9 Ways to Make Your Virtual Meetings More Engaging

Group of people meeting with content projected onto a screenHow often have you been in an online meeting or webinar …  sitting at a table … with an LCD projector showing the computer screen on the wall (or huddled around a computer monitor) and a speakerphone for the audio?  This circumstance is deadly if you want participation.  Why? This situation takes away everyone’s ability to engage as an individual other than the ONE who is at the keyboard.  Everyone else is left passively listening or taking notes until called upon or jumps in.

That’s the way it was — back in the day when virtual meeting technology was new and we had extremely limited bandwidth and were trying to mimic as closely as we could our normal meeting pattern – we made sacrifices. We did what we could.  :) I happened to work at an organization that had staff in nine states so for us it was an imperative to use the virtual meeting tools to connect.  While the tech then was helpful it isn’t nearly as good as it is now plus we’ve learned how to navigate virtual meetings much better.  If you’re organization is still doing things the old way or looking for ways to do these kind of meetings and events better, here are 10 shifts you can make so that your virtual meetings are more inclusive and engaging.

  1. Everyone join the meeting from their own device.  For the most part, when we join a virtual meeting from a meeting room as a group, we restrain or even eliminate most of the participation. The only person able to consistently illustration of people standing with lines drawn indicating their connections.engage is the person at the keyboard which turns everyone else into a passive listener aka audience member aka attendee but not a participant.  We can eliminate the participation barrier if everyone joins from their own computer or mobile device. This enables everyone to participate in the meeting and allows you to fully utilize the virtual meeting tool set e.g., chat, polling, Q&A, whiteboard, etc. If you must use the old configuration of group to group, or some mix of group and individuals then consider integrating a private backchannel with tools like Chatzy (www.chatzy.com) or TodaysMeet (www.todaysmeet.com).  If you’re prepared to use apps on smart phones you might try GroupMe (https://groupme.com/) or WhatsApp (http://www.whatsapp.com/]. These tools allow everyone to participate via text message, so anyone with a cell phone handy can jump right in. Besides who doesn’t carry a cell phone these days?.
  2. Young woman attempting to play a guitar for the first time, painful expression as she holds the guitar strings to the frets. Learn your platform(s).  You don’t have to know how to set it up and run it unless that’s your job.  But, you do need to know how it works, what it can do and how to do it from a participants viewpoint.  The more comfort and confidence you gain, the better and less technologically stressful your meetings will be. There are a lot of different platforms but I’ve learned that once you start using one, the others are much easier to figure out.  If you are presenting, the same thing applies: learn to use the platform.
  3. Use the interactive tools you have to the fullest. All of the virtual meeting rooms have a tool set.  Some are better than others but all are there to meet your meeting needs.  If you have a chat window, put it to work.  If you have a pointer, use it to help people follow your presentation. If you have emoticons, encourage people to use them. If you have presenter video and sufficient bandA group of icons representing virtual meeting tools width, give it a try. Using video is a great way to open a meeting so that everyone can see everyone else – its a great point of connection or reconnection.  You can always turn it off when you’re ready to focus on content. Some platforms allow for meeting notes to be seen live while being typed. Some offer whiteboards for collaboratively working together. Some offer Q&A. The point is to put the technology to work for you to meet your needs and to humanize an otherwise sterile virtual environment. The platforms I enjoy using the most include Adobe Connect, WebinarJam, and AnyMeeting, or you can use a Google Hangout or Hangout on Air depending on your needs, numbers and privacy concerns. Of course the Google tools are free and integrate easily with Google documents, presentations, spreadsheets, etc.
  4. Send out essential information before the meeting.  Timing here is important depending on the volume of material being sent!  Any information A Business Man Climbing a Pile of Papersthat is going to be discussed needs to be sent ahead of time to give people time to review and be ready for the discussion. Avoid sending large reports or hefty documents unless you give people a cover guide or set of questions you’ll be discussing in order to help them focus on key information and not the whole enchilada. Few things are more frustrating to a participant in a meeting than being sent a 200 page document the day before with instructions to be prepared to discuss it! Yikes!
  5. Send reminder nudges. I’m finding the best and most helpful
    The face of an iphone

    Source: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/

    reminders come via text message but email works too for most people.  Send a reminder 24 hours prior and another reminder on the morning of the meeting.  If you have the ability to text, send a text 10 minutes before start time.  We all have busy lives and sometimes extraordinary demands on our time so a nudge here and there is helpful. A couple of really easy to use apps for reminders are also listed above, WhatsApp and GroupMe. The way they work allows you to also send a group text to your entire meeting member list.

  6. Straight forward information is best done in another format.  If the meeting is simply informative, meaning someone is presenting a talk (non-interactive) consider shooting a video at your desk, post it unlisted on YouTube (or your servers) and send the link to everyone. If the focus is strictly on presenting information you may be far better off with another form of communication than a meeting. If there’s discussion, sharing, strategizing, brainstorming, or other kinds of active engagement, then a meeting is better. Save your meetings for the action.
  7. Limit screen time.  No one wants to sit and stare at a the face of an analog clockscreen for hours so just like you would for any event, consider the context, content, print-based material, visuals, AND the facilitated engagement around all of these things. Keep the pace brisk and time limited to an hour. If your meeting needs to be longer, be sure you take breaks often to relieve the stress of cognitive load and what I call flat bottom syndrome from sitting so long. Remember the old saying, the mind can only absorb what the backside can endure.

  8. Assign a meeting facilitator/moderator for each meeting.  Not the same person A figure looking at himself onlineall the time but trade off so that more people get to build their virtual meeting facilitation muscles. The technical prep can be fairly straightforward (checklist) but the facilitation needs to be well thought out.  I find that pause time and delays in transmission make a huge difference so sometimes I sit on my hands while I wait for replies and I remind myself — its not just about the speed of tech, its also allowing time for participants to consider the question and respond.  While it isn’t hard there are nuances to it and by serving in the facilitator/moderator role, everyone has a deeper appreciation for the role and the people in it. Once you’ve experienced it you’ll be a better participant.
  9. Real time meeting documentation. Some platforms like Adobe Connect have a built in pod for note taking but most others do not.  Chat can be helpful if the facilitator will ask for participation e.g., “Take a moment and use the chat to list your takeaways from today’s meeting”.  When everyone is online together on a supportive platform using collaborative tools  it makes the documentation much easier and far more efficient.  By the time your meeting is over so is the documentation process. If your platform doesn’t offer a place for collaborative meeting notes consider opening a Google Document and having everyone sign in. What’s nice about these documents is you can see everyone who is participating (color coded) right down to where their cursor is on the screen.  This keeps you from overwriting each others work and makes corrections easier.
  10. Encourage everyone to help each otherOne person helping another at the computerthis may be more important than just about any other action in terms of building personal and professional relationships especially around the use of technology.  If you have new staff or staff that struggle with the technology be encouraging.  For those who use it well, be a champion and help those that need it.  Nothing like the satisfaction that comes from knowing you’ve helped someone else join and belong.  Technology can be a barrier but only if we allow it.

Get creative and try new and different options – don’t be afraid to try things out, test, experiment, play.  Today you can encourage participation with virtual tools that are much easier, more friendly and reliable than they were only a few short years ago.

Think of a time you’ve been in an online meeting that really worked well.  What was it about that particular meeting that made it work?  What technology was involved? How was it used?  Drop a comment below and let’s learn together.



Curiosity and the Web

Two adults, one lifting the foot for the other to be able to see over the fence

Curiosity may have put the cat in peril but it is the energizing force for the Age of Participation.

As adult learners in a free range learning environment, we operate differently than we would in a higher education or training setting. In all these formal settings the learning is structured for us, the curriculum is developed for us, the content is determined for us, the assignment is created for us, and the timeline established for us. But free range learning opens us to our own curiosity, offering us a way to create our own learning path and come to our own conclusions. Think of it as DIY Learning.(Image: Shutterstock 34551175)

Curiosity and the Web are a perfect pair.  When we’re intrigued and get curious we can grab a laptop or mobile device and “Google it”, right?  When we watch television at my house a iPad or iPhone is always within reach.  When I need to learn something, large or small, I can.  Sometimes what I need to learn is practical. Recently I needed to clean the grimy burner covers on my stove.  I called my sister, the queen of clean, and she said to use baking soda but she didn’t remember what to put with it so I “Googled it”. That’s when I learned to make a paste of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, rub it on the covers, let it sit for a bit and then wash the grime away. It worked without making a trip to the store or buying some expensive solution in greater volume than I needed for this small task. That’s curiosity and the Web at work in my personal life.

A crop of leafy plants with light bulbs as bloomsThe same is true when it comes to learning at work or while doing the work.  My favorite example comes from coalition work.  A friend who works with coalitions invested in a new smart phone, a Droid. While in the middle of a coalition meeting a conflict arose around some of the local survey data.  John realized he might be able to solve the problem with his new Android smart phone so he gave it a try.  Sure enough, he was able to pull up the database, do a quick search and clarify the information so the group could make the decision and move on. Without access to the information the coalition would have tabled the discussion until the following month.  Everyone benefited.

I was at a conference not long ago teaching a workshop on jazzing up slide decks for presentations when an audience member asked me how to insert a video into a slide deck.  If you’ve ever done this then you know there are a few questions to ask before you can respond well.  Since I hadn’t included this content in the workshop and was strapped for time I told her the absolute quickest way I know to learn something like this is to pull up YouTube and do a quick search.  I saw light bulbs going off over heads all around the room.  I use YouTube all the time for learning but it is apparently not a common practice — most likely because YouTube is blocked by most agencies and organizations. After all, we don’t want people watching cat videos at work, right?  Which brings us back to curiosity.

When I came across this post on Edutopia it reminded me the first step is to allow ourselves to be curious — to not know the answers but be willing to find out (learn).  This can be a difficult stance to take in a world that values certainty and knowing over learning.  There was a great little list of questions that I’ve taken the liberty of adapting them to fit more closely with free range learners.

First, think of a time when you felt a spark of curiosity about something, something you didn’t know but felt the need to know.

  1. What did curiosity feel like, look like, and sound like for you? In other words, how did you know you were curious?
  2. What sparked your curiosity?
  3. What was your first action toward learning?
  4. How did you gather information to feed your curiosity?
  5. How did you share what you learned? Where? With whom?

In today’s rich social media environment where we can all learn and share, anytime, curiosity plays an important role in our personal and professional development. Fulfilled curiosity can provide you with insight, knowledge and even help you develop wisdom, making you far more valuable as an employee not to mention keeping those burner covers on your stove clean and shiny.

So, I’m curious.  When have you been in a situation where curiosity served you well?   How do you use, manage or harness your curiosity and the Web for your own personal and/or professional development?



12 Secrets to More Effective PowerPoint Slides

How did you learn to create a presentation slide deck? When? Where?

I’m kind of blown away by how much presentations have changed since I began doing them and how the possibilities, resources and norms have changed too.  The old “seven lines seven words” thinking has been replaced by practical practices emerging from the research on learning.

When I first discovered SlideShare I was so excited. (wahoo!) I finally had a place to put my slide decks online and share them .. that is until I looked at some of the spectacular slide decks appearing on the home page!  One glance told me everything had changed and I had some learning to do before I was going to post any slides! Since then I’ve worked hard to learn and integrate a different set of practices. See what fits for you and teach me (please) what you’ve learned too.

1.  Don’t turn the computer on.
Start developing your slides offline. Why? If you go directly to the computer to develop your content, you may find yourself developing a document instead of a slide deck. It seems to me to be far easier and even faster if I sit down with sticky notes and a pencil and start by brainstorming the content.  No qualifying just pure brainstorming. When done brainstorming, cluster into segments, trim, and then sequence the segments into something that makes sense and has meaning. Think about the audience, what do you know about them (or need to find out)? What’s the purpose and outcome? Be sure to jot these down for later (number 11).  Do this BEFORE turning your computer on or opening your software.

A stack of sticky notes labeled brainstorm with a black arrow leading to four groupings of sticky notes labeled cluster with another black arrow leading to an image of a sticky notes laid out in a sequence.

Designing and developing your presentation content

2. Make it your own– customize or create your own unique template.
Rather than use the standard (overused) templates, consider adjusting them or creating your own. If this feels overwhelming, click over to Slideshare and roam around for a little while for some ideas and inspiration.  Choose a color scheme (try www.kuler.adobe.com or  www.colorhunter.com). Then choose a font set.  You can choose from abundance of fonts already on your computer just put them into your own combination.  I’ve learned to use a foundation of three.  A basic font, a bold impact font and an accent font. Use the Master View to make [and save] these adjustments.

3. Go BIG.Woman looking at eye chart
When you put words on your slides go BIG. Not $50 words but make the words you use big.  The default size in PowerPoint is not nearly big enough. A good rule to follow is nothing smaller than 32 point size and stay with about 7 words or less on the slide. This is usually where we figure out whether our slides are for the audience or for us [presenter crutch]. Go into the Master View and adjust the fonts bigger.

woman with eyes crossed

No bullet points!

4. No Bullet Points. Yes, that’s right. No bullets points. First, bullet points are not helpful to the learner (participant, attendee). What’s happening in the brain is like what happens when you try to play an online video and you’re on a slow connection, right? You’ve probably had it happen where the video plays a bit, stops (buffering) and then plays a bit and stops (buffering), over and over again until the end.  This is sort of what happens in your brain.  You can either listen or process the visuals but not both at the same time.  The cognitive load (the work the brain has to do to understand) becomes too much and the whole process falters. You may have had the experience of mentally (or even physically) checking out during a cognitively heavy presentation. Bottom line, bullet points are not interesting so don’t use them.

The exceptions? Okay, there’s at least one bit of research that allows an exception.  According to research (Clark/Kwinn) bullet points work well for listing learning objectives but otherwise they do nothing to support the learner.  Rather than put all the objectives on the screen at the same time, use animation to build them in one at a time, using as few words as possible, pause slightly for read time, then describe the objective. The other place I use them is the Reference or Resources slides at the end.  Its a practical thing for me … I don’t present these slides but use them as the afterthought to list of citations and resources. This helps participants and others who stumble upon the slides online.

5. Go Visual!
You’ve probably heard the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, right, well now we know why — Vision trumps all other senses! (Medina). Visuals communicate with the brain quicker and faster than words. Why? Our brain works a lot harder when it reads since it is actually reading each letter, clustering letters into words, and then makes meaning (cognitive load again).  Recall and recognition are way better with visuals. So, look for ways to communicate your concept or ideas with visuals.

Cat with green eyes sitting in a cardboard box, looking up curiously.

Vision trumps all other senses.

There are lots of great resources for images, some free and some for a fee.  Creative Commons licensing has helped a lot and you can find an abundance of those on Flickr (just do an advanced search and check the creative commons box).  I’ll also suggest www.shutterstock.com and www.istockphoto.com. While these come at a cost they are reasonable and great for building your visual library. Pay attention to the licensing to be sure the way you are using the images fits with the license. In my work the standard license fits most often.

6. No Clip Art.
Clip art is a throwback to the early days of PowerPoint when storage was expensive and bandwidth was barely on our radar scope.  Use it ONLY if you want come across to your audience as outdated rather than outstanding.

7. Use Animation with purpose.
Animation can help you build a sequence or show a series of things on a slide but misuse is common.  Not all things need movement.  Use animation when you have a reason, a purpose to do so like building on ideas, walking through a complicated sequence of events or when doing so enhances the learning experience.

8. Integrate interaction.The words integrate interaction criss-crossed in the center with four arrow points in and the words polling, table talk, think time and networking placed at the outer edges of the arrows.
Some of the best and most “sticky” presentations I’ve learned from wove in participation with the audience in not one but two ways. First, engaging with and responding to the presenter and second, talking with and learning from other participants. The more we engage each other the more likely we are to have a memorable experience. How’s it done? Try polling the audience for information that helps you present your content. Ask a thoughtfilled question and give participants a couple of quiet minutes to think about it and make some notes. Then have them talk to each other about what they wrote down. Harvest a sample of from the audience.  Interaction is good for the brain and good for making new people connections (networking) too.

9. Adopt a conversation style.
In my experience, most formal presentations are boring. Why? The presenter is often the expert reading from what s/he has prepared or worse, reading from the slides!  Any time you happen to be the person standing at front of the room — be yourself, bring who you are into the work.  Everyone benefits from a more human, conversational style. Know your material well enough that you can “talk” through it, take interruptions without losing your place and field questions comfortably. Presentations and workshops are really conversations where we learn together.

10. Go Social. 
If you haven’t begun to get social with your presentations yet, you’re missing out on a remarkable experience. All too often we attend conferences and events and most of what happens there – like Vegas – stays there!  If you integrate social media you can take your topic outsSoMeToolside the four walls of the event and engage people across the Web. Doing so often means making new connections and engaging with others who share your passion for the work. In my mind it is a matter of degrees. You can do simple things like a blog post on your workshop topic, post your slide deck to slideshare.net, and/or use Facebook or Twitter to post an idea or quotation (resonate or controversial). Do a screen capture of a key slide and post it to Pinterest. Most important is that you establish your social presence so you can engage others on the topics or ideas that have heart and meaning for you.

11. Remember the Call to Action
Remember the very first step you wrote down the purpose and outcome of your presentation?  Reflect back to that statement and consider what you’ll ask participants to do next.  Maybe you’d like them to visit your website or blog or perhaps you want them to download an article or resource or maybe you’re encouraging them to join you in an online community where you can engage and learn more with each other? Always remember to put a call to action at the closing to help participants get the most from their time with you. This can also be part of going social since you can post products, information, resource lists or other blog posts that are shareworthy (meaning people can share easily with others).

12. Don’t use your slides as handouts.An image of a slide handout three-to-a-page with another print-based handout on top.
When PowerPoint came along with that nifty “print as handout” feature something strange started to happen. We started putting more information on the slides since they’d also be the handout.  In the process our slides became documents. Not good.  I’ll suggest creating a separate handout that IS a document in lieu of using your slides as a handout. I realize this is controversial and runs against the norm but it feels important to keep these things separate in order to keep us from turning what could be dynamic, interesting slides into documents. Besides, unless you’ve followed #3, the slides may well be too small and unreadable.

I had a friend challenge me (in a good way) on this thinking.  She said she likes the slides printed three to a page (even when they are images with few words) because when she takes notes she connects the image to notes/ideas.  I see the point and in fact have used this method of remembering too.  What do you think?  Do you like to have the slide deck printed as a handout to take notes on?  What helps you hold and integrate and continue to use ideas long after the presentation is over?

Okay, I’ve offered the gift of my thinking … it’s your turn.  What works or doesn’t work in your experience with developing presentations? What’s missing? What needs to be added? Revised?




The Language of Imagination

Creative Commons License: Kristie Wells

Creative Commons License: Kristie Wells

What is the language of imagination and how do we tap into it? Join the  Visual Insight tweetchat on 8/20 at Noon CT for an opportunity to explore the topic. Just follow #VIchat or get more information from the website. They’d love it if you’d RSVP.

Why join?  If you’re a presenter or trainer, you know that words are often our mainstay for learning but research and experience reveals that visuals have a special role and impact on learning too. For example, did you know the brain science says, vision trumps all other senses? Did you know that images improve recognition and recall? Cool huh?
I’ve been a fan of graphic facilitation and visual recording for many years and have experienced the value over and over again. Yet I find when I recommend it to clients, conference planners and meeting organizers they often see it as an added expense rather than a remarkable avenue for investing in and harvesting imagination and innovation.  Maybe the real issue is in understanding the language of imagination?

Justin Klineman, who I met through mutual friend Ken Homer (@ken_homer) at Collaborative Conversations is working with a team at Visual Insight to host a tweetchat on this topic of the language of imagination.  If you’re curious and want to learn more, join in the live tweetchat at Noon CT on August 20th by following the hashtag #VIchat on Twitter.  If you’re uncertain how it all works and what to do, there’s descriptive instructions available.

Let’s Talk.

How does the language of imagination and visual communications weave into your work? Where have you experienced this kind of communication and how was it a benefit?



Social Media and Free Range Learning

hand over a tablet device with icons emerging from it.

Free range learning with Social Media

How often, when you’re engaged in listening or participating in social media, do you catch a spark of surprise or excitement about an idea and feel that sensation of eagerness to make that next click and learn more?  All the time? Me too.

Learning fills our lives with energy (chi). It gets me jazzed, inspired and motivated.  While learning isn’t always comfortable it is constantly happening whether we’re paying attention or not.   When I completed my formal education back in 2000 with a master’s degree I wondered what next?  I’d been a student for a … very … long … time and tinkered with the notion of going for a doctorate degree but it just didn’t feel right for me (there’s something kind of scary about a “terminal degree”).  Since then I’ve learned a thing or two about lifetime learning.  Taking a winding path and through social media, I’ve discovered a whole different way to keep on learning even though I didn’t have a name for it until last year.

What do you call learning where you’re in control of what you learn, when you learn, who you learn from, how deep you learn and what you give back as a result of what you learn?  As colleague and friend Raye Shilen and I were deep in discussion one day last summer while onsite in WA, the IT woman Val (yes I said woman – yeah) chimed in with, “sort of like free range chicken – less restrictive and better results”. Viola’ We finally had a name for all these characteristics we’d been mulling over. That’s how we came to call this kind of learning – free range learning.  So, Raye (@PreventionGeek) and I describe it this way:

Free Range Learning is a form of learning that is informal, dynamic, self-directed, observational, and social.  It isn’t new, just has new tools enabling more of it.  Free Range Learning puts (you) the learner in control of the educational process. You decide who to learn with or from, what to learn, when to learn it and where to learn. Social media (the social web) enables this kind of learning by providing endless people and content, and it’s always available from any Internet connected device.

Following the epiphany, I looked to see who else might be thinking along these line I found a great post by Jay Cross (requires flash) then dug into his book, Informal Learning. Low and behold he had planted the seeds of free range learning back in 2007.  Thank you Jay. Through Jay I discovered Jane Hart, Harold Jarche, Jane Bozarth, and Marcia Conner among others who I learn from everyday including through Jane’s 10 Tool Learning Challenge you’ll want to look into.

working desktop

Amazing how a desk looks the same but the work can be so different.

For more than 10 years now I’ve worked from an office in my home.  Over time what’s happened for me is that social media has replaced some of the office dynamic — it provides the water cooler connections to fascinating, thoughtful and really smart people that I don’t have the luxury of sharing an office with everyday. There’s Skype calls and Google+ Hangouts, Facebook updates and Twitter posts, Google chats and text messages — all lending to the free range learning shift.

How exciting to connect and learn with people we know and with people we’ve not yet met but who are incredibly smart and generous with the gift of the their thinking.  Seems we really can enjoy lifelong learning through social media as well as traditional face-to-face meetings, conferences, events and workshop’s (that we can talk about in real time or any time on social media). It is this beautiful mix of whatever we want it to be – we get to choose and do as much or as little learning and mastery as we want about any topic. We can chase ideas and find people in places around the world that are thinking about these things too.  This makes our experiences, thoughts and ideas much richer and more complete — it has certainly changed my life.

What about you? In what way does social media and free range learning fit in your life and your work (or workplace)? What are you learning about learning with social media?

p.s. Let’s do some free range learning together.  Subscribe (above) and from time to time I’ll send you information and invitations about social media and free range learning products, tools, e-courses and more so we can learn together. Coming soon is a download publication on The Social Media Path outlining the fundamentals for getting a solid start from which you can build your social media presence and define your practice. Subscribe and I’ll send you a note to download as soon as its posted.




Taking a Learning Leap – iPhone Video

smart phone with a variety of icons swirling around it from email to music to videoI had no idea what was actually possible in terms of shooting and producing quality video from an iPhone!  You?

Being a change agent, I’m jazzed that more people in prevention including service providers and community coalitions are increasingly using video for what they uniquely do, like Raye Shilen aka @preventiongeek who reminds us video blogging can be scary when you’re just starting out.

Don’t you love it when you learn to do something new or better with a tool you already have in your tool box?  Me too. A couple of months ago I was introduced to The Missing Manual and iPhone Video Course where I’ve started learning how to shoot and share video using my iPhone.  The nudge came from Gideon Shalwick who’s trainings I have taken before and benefited immensely from so I decided to give Jules Missing Manual and video training a try.  Wow!

Here’s my top five things about the course:

  1. The training is video-based in small bites so you can learn and put what you learn into practice quickly
  2. He teaches the technical including all the details about hardware, software, and how-to
  3. All the basics that even us digital immigrants can jump in and learn
  4. Demonstrates how-to do everything
  5. He provides links to every tool or app he demonstrates so when you see something you’d like to replicate, you’ve got what you need to give it a go

Jules Watkins has developed this training based on his many years experience producing, directing and shooting video for the BBC.  In other words, he knows his stuff and it shows. In my humble opinion, his approach is the way online training should be done.

iPhone video hero course (affiliate)Having never ventured into affiliate marketing  this is new to me but honestly the manual and course are so good I can’t not do it.  I’m excited to have learned to produce some short videos for family and a little video clip from the recent CADCA Leadership Forum.  While still meager attempts, I’m feeling more confident and planning to try my hand at more new things at the upcoming Texans Standing Tall Statewide Prevention Summit.

One of the most important ways to get some visibility, traction and interest in issues, movements or calls to action is video stories. What kinds of stories can you see yourself telling with video from trainings, community events and conference workshops, or maybe media campaigns or other social media?  One big goal for me this year is to learn to do more storytelling with pictures and video and I’m off to what feels like a pretty good start with Jules’ video training.

Make a video of your own at Animoto.

Okay, I’ve shared my little start, now its your turn.  How do you (or would you like to) use video clips in your unique work?

Full Disclosure: as I mentioned this is an affiliate link and I will receive compensation should you use it to purchase the course. Thank you.



Why to Believe in Others

No one says it better than Victor Frankl, and in only 4 minutes. What will we choose to believe about others as we begin a new year?

What if we all practiced this one little thing for 2012?
What would that make possible?

Some will say it is too simplistic, that no thing this small could every make a difference on a large scale.
But what if they’re wrong?
Let’s give it a try. We don’t have anything to lose.


100 Top Tools for Learning

.…”you can never disentangle the technical from
the “soft human squishy stuff.”


I happen to be a fan and follower of Jane Hart over at C4LPT and she has released the results of her survey of learning professionals identifying the top 100 tools for learning. The survey responses come from people working in education, training and workplace learning. Many of the tools are social media technologies, others software, most are free.

What strikes me again is that our work is changing and how we do our work is changing.  How? Here’s what I’ve noticed.

Relationships: Where we used to focus on pushing content and helping people connect to it, we’ve now flipped that over making our relationships with people primary and the content we create secondary.  In other words, we are shifting to put relationships first.  Cory Doctorow probably said it best, “Conversation is King. Content is just something to talk about.”

Connections: The more a network is connected to itself the better it can learn and grow, even in difficult times. Connections lend to a sense of belonging – a basic human need.  Our connections and ability to belong to and interact with each other regularly make all the difference in our capacity to learn and produce the results we want.

Learning: We used to think in terms of training and that whatever we needed to learn we needed a training in order to learn it.  I’ve sat through many meetings that end up with, “we need a training for that” when in fact sometimes what we need is time and opportunity to learn and experiment as opposed to formal training.  How do we do that?  With our social connections and networked relationships we have an opportunity to learn in real time. This doesn’t mean we don’t have trainings but that we are engaged  in continual learning conversations. that enables people to contribute knowledge, resources, links, and yes, trainings.  Training is only one tool in our tool kit rather than being our only tool.  A single tool does not a toolbox make.

As you look at the top tools for learning from Jane Hart,  consider your learning needs through the filters of relationships, connections and learning.  What do you (or your organization) already have in place that works for you?  What other tools may help you develop and nurture relationships, create and maintain continuous connections and LEARN how to be and do your work in ways that build your own capacity and also contribute to the capacity of others?

Our work is most definitely changing and certainly the methods we use to learn and our ability to produce interesting and engaging content is changing.

What do you find most energizing and engaging about these shifts?
What needs to be added?


Collaboration and Social Learning

I love this post by Harold Jarche. An elevator pitch in 10 sentences! It captures not only a business perspective but with some slight adjustments in language, these 10 pitch points capture what I believe is the gift of social learning and social media. I’ve borrowed and adjusted six of the ten that seem especially fitting to social learning in the work of creating community and organizational change. (Thank you Harold for the creative commons license).

  1. Complex and creative work is difficult to replicate, constantly changes and requires greater tacit knowledge – community work is among the most complex and yet often our solutions are prescribed, programmatic and driven by funding streams.  While there’s room for these solutions, the surrounding environment (context) within which these programs exist is also an important influence. What works in one community will not in another requiring a those involved to develop deeper understanding and wisdom in convening the community around issues that matter to community members.
  2. Tacit knowledge is best developed through conversations and social relationships. While we are often caught up in developing formal knowledge there is more to learning than what happens in our rational brain. Learning and wisdom sustain us in creating the future we really want. What does it look like to convene and host conversations that support and enable positive relationships? There are methods/processes mostly overlooked by communities that can do this e.g., World Cafe, Open Space, Dialogue or Talking Circles and Art of Hosting, etc.
  3. Training courses are artifacts of a time when information was scarce and connections were few; that time has passed. For awhile now I’ve been noodling on what it means to learn in this age of abundant information and extreme social participation. We are now seeing the shift to social learning where each person takes responsibility for as much of their own learning as they can without waiting for a formal training system to be developed and provided. We can learn almost anything, anytime with social media. To sit back and wait for others to teach you may mean ending up being left behind.
  4. Social learning networks enable better and faster learning feedback loops that increase not only knowledge but wisdom. Jane Callahan at CADCA’s Coalition Institute has commented about helping coalitions get smarter faster. I so appreciate this perspective and see a huge role for convening and hosting both online and offline events that integrate social learning and opportunities for more feedback loops, more often. The more open our learning networks the more likely the changes we want to accomplish in our communities can happen and on a larger scale.
  5. Hierarchies constrain social interactions so traditional management and oversight models really must change. How often have you observed or experienced an inability to have an important conversation because it would break with prescribed (and enforced) protocol? Or maybe you couldn’t invite a stakeholder to the table until you figured out how to extend the invitation in a way that it would be allowed? While hierarchies and bureaucracies have their strengths, they can also become a serious obstacle to social interaction.
  6. Learning amongst ourselves is the real work in social change and our grants and leadership need to support it. I’m reminded of comments I’ve heard over the years about how we can’t incarcerate our way out of substance abuse nor can we treat our way out of it.  I’d suggest we can’t provide enough services to work our way out of social issues either – even though all of these things are necessary.  What I believe we can all do is LEARN our way out of most social issues.  Learning together in networks and communities, more horizontal than vertical, has become the way of our times. While formal training will continue, the real power of any learning opportunity is in two things. 1) the conversations where learning is connected to context 2) the application and reflection of what we learn as part of our practice.

Now, what do you think?
Where do you feel yourself pushing back on the ideas?
What did I miss that you see as important to consider?


Knowledge and Learning

That which enables disables. That which disables enables.
–Paula Underwood
The Walking People

It is a strange thing — knowledge.

It is both enabling and disabling.

Knowledge is both the gift and the curse. I’ve been thinking about knowledge and the perception of certainty that comes with it – and how it sometimes gets in the way of learning. If I think I have the answer, why dig deeper into the question? In a conversation with Dr. Dennis Embry not long ago, he mentioned “holding what you know“lightly” enough to learn something new or from a new perspective?” The thought struck me and stuck.

Knowledge is a form of power.  We all want to acquire it in some way. Everyone wants to be known as smart in whatever way is important to us. We’ve developed ways of increasing certainty including scientific processes that help us rule out and become clearer that the actions we take will result in the outcomes we seek. And that’s a good thing, right?

And yet within certainty lies a disabling factor. The more we know the more confident we get and the more confident we get the harder it is to hear and see the world with new eyes or through the eyes of others.  We often struggle with a new model or mindset like accepting new research findings or data that doesn’t fit what we know. It is a huge challenge in every field or discipline of study.

I believe there’s a real gift in this juncture of social learning and social media – the practice place where knowledge and practices can soak into our day-to-day conversations (both online/offline) in little tiny micro-bites that we have a chance to understand and put to work for us without requiring a massive shift in our thinking or approach.

What do you think?
When have you experienced a disabling effect from knowledge?
How do you integrate new information into your practices?