The Virtual Meeting Coach

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Archive for the ‘virtual facilitation’ Category

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

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

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.

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.

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.

Fall Session Madhatters Tea Parties Starting Monday – 1 Seat Left!

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

I’ve had a last-minute cancellation, so if you’d like to join the Fall session of Hatters, let’s talk before Monday…

I’m a Telecommunications teacher in Ashland, OR.


The Virtual Meeting Coach

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Reality Trumps – Only Always!

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010


When you’ve become a successful face-to-face facilitator, coach, trainer, or consultant, learning to use virtual meeting tools can be a totally absorbing process. It’s true. Everything’s different than when we’re meeting face-to-face. We have to learn to translate some skills and find ways to live without some things we’ve learned to believe are essential for good relationship and high productivity.

It’s quite a dance. And to be successful virtual meeting leaders, requires practice. Actually quite a lot of practice. Like learning to dance – or riding a bike – no amount of time spent “thinking about it” substitutes for time spent just getting down the new moves.

Then, when we enter the virtual meeting room, we must let go of the “meeting” we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.

When you can do that, you’re on your way…

What’s keeping us from already using virtual meetings for 30-40% of our work? The status quo!

Monday, June 7th, 2010

I’m going to be speaking locally tomorrow with a group of nonprofit consultants about how they could begin using virtual meeting tools to generate new revenues in their businesses.

Experience levels vary widely, so I decided to make a little mindmap to illustrate the primary factors affecting our “individual” decisions about when to use virtual meetings in our work – and when not to.

It occurred to me, as I made the map, that others might find the format useful as you dig deeper into your work processes with co-workers, clients and suppliers.

It would be nice if we could just unilaterally decide to start using some of the virtual meeting tools to simplify our work and save us time and money without damaging crucial relationships.

But the truth of the matter is that we can’t start having virtual meetings alone. ;^) We need people to meet with, don’t we? And not everyone is working from the same beliefs, attitudes, and systems to keep things rolling in their organizations. Human beings meet in the ways that we’re used to meeting – because we’ve got systems built up around those ways. And, even if our habits, beliefs and processes are burning up irreplaceable resources, we can’t help but resist changing them. It’s human nature! Nevertheless, our beliefs, habits, attitudes and systems are going to need to shift – at least just a bit – if we want to reap the benefits available from virtual meetings. (If we could have just copied over our face-to-face practices and skills – as is – everyone would already be using these tools, wouldn’t they?)

Please feel free to link to this little map. Use it in your self-inquiry. Use it to support your inquiry with co-workers and clients. You’re going to need to talk carefully about which things might need to shift a bit so that everyone can SHARE the benefits and savings available when you start use real-time virtual meetings together to get stuff done. You, your co-workers, your clients, and even your suppliers – everyone stands to benefit. But only if you’re able to give each other what you need to perform – and stay motivated – when you’re not in the same place or even the same time.

So, which things need to shift in ways that won’t overturn your apple carts?

If you need help facilitating these kinds of internal conversations with co-workers or clients, I’d love to help.

And, if you’re all ready to start exploring some of the possibilities EXPERIENTIALLY, I’ve got two places left in the next Madhatters Tea Party 10-Week Group Coaching Program starting the week of July 5th. You can grab one of those spots for yourself by contacting me here: Do it today, though. This is a first-come first-served program and I wouldn’t want you to miss out on this opportunity.

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 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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