Silence: What’s Going On?

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If you are a teacher, a trainer, or facilitator you have learned the power of silence for learning and deepening dialogue.  When we have the visual cues of those sitting in front of us…a thoughtful look, a pencil scratching on paper, a shifting in seats…we can gauge when to break that silence.  However, in an online environment, there are very few of those cues to rely upon and you must learn to be comfortable with the silence and give participants plenty of time to think and respond.  What happens in those moments of silence?  Participants…


  • think about the question or concept before them.
  • formulate an answer or response.
  • relocate or refamiliarize themselves with the online tool being used.
  • type their responses into chat, on a whiteboard, or share their thoughts via a poll.
  • edit for typos and misspellings.
  • filter their responses based on who else is participating and who else might see their post.

That’s a lot of processing and yet most of the time we give 30 seconds or less for folks to respond.  So what might feel like an eternity of silence to the presenter or facilitator in a participatory webinar…is fleeting moment of time for the participants.

See Silence: Rules of Thumb

Creating Consensus – Making Magic Happen Online

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I am always delighted to watch how, when using the ToP methods, a wide variety of disparate ideas are shared, refined, categorized and agreed upon. The structure of the methods makes this process effective and seem almost magical. But can that magic happen online?

This week I had the pleasure of working with a large mental health services company to begin the process of revising their leadership development program. Using Adobe Connect, 13 company leaders met to discuss and agree upon the essential skills and abilities needed for a leader to be successful in the company’s context. Using the ToP methods approximately 40 distinct ideas were shared, discussed, and prioritized in small groups. Through an iterative process the ideas were clustered, clarified, and categorized into 6 groups. By the end of the 2 hour online meeting the leaders were able to agree that, for them, the categories of skills and abilities they developed represent the essential skills and abilities needed by leaders in their company.

Did the magic happen online? Yes! It did. Did we learn that we should do some things differently to make the methods more effective in the online environment? Absolutely.