The Virtual Meeting Coach

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Archive for the ‘webinars’ Category

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

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

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.

Reality Trumps – Only Always!

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

(c) berro.com

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…

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…

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!

When Choosing a Virtual Meeting Tool, No Magic Pills or Siskel and Ebert Reviews Work

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Both the Madhatters and Madhatters Virtual Tea Party 6-Week Virtual Meeting Campers asked me today if I could provide them with some lists of virtual meeting tools, so I’m sharing some links to places interested people can find these kinds of lists online:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_web_conferencing_software
http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pe48NjIzZGzkWcXotfwoseg
http://www.webconferencing-test.com/en/webconference_home.html
http://www.indiana.edu/~icy/conference.html
http://www.kolabora.com/news/2007/06/22/web_conferencing_tools_and_technology.htm

There are dozens of these kinds of lists online! Maybe hundreds of them. You can do your own research just as easily as you can follow these links. You’ll find a ton of information about meeting tools and their various features.

I don’t provide some “Virtual Meeting Coach” list of virtual meeting tools because as soon as I issued a list of tools, it would be obsolete. Features are being added weekly, new companies are coming online weekly, and companies that have had great tools in the virtual meeting space are going broke and going offline weekly.

So, those of you who are getting excited in the Madhatters Tea Parties and want to start testing and researching other options outside DimDim right now, please feel free to kick off your own research using these links. I also encourage you to do your own Google searches on virtual meetings, web conferencing, online meetings, etc. so you locate the most current data about what’s available right now.

No Magic Pills or Siskel and Ebert Reviews

I wish I could just give all of you a “pill” or some definitive list that would allow you to point a finger and just pick the right tool for you. But, frankly, that would be about as useful as providing you an index of all the pharmaceuticals on the market for depression (or some other complex illness). A list of pharmaceuticals doesn’t tell you anything about how the drugs really work in real human bodies with complex needs. And neither do tables of virtual meeting tools tell you what will “make the perfect virtual office for you.”

The tool(s )you choose to use will depend on the interaction of three fundamental factors:

1) What you do well – what your “Lion” strengths are (remembering our first Madhatters Tea Party?)
2) What it is you want to accomplish with your clients/coworkers at a distance.
3) What your clients/coworkers want from you – at a distance – and how they are willing to receive it from you.

The sites above offer a variety of ranking systems. Unfortunately, the criteria used for the ranking are anything but standardized. I wish I could change that. But, that’s just the way it is. Virtual meeting use is an art … not a science… And we’re operating in a volatile economy that’s changing the ways we think about working together every week. So the science is going to take awhile longer. Like maybe a decade or so…

There’s a Reason I’ve Become the Virtual Meeting Coach

And, it’s not to hawk virtual meeting tools for a sales commission. I’m an independent communication consultant who has been advising and coaching people in the skillful use of face-to-face interactive meeting strategies and electronic messaging tools for over two decades. I don’t have a “favorite” virtual meeting tool because there are mountains of things that people want and need to be able to do in virtual meetings. Many tools do some of those things pretty well and none of them that do all of them perfectly. Not even close.

So, I hung out my shingle about two years ago now in the interest of saving people time and money in your research and development processes. I delight in helping people identify ways you can take what you do best and port your special sauce into online meetings. Then, I like helping you frost the cake by tailoring your online meeting and business processes so you get the full value and delight available from the tools(s) you choose to use.

I love coaching individuals (and groups) through a step-by-step process that helps you quickly clarify what’s true for you about the three factors above. And then I’ll help you select and practice with the tool(s) that will best fit you and your clients’ needs. If you want more, I also offer groups in which I coach people in the adaptation of their favorite face-to-face engagement strategies to virtual meetings. I want my clients to make meeting with them virtually a true pleasure for others – instead of a pain in the #ss.

By all means, if you would enjoy spending your time doing the research yourself, please start with the links above. It’s horribly time-consuming but also great fun uncovering all the new stuff out there.

On the other hand, if you’d rather spend your time making money with your core business processes – and you’d like to save substantial trial and error time – you can hire me to consult and coach you quickly through the process of transitioning some of them online.

The Madhatters Tea Party Group Coaching Programs are one highly affordable way I’ve set up to help people learn and practice in small groups. I also work privately with clients who really need to speed things up by focusing on their specific needs in a one-on-one setting.

I offer a FREE 20-minute virtual meeting consultation to anyone thinks you’re ready to get started so you can see if you think we’d be a good fit. Feel free to use the contact form at VirtualMeetingStartup to set up a free consultation.

The Language and Culture of Virtual Meetings – The Madhatters Tea Party Launch

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Opening day of the Madhatters Tea Party 6-Week Virtual Meeting Camp went just about as I’d imagined it would. Wild. Crazy. Full of surprises. And a little on the chaotic side for the first 15-20 minutes.

How else would you expect things to go with a gang of mostly inexperienced virtual meeters, coming from a dozen different frames of reference, with wide-ranging computer literacy, using both PC and Macintosh computers, and connecting through a free teleconferencing line and a full-featured multi-media virtual meeting room at the same time? And did I say most of them were middle-aged women?

As the Madhatter of Madhatters, I was utterly delighted by the whole event! It was the quintessential Virtual Madhatters Tea Party!

When it was over, participants’ feedback reflected various levels of cognitive overload … and excitement …and curiosity …and a desire for more!

I had a debriefing conversation about the first Madhatters Tea Party today with my colleague, friend, and former client, Tom Carroll, founder of EvolutionaryLearning.com.

Tom’s lifetime of research mapping human excellence and designing strategies to rapidly transfer that excellence from one human to another (and another and another…) has inspired me since we met a decade ago in Austin, Texas. When I first met Tom, he was a Senior Performance Consultant at International SEMATECH where he and his colleague, Mike Bown, helped semiconductor engineering and wafer fabrication teams make the most of their full human capacities in a high pressure, multi-company, multi-cultural consortium whose mission was to ensure that the US get ahead – and stay ahead – of the rest of the world in the development of semiconductor technologies.

These days, Tom has moved into his own consulting practice where he continues to research and test ways to help human beings perform better, faster, and cheaper in a variety of industries where the competition is tough and stakes are high.

At my request, Tom was a participant/observer during the first Madhatters Tea Party and I’ve asked him to continue observing. I’ll be publishing a series of our “behind the scenes” debriefing conversations here on the blog to help the Madhatters and the Virtual Tea Partiers – and anyone else who’s interested – get some background context for the experience-based-learning they’re doing.

I hope you find  something useful for yourself in this dialogue and, as always, I’m interested in your thoughts and feelings. Please feel free to comment below.

This first conversation is focused on Tom’s perceptions about the Virtual Tea Party and explores some of my assumptions about the language and culture of virtual meetings. Out of my training in educational psychology and anthropology, my personal experience teaching ESL and cross-cultural communication, and my research and testing of hundreds of virtual meeting technologies over the last three years, I have come to believe that immersing people in a learning experience that is both safe and serious is the only sound way to help human beings quickly build the literacy and fluency each of us needs in order to make the most of new, online meeting tools.

In this economy, the stakes couldn’t be higher – particularly for independent business people with high-value services to sell.

I’m completely convinced that once we understand how to use them, virtual meetings can allow teachers, trainers, coaches and consultants to lower costs while providing more and better service.

Give a listen. And by all means, feel free to share what you think…


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