Guided Meetings

Creative Training and Facilitation Services

What is the “technology” part of Technology of Participation?

Many have come to think of technology narrowly…in relation to the internet and electronic devices.  But the term technology has a much broader meaning.

The word technology comes from Greek τεχνολογία (technología); from τέχνη (téchnē), meaning “art, skill, craft”, and -λογία (-logía), meaning “study of-“.[1].  So, by that definition, the Technology of Participation would be the study of the art, skill or craft of participation.  The group of folks who created, refined, and codified the Technology of Participation were just that…students of participation.  Their observations of how individuals participate in group processes led them identify some naturally occurring structures which were utilized to foster comprehensive, grassroots community development.  These structures were the foundations of what has become the Technology of Participation group facilitation methods.

Go here for a brief description of the ToP methods (click Full Screen).

Impact: Moving from Talk to Action

We’ve all been there.  Lots of great brainstorming, visioning, and discussion…leading nowhere.  When you spend precious resources of people’s creative energy, time away from the work, and money…you want to see results.

There are many methods of holding discussions, building consensus, developing action plans, and creating strategic plans.   For maximum IMPACT all constituents should be involved in the conversation in meaningful ways…unearthing their creativity, fostering their investment in the process, and garnering their commitment to achieving the end result the group envisions.  All of the conversations should lead to great ideas AND to action that creates and sustains the vision.

The Technology of Participation (ToP) methods of group facilitation foster these processes and results.  ToP methods have been used to achieve results with large corporations and villages, in the US and across the world, involving individuals from all walks of life.  Click here for a brief introduction to the main methods (view full screen).

Too Long?













Raise your hand if you’ve ever thought to yourself that you wish a webinar would last longer.  Yep.  That’s what I thought.  A few folks who learn best through auditory means and another handful who have attended a webinar with an uber-engaging presenter raised their hands.  But, let’s face it…webinars can be pure drudgery.  Is there a perfect length of time for a webinar?  My answer has changed over time…and it depends on your audience, your purpose, your presenter(s)…but most importantly it depends on how you engage those on the other side of the computer screen.

Here’s my rule of thumb:

30 minutes is too short for anything but a quick announcement, overview or introduction

60 minutes is the max for a presentation by an expert … and should include 10-15 minutes for answering questions from attendees

90 minutes is excellent if you are planning to engage the participants in the content and through interactions with the presenter and other participants

I have been part of a team who designed and facilitated 3- and 6-hour webinars.  These were designed for a discreet group of participants who were gathered for a specific reason to address very targeted topics….and they participated in small face-to-face groups.  These were very participatory, included compelling presenters, and were positively received.  (We decided to offer two 3-hour webinars instead of one 6-hour webinar after receiving feedback about the length of the longer webinar.)

In my experience, webinars of 60-90 minutes allow for getting into the content to some depth and offer opportunities for discussion among presenters and participants.

Participatory Webinars

When people use the term webinar, they can mean a variety of things. I like to draw a very clear distinction between webcasts and webinars. As you can see in the below image, a webcast is usually a one-way flow of information. Webcasts can be attended by up to a few thousand individuals. The presenter – who is considered to be the font of all knowledge – talks about the topic of the webcast for an extended period of time, often between 50 and 75 minutes.

When attendees are invited to contribute to a webcast, it is usually in the form of a 10-15 minute Q & A session at the end of the webcast. There may be a Q & A chat feature that allows participants to comment or ask questions either throughout the webcast or at the end of the webcast. Sometimes the other attendees can see the questions and comments, but more often they are only visible to the host or the presenter. This prevents participants from building upon each other’s ideas.

Sometimes people call these type of information exchanges webinars.

In order to be clear about what I mean when I talk about webinars, I have chosen to insert the word participatory before the word webinar. This is because what I expect to happen in the online learning environment is more than a pouring of knowledge down upon attendees, it is a social learning process where the person convening the webinar builds the structure of the learning environment and then invites the participants to engage with the facilitator and each other. You can see the the idea and information flow of a participatory webinar in the graphic below.

You may have noticed that as I described webcasts I used the terms attendees and presenters [move words] and when I talked about webinars I used the terms participants and facilitators [move words]. This is not simply a distinction of semantics, it is a philosophical difference that informs every decision that is made in designing and facilitating an online learning experience.



World Cafe

Amy Lenzo of the World Cafe has begun facilitating conversations using a conference call technology that allows her to send individuals into small group calls while maintaining the ability to bring all of the call participants back together as a whole group. This image represents a harvesting of the conversation that we had on February 3, 2011.

Visual Recording Template – Board Retreat

This planning tool was developed for an annual board retreat.  The goal of the retreat was to concretize the strategic plan developed the previous spring.  The visual incorporates the mission statement of the organization with the meeting goal of developing strategic directions for a 12-month period.  The visual is designed to incorporate the action plans developed by each subcommittee of the board during the board retreat.  In addition, benchmarks for the full board are to be marked along the pathway to their ultimate vision for the organization.

Double-click image to enlarge.

iPad Graphic Recording – My First Foray

During my first graphic recording workshop I was introduced to Rachel Smith’s movie about graphic recording on an ipad.  I had a brand new ipad, downloaded several drawing apps, and that evening cranked this out…I was hooked!

Double-click image to enlarge.

I enjoyed using the movie capture aspect of the Brushes app.

Rossland, BC Graphic Recording Workshop 2011