Tag: Design

There is nothing like the smoothness of a…good segue

Facillitation No Comments

The performances of the band I play drums in have transformed this year. We have largely done this by creatively mashing (or bashing) songs by different artists into and over each other. We have enjoyed finding new ways to create medleys of tunes so we can move swiftly from one segment of a song to another. From an audience point of view this helps maintain interest and energy. It took us a fair bit of work to learn how to do this, but it is now much easier to do. And it is enjoyable too.

When I am asked “what makes for a great moderator?”, I tend to think about what makes the difference between adequate and exceptional talent. And in answer to that, I think one of the key things is the same as what makes for a good (or in our case, improving!) band: an in-depth knowledge of how best to ensure a slick (or at least skilled) and interesting connecting between the parts. Of course there are plenty of other moderation skills (responding flexibility when a plan needs to change, starting a session well, building rapport, dealing with difficult situations), but this is a key one, that often gets overlooked.

As I have noted in a couple of blogs recently the aim of facilitation is to make things easy– and by using various pointers and rules of thumb we can build the suspense for, and attraction to, what is coming in the next chunk. As with a band, if this is got right, the agenda just flows. Even if there are problems and push backs it seems more like surfing in on a great wave, and rather less like struggling out through breakers in a stormy sea – to add another analogy!

The skill of Smooth Segues is central to this sense of movement. A common facilitation nightmare is of low energy in a group – and the art of segues helps address this.

So what are some examples of, and pointers for, a good segue?

1. Early on, do use what you notice in the venue or the press or in your travels that day. Make a metaphorical connection if you can. I once worked in a welding institute on the day there was a split in a boy band – with a group who were meeting to discuss partnership (once they had arrived through the gridlock of local traffic)…you can get a sense of some of the things I used!
2. Remind the group of the overall task regularly – be clear what question the session is designed to answer.
3. Confirm, both verbally and in writing (slide, poster, clip chart) what you are asking of a group at any particular moment.
4. Be ready to share what you have heard in a session that has interested you. Be ready with a question. Listen to all speakers (presenters, group members), and follow your curiosity with open ended, inquiry questions.
5. Use images, humour and stories to illustrate the links from one part to another – choosing what you say each time you get the groups attention (e.g. after small group work, after a break etc.) really matters. What tales from lunch, the days weather etc. can you use? Recently I was able to make a focused link into the last session where we were about to look for some small steps and actions, by reference to what I had learnt about the Swedish spelling of millionaire that day. Sounds dry? But it worked…ask me, you might get a feel from the slides (though maybe not!)
6. Linked to this, be prepared to be wacky: look for lateral links. For example, share what is trending on social media and ask what connections there might be to the day’s proceedings. How can you use any photos from the group or even the weather! Reflect back ideas you are hearing. For example, come back after a break having googled any key ideas or topics from earlier. Acknowledge people who make bold or boisterous points. Be brave – what seems risky is often fine, and playing it safe can be plain dull and lead to negative group dynamics.
7. Be creative in your use of energisers: tongue twisters, human histograms, guessing north, conducting music, group percussion, quizzes, games etc…let your (internet inspired?) interest and creativity run wild if the event allows it. And seek volunteers too…you will be amazed at what people know (yoga is common) or can imagine (charades on the days content) or are prepared to try on their colleagues (laughter therapy)!
8. Think of how you signal time – a visible clock, shout out reminders, music, chime, checking out if people are done, letting it go etc.

Good segues show you are listening, lighten the mood, lessen the load and lead to next thing. They frame and focus each session, reduce the anxiety groups members can feel (especially in large groups between the fear of abandonment or attack) and channel or even create energy. They reduce the likelihood of a facilitation nightmare, be it silence or rejection or fighting.

Overall – be authentic in what you offer.

But try to be balanced, not just doing the things you would like! A useful rule of thumb is to try and provide something for everyone, regardless of personality. For example, in terms of MBTI, try to provide both information and illustration segues that work for all participants, whether they are big picture thinkers or a totally into the detail, wanting freedom or a bit of structure, a logical thinker or much more intuitive.

I regularly use the ‘Goldilocks test’ to check anything from the speed of a meeting to the temperature of the room. I hope you find that by applying these principles your groups tell you things are “just right”.

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If a picture is worth a thousand words…

Improvement, photos No Comments

In a recent blog we talked of how we use photos routinely now. Have you spotted the scrolling photos on our new website? What do you reckon of them? Most are by our colleague David. Have a look at a few more of his photos here– we hope you agree they are truly stunning shots.

We do believe that the 100 year old phrase ‘ a picture is worth a thousand words’ is right – and tend to use a visual illustration on most pages of documents or slides we write.

A more recent twist from Daniel Pink is ‘a metaphor is worth a thousand pictures’. We agree with the power of an illustration, narrative, analogy…the range of presentation device is endless….like a long winding road through a rugged mountain forest, like the crashing waves of the ocean, like…you are the artist, the sage, the architect…with your colleagues as the band, the travellers, the troupe.

Pictures and metaphors;

Frameworks and Stories;

Theory and narrative;


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Making Meetings Matter More #1

Teams No Comments

You know we like the work of Lencioni on teams.

His work on meetings is helpful too…from this sort of video to ideas like these;  from his early work in  ‘Death by Meeting’ to the more recent book, ‘The Advantage’.

We note quite a lot of others like his work too, such as this model of meeting types – from the regular daily ‘check-in’s’ to rhythm of longer quarterly sessions.

See what you think……..

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A new energiser

Plan No Comments

Student loan protestIn our facilitation skills training course, we teach the importance of using energisers in meetings to shift the mood, energy and attention.  We get someone to have a go with an energiser of their choice. Recently this has involved someone trying Laughter Therapy with their colleagues and Pair Charades (acting out an important theme from the morning’s work).

However, this week we came across an entirely new form of energiser. During a session with a charity in central Westminster on Thursday 9th December, we had to schedule regular dashes to the window to observe the state of the Student Loan protests: cat and mouse chases with the police and, at times, a near-riot outside (see the photo from a movie of the action).

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Letting the hedges grow

Do No Comments

Hedges are a quintessential part of our countryside. They distinctively define many rural landscapes, from Arden’s high hollies to Exmoor’s beech banks. As well as delineating ownership, sub-dividing land into manageable units, sheltering livestock and controlling soil erosion, hedges also offer perfect and varied wildlife habitats. They are alive with insects, birds, mammals. At these ‘safe junctions’, so much essential business of life gets carried out.

The Enclosure Acts of the 18th Century led to 200,000 miles of new hedges. Open fields and common lands were divided into smaller spaces. But over half of this has disappeared since 1950; replaced by much larger, open and uniform spaces. The adverse effect on the well-being of a huge range of plants and animals is extensively documented.

Is there a parallel with the places we work in? The large ‘open plan’ office is now the most common approach to the modern working environment. They’re cheaper than lots of smaller rooms and you can change the layout more easily if circumstances dictate.

But where are the safe junctions? The passing places for unplanned social contact and easy conversation? The cosy spots to be apart? The little available research on the impact of open plan offices seems to point to a pretty hefty list of drawbacks for staff.

Getting the best working environment needs careful thought. Helpfully, there are plenty of ideas on how to balance the competing needs of cost, flexibility, productivity and well-being. Companies like Herman Miller point to design principles such as:

– creating information and resource-rich spaces that get people thinking and help them follow up on ideas and conversations

– making sure sufficient quiet and private places are available

– allowing people more control of their environment, to adapt it to the work they’re doing as that changes over time.

Maybe you should let the different sorts of hedges grow a bit more where you work?

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Unlocking the value of old designs

Think No Comments

Airmail envelope

A (largely) defunct innovation: the airmail envelope.

Yet instantly recognisable to those of a certain age.

Now a useful way to share seeds from the garden.

What else could this evocative design be used for?

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Great design – functional as well as beautiful

Think No Comments


Around London, there are fancy developments with steps like these…funky, nice looking BUT functional?

Great design is a combination of beauty and ease.  Think about your favourite home appliance or piece of furniture.

Here, the interesting angles and absence of lots of hand rails looks good but is tricky for the visually impaired and the infirm.

In business, where do things that appear nice make things harder?  That paper on a tricky topic?  That set piece meeting or conference?

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