/4).

So, what d’you think about them apples?

Virtual Meetings Are a Cinch – When You Set Them Up Right

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

It’s 100% true. You can use your computer and free virtual meeting tools to grow your income and enrich important relationships. Take a look:

I love these Verishow clips because they show real-world situations with real people that are easy to relate to.

(Yeah, yeah, yeah…they might be actors. But they’re behaving just like real people. I have meetings like this every day with my clients, using a desktop computer or my laptop – from my home office, a coffee shop, or a hotel room. No kidding!)

If you took a couple of minutes to watch, you saw that virtual meetings really can be like child’s play!  Fast and easy for the host – and clients love them. They save everyone time, money, and hassle – whether you’re across town or across the globe from each other.

So…. The question is, if virtual meetings are really this easy, what’s keeping you from using them for 40-60% of your work?

That’s a real question.

Your answer might be something like:

1) I can’t believe it’s actually that easy – there must be a catch.
2) I don’t want to be chained to a desk on a computer.
3) I hate the way I look on a webcam.
4) I don’t want my privacy invaded all the time.
5) To use virtual meetings with my clients, I’d have to change so many things about the way I do business … and I don’t have time to do that right now.

Or something similar. I’ve heard a hundred reasons since I opened my practice as “The Virtual Meeting Coach” and launched Virtual Meeting Startup.

Every reason people have for not already using virtual meetings with their clients holds the seed of a legitimate concern. But not one of them is a serious obstacle. Not one. Certainly there are concerns to address, and ways you’ll need to tailor your approach to make it fit your clients. But every day, I’m helping small- and mid-sized business owners – just like you – quickly work through the challenges.

So, go ahead! Take the plunge! Just sign up now so you can use Verishow, ShowDocument, DimDim or vYew – or something similar – and start doing this week what you see happening in these clips! All four of those tools have robust free versions- and there lots of others like them.

HERE’S A LEG UP, NO STRINGS ATTACHED

On the other hand, if you can’t bring yourself to take the plunge on your own… but you want to be able to meet with your clients this way in 2011 – I want to offer you a leg up right now. To get it, you can use THE CONTACT BUTTON at Virtual Meeting Startup and ask for a FREE 30-minute private consultation with me.

I’ll listen to you, ask a few questions, and make some free recommendations based on your unique situation and the needs of your clients and customers.

ONLY TWO SEATS LEFT IN THE FALL GROUP COACHING PROGRAM

The Fall session of my 10-Week Online Group Coaching Program begins the week of September 19th. I’ve got 2 seats left in this group. And, if your situation is one that could really benefit from you being part of a learning group, I don’t want you to miss the chance to sign up for the next cycle.

Cynthia Winton-Henry, co-founder of Interplay, was a participant in the Spring session of the program. Here’s something she said about her experience:

The Madhatter’s Program was great for my learning curve. In spite of personal and job time constraints, it’s proof that when the heart and mind are in the right place, things work. Meri was the perfect coach for me at this time! Her spirit of fun, play, and that its OK to fail help the change become incremental, instead of overwhelming.

I love Meri’s accessibility and the amount of practice she’s had. It’s also fun learning who the other Madhatters are and sharing with one another.

One more time, here’s a link to the contact form to request a free 30-minute private consultation with me.

C U soon~!

Worried about how to increase the reach of your business? Grow your income? Enrich relationships with friends and family?

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

As my friend and colleague, Carolyn Shaffer, knows well, a lot of us tend to worry these days about a lot of things.

Will we have enough income flow to see us through the years ahead?

How can we nourish crucial relationships with family and friends – when everyone’s scattered across the continent, or the globe?

What can we actually do to decrease the demand for fossil fuels – so we don’t have more disasters like we’ve already suffered in the Gulf this year?

A few years ago, Carolyn claimed her heritage in a long line of women who had all been “born worriers,” and decided  to take on the serious job of dispensing lighthearted wisdom for the heavy times in which we live.

Carolyn Shaffer
A long-time educator and, for more than 20 years, a clinical hypnotherapist and life coach (www.livingwellway.com), Carolyn has helped hundreds of clients move from fear and paralysis to joy and effective action. And, in response to the unprecedented global crises we face, Carolyn started whyworryguide.com to help thousands more learn how to make this shift quickly and affordably.

This week I will be Carolyn’s guest on her monthly Buddy Call. We’ll be talking about how all of us can move from worry to joy to effective action using virtual meeting tools (that are free or highly affordable) to reach more people and increase our income flow.

Strengthen Your Relationships With Family and Friends

Even if you aren’t in business for yourself, you can use the information and resources I’ll be sharing on Wednesday, August 11th, to take action on another front: strengthening your relationships with family and friends, especially those who live far away. In times of great change these relationships can turn out to be even more important than those multiple, flowing income streams.

Carolyn was a Madhatter in the Spring Session of the Madhatters Tea Party Group Coaching Program, so she’s been hard at work this summer applying what she learned to create new programs that will extend her coaching practice – using virtual meetings. She told me this week that she found the program demanding, especially for a computer-technology-challenged person like her, but also a lot of fun. Yes, F-U-N.

On this call, I’ll be sharing tips and resources for how you, too, can enter the world of virtual meetings and have a good time while you’re there.

Using our computers to communicate with each other – using text, still pictures, moving pictures and live drawing, along with our voices -  really does create conversations that are more engaging, more spontaneous, and more creative than just talking on the phone.  It’s true!

So, please join us on Wednesday, August 11th, at 6pm PDT for an hour of fun conversation. The call is FREE. So, bring your questions. Bring your sense of humor. Hell, you can even bring your worries! Between the two of us, Carolyn and I will do our best to help you with those, too.

There’s no cost to participate, but you do need to register at Carolyn’s site. Use the link below to sign up and Carolyn will send you the call number, conference code, and give you access to the call recording – in case you’d like to listen, but can’t participate Wednesday at 6pm PDT:

The Why Worry Guide Registration Page: http://www.whyworryguide.com/monthly-buddy-building-calls/

See you there! I mean hear you there…or hear you then…  It’ll be fun!

Geometry, Morale, Virtual Meeting Mastery and Oreos

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

It’s storytime, friends. I’ve slowed down a bit this summer and as I begin gearing back up for the Fall, I’ve got a little story to share. If you’ve got a few minutes, please grab a cool drink…

Last weekend my dear friend, Diana Fairbanks, helped me gather up and move a bunch of things I’ve been storing at another friend’s property since I moved from Austin to Ashland almost four years ago. It was hot, heavy, dirty work in 105 degree heat and we were filthy, thirsty, and bone-tired when we got back to my place late in the afternoon with a car, a truck and a trailer piled high with stuff.

Fortunately, two cheerful, strong-backed, willing-to-work high school boys, Austin Huerta and Nick Geiger, were waiting to help us unload everything and fit it – somehow – into two small storage spaces under the building where I live.

As we began unloading, Austin and Nick noticed the flat file drawers stacked in the back of my car and asked me about being an artist. This opened a conversation about how much the boys loved Tetris and making art but hated geometry. We bonded immediately – across three generations – and the conversation about art and geometry kept us all from worrying too hard about the decision-making and stacking work as we hoisted stuff out of the vehicles and started tucking it into two pretty tight spaces.

As Austin quickly and skillfully transferred containers of different shapes and sizes from one place to another, he talked about how much he loved playing Tetris – and how irrelevant the kinds of problems he was being asked to solve in geometry seemed to him. And, as Nick helped Austin shoulder the heavy stuff, he chimed in about how much he loved drawing – but how painful geometry was for him because the formulas just made no sense to him.

As the boys demonstrated, moment by moment, how much geometry they had clearly mastered, I told them how happy I was that two smart young guys were having so much trouble with the damn theorems and postulates because I’ve been an artist my entire life and geometry was the only class I ever got a “D” in.

We agreed that theorems, axioms, postulates and corollarys weren’t the only way to work with shapes and that making art – and moving stuff around in space – were much better routes for people like us. Before we knew it, the work was done and we were high-fiving with a cheer for “Screw the postulates!” I thanked them for their cheerful company and quick creative thinking and we took off to get drinks and clean up. Despite the hard work and the heat, morale was high all around. What a day!

So, what’s this got to do with virtual meetings?

Well, three days later, as I’m recovering, I’m starting to wonder how I’m going to integrate everything into my life and my work now that all my stuff’s back under one roof. It’s a big deal to have all my books, tools, and supplies in one place four years after moving across the country! I went downstairs to survey the storage spaces and smiled immediately remembering the way the cheerful conversation with the boys lifted everyone’s morale.

And I’m also realizing that maybe it’s not quite true that theorems and postulates don’t work for me when I’m designing new solutions.

What might be truer is that, when I’m working as a coach, I’m always working with some theorem, axiom or postulate, assembling new corollaries, and searching for neat, provable little “systems” I can share with clients. Especially now that I’m helping coaches and consultants transition their face-to-face services into virtual meeting rooms.

But the thing is, instead of working with precise lines, protractors, and little letter-and-number-labels, I use words and phrases, together with photographs and video and cartoons and sometimes even little interactive games. There’s still a lot of rigor in the work and the systems have to “prove out” — or they’re not useful to anyone. And I notice that’s a liberating insight…

Advanced Coaching for Virtual Meeting Mastery

Throughout the Spring Session of the Madhatters Tea Party Group Coaching Program, Tom Carroll and I debriefed the Hatters about their action-learning experiences and I posted the videos here in the Virtual Meeting Coach blog. In those video interviews – and the written posts – Tom and I were actually fishing for axioms to share with the whole Virtual Meeting Camp.

But there was little time for me to reflect on my own learning, as the program director. So, I decided to chill a bit during the first part of the summer, have some fun turning 60, and take time to mull over the feedback the Hatters and Partiers shared so generously at the close of the session before attempting to design any followup coaching programs.

As August 1st looms on the horizon, I’m starting to dream again about some fast, fun, effective ways I could meet clients’ requests for advanced coaching this Fall. And, as I reflect on the geometry conversation, I’m realizing that the Virtual Tea Party Group actually handed me some powerful axioms in their post-session feedback surveys.

From both sides of the action-learning experience, Madhatter Hostesses and Virtual Tea Partiers agreed they want more

  1. Learning community – to help them sustain morale while they take the time necessary to develop consistent virtual meeting skills
  2. Real-time feedback – so they can design and deliver superior services – at a distance
  3. Resources and support – for building excellent project team(s) that can help each other migrate successfully from 3D rooms to virtual meeting rooms
  4. Practice – being exactly who they are in virtual relationships

And, as I’ve been reflecting on my own experience, it’s clear to me that running successful service businesses – businesses that deliver both face-to-face and virtual servicesdepends on our successful application of a couple of crucial corollaries as we design new service products.

I wish I could take credit for authoring all these – but this is actually an Oreo. I can only claim credit for the creamy center. The top and bottom cookies come from leaders at Pixar Studios.


(1) For imagination-based companies to succeed in the long run, making money can’t be the focus.
- Steve Jobs (CEO, Pixar Studios)

(2) Morale is the life-blood of imagination and without trust and respect, morale fails. Without exception.
- Meri Aaron Walker (co-author, “Teamwork is an Individual Skill“)

(3) With low morale, for every $1 your spend, you get $.25 value. With high morale, for every $1 you spend, you get $3 in value.
- Brad Bird (Director/Screenwriter, Pixar Studios)

I know, I know…

I can hear some of you muttering… “Tell me again, Meri, what’s all this GEOMETRY and OREO stuff got to do with me getting the results I need in this tough economy using virtual meetings?”

Hey, it’s summertime. And I just slid over the falls into my sixth decade… Rambling a little is just part of the territory.

What all this has to do with YOU, YOUR BUSINESS, and YOUR VIRTUAL MEETING MASTERY is this:


If you aren’t literally living and working within easy walking distance of all your coworkers, clients, and suppliers… (Not “A”)

… and if you are a service company that isn’t growing your profits fast enough to keep pace with this persistently volatile economy… (Not “B”)

… and if what you actually sell your clients, suppliers, and coworkers is your attention, intelligence and help applying new strategies to improve other people’s productivity and profits… (PLU$)

Then…

… taking time to learn to use interactive virtual meetings in ways that build trust and respect and sustain morale around you would be a great investment to make in yourself this year. (C)

So, are you needing

  • a smart learning community,
  • honest real-time feedback,
  • proven resources and support for making your migration into virtual meetings, and
  • a place to do real-world practice FREE tools with live, supportive audiences?

If you’d like to explore options with me, you can use this link to request a FREE 30-minute private consultation.

I’m always curious about what smart women business owners are dreaming and I’ll be happy to share some pointers about tools and strategies that could speed up your transition – without breaking the bank. And, I promise we won’t talk about geometry – not even for a moment!

Until next time, I hope you’re enjoying your summer! We’ve only got one life to live. I hope you’re taking time to enjoy yours because high morale really is the most reliable generator of new value in this tough economy!


Ciao!

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!


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